Women@Google: Eve Ensler

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 24.02.2010

Megan: Welcome to Women at Google.
We have the extraordinary Eve Ensler here today.
Eve is a playwright, an actress, an activist, and an amazing world leader.
She has many books and her most recent book is this incredible book "I Am An Emotional
Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World".
And I've great news that they just got a call that eight days in, it just hit the New York
Times Bestseller List so [applause].
Yay, go Eve!!
You know, Eve has really pioneered stopping violence and starting to help us stop wasting
talent and so we're gonna have a conversation.
I want to play one - you guys all know the search on campaign that Google is providing
and we had that Super Bowl ad -- it's the one called "Parisian Love".
But I don't know if anyone's seen the high school girl one so I wanted to play it.
[Commercial starts playing in background]
So starting a robotics club -- near and dear to our hearts at Google.
Welcome Eve Ensler.
Eve Ensler: Hi.
Ow, I just poked myself with the microphone. [laughs]
Megan: So I don't know.
Let's start with high school girls.
Talk about the book.
I mean, you - with "The Vagina Monologues" you - people tell you stories.
You've been all around the world and people tell you things and you were able to put that
together and bring that to everybody.
And in this case, you've taken stories you've heard and changed it into a fictionalized
Is that right?
So talk a little bit.
Eve Ensler: Well, "The Vagina Monologues" was a fictional version.
I don't want anybody - they were not interviews.
I think people always misunderstood that.
I listen to people, I watch, I pay attention, and then I create fiction out of those things.
So - but this particular book, I've had a great opportunity over the last 12 years with
V-Day to travel the world.
I've probably been in about 60 countries and I've gotten to meet amazing girls everywhere
and I think in the process of this journey I discovered that there were themes across
the planet that were really linking girls and those themes are the reason I ended up
writing this book.
And one of those themes is it seems to me that it doesn't matter where you're a girl;
there is a cultural mandate or a societal mandate or a familiar mandate or a fashion
mandate to please somebody and that the verb of girls is for the most part to please, in
one way or another.
And it shows up in every different culture in a completely different way.
I mean, you have cultures where getting purple Uggs is the way you please and if you buy
that perfect pair of purple Uggs, you will be accepted by the tribe and you won't be
alienated and outside and if you don't buy the purple Uggs, you will be destroyed.
And I've met those girls who didn't get the purple Uggs because they couldn't afford the
purple Uggs and they were outsiders and they were "nobody".
Or there's mandates in places like Beverly Hills or suburbs where if you are really,
really, really, really skinny and you look like a rendition of Barbie, you will be in
and then you go across the planet and we have female genital mutilation.
If you have your clitoris cut, you are part of a tradition and that will get you inside
the tribe and keep you in the tribe.
And then you go to Palestine where sometimes being a suicide bomber will keep you in the
And then you go to Israel where joining the Army - I mean, it just seems like every single
culture has a particular prescription for how girls are supposed to behave, what they're
supposed to do.
And if you do that you'll be accepted and loved and if you don't, you'll be exiled.
And so it just became this amazing kind of collage of stories where I would hear girls
talking about various ways that they were either resisting those mandates, capitulating
and feeling bad about themselves, capitulating and being lost, or absolutely refusing and
living lives as refusers and outsiders.
And that was kind of the basis of the book.
And I think the other thing that I've seen, and certainly know myself as a teenage girl,
because I really do feel I'm about 15 even though I'm dressed in this body and I look
older I think but I really feel that I'm a teenage girl.
When I was younger, people were always telling me, "You're too emotional, you're too intense,
you're too dramatic, you're too alive, you're too in my face, you're too, you're too, you're
too, you're too."
And I think that's true for a lot of us and I don't think it's just girls by the way.
I think boys from the time they're born are taught, "You're too emotional, you're too
weepy, you're too sensitive. You take things too seriously."
And I think for boys, it gets cut off at a much earlier point.
But I think for girls, they're allowed to go a little longer.
And then they begin to feel bad about their level of passion and their level of intensity
and their level of emotionality.
And I think this book is really a call for girls and for the girl in all of us, to reign
and to be supreme and for us to really be our emotional, authentic, outrageous, true
And I was just at a luncheon before here where a group of women were talking about the fact
that they were just all beginning to talk about how they've always been emotional and
their whole lives, people told them they were too emotional and now they were going to be
emotional again and they've had it and it's just funny when it begins to get uncapped,
what begins to get released.
Megan: It's so exciting. I think.
It's funny cause - I don't know, a couple of years ago, I think it was a year ago, we
got interviewed.
Somebody thought that there was a connection, which it turned out there was, between Google
and V-Day because we were both ten years old and so I think one of the things I'm excited
about technology is sort of helping.
We're seeing it all over the world and how individuals are able to express themselves,
whether it's things going on in Iran or whatever.
So I'm excited for the possibility for women and girls through technology and allowing
people to interconnect to each other and whether it's in a non-technology setting like this
lunch and sort of hearing these stories and re-empowering yourself to be emotional or
be however you are or whether it's through technical places that you get.
Eve Ensler: Well, I also think that in terms of Google and V-Day -- you know V-Day - V
stands for vagina and it stands for victory over violence and it stands for Valentine's
Day but it also stand for virtual.
I mean, V-Day at our core is a virtual movement.
We don't have an office.
We only exist in virtual space and in the heart and minds and vaginas of people all
over the world and vagina friendly men I might add and what I've really seen is how quickly
this movement has spread in 12 years which would never have happened without the Internet.
12 years ago there was one event in New York City.
This year, there are 1,800 places doing 5,000 events in 130 countries.
Now that happened because one person - you know, it's vagina madness.
It's spreading all over the planet [laughs from audience] and I was just in UC Irvine
on Sunday night and when they started doing V-Day's there, the Vagina Monologues, they
were in one little room.
They couldn't put it in the newspaper, people were like "please go away".
And when I was there Sunday night, there were 1,200 people in a near stadium.
It was the pick of the week, it was totally diverse.
It was every age, every ethnic group, every size, every shape, tons of men and I thought,
'The movement's growing'.
We're really, 12 years later, vaginas have infiltrated everywhere and …[laughs]
Megan: It's true.
It's a good thing [laughs].
One of the things that's been exciting to watch in the technology industry is actually
if you go vagina's infiltrating route, if you look at the decades of the computer industry,
you can see women coming in more and more into the companies.
And I think at Google we have a lot of women in leadership and I think if you look say
a decade earlier at Apple or Microsoft, maybe two decades earlier, they have less and you
look to Facebook who's younger than us and they more Twitter and so the boys are always
there but the women are there too now.
So that's very exciting to watch.
Let's talk a little bit more about some of the things you were saying at TED India and
what I think is sort of the gift of girls and the gift of your inner girl in a way and
you were talking about the girl gene or the girl cells.
The girl cells that need to infiltrate everybody.
Eve Ensler: Yeah. Well, I still have no idea why TED keeps inviting me back to speak because
I'm not a scientist, I'm not a biologist, I'm not a physicist, I'm not an astronomer
and I keep going, 'Okay, vaginas, outer space, okay?'
I'm just trying to make the connections.
But whenever I go and if you've ever spoken at TED or think about speaking at TED, it's
really intimidating because you think, 'Okay, these are the smartest people in the world
and what am I doing here?' So I decided for my TED India speech, that
I was going to be really like scientific and I was going to think about cells and genes.
And so I devised this whole talk on the girl cell and that we all have girl cells inside
of us and it really was a fantastically exciting thing to begin to work on because I started
to think about the fact that we all really do have girl cells and boys and women.
And I think sometimes in men, it's more developed, the girl cell, then it is in women, I think
we all have our - but I started to think like what is a girl cell and what are the characteristics
of girl cells.
And I was thinking compassion, passion, intuition, wildness, outrage, revolution.
I was just going through all of that and so I gave this talk at TED just about how each
of us have a girl cell and how in men I think this tyranny of patriarchy and the tyranny
of masculinity has in some ways really hurt men far more than it's hurt women because
I think to grow up a boy means that you can't express your tenderness.
And that to some degree you learn very early on you have to disassociate from your heart
and that you can't ever be lost and you can't not know things and you can't ask for directions,
and you can't -- like you always have to be on and I think so many boys that I've met
and men I've met over my travels, the things men have told me just about the legacy of
not being able to be tender and the legacy of not being able to be lost and have time
has really hurt them and damaged them.
And so when I gave this talk at TED, I was talking about all of us releasing our girl
- and there's a lot of men at TED so I had no idea how this talk was going to be received.
It was a little nerve wracking and at the end it was amazing to see how many men came
up to me and particularly Indian men who were like, 'My inner girl thanks you, my inner
girl thanks you'.
And they were just so grateful and one man said, "You know, my whole life I tell my wife
we have to have boys, we have to have boys, and I'm going home to make four girls. We're
going to have girls. We're going to have lots of girls."
And even the Karmapa, who is the next in line potential Dalai Lama, who is this incredibly
beautiful man, was telling me how difficult it is, in Buddhism even, to honor monks and
nuns equally and to see, to honor the feminine and for boys and men to honor the feminine.
And we have this private meeting and we just had a long talk about it and I just got so
excited by the response of men to this idea.
And now wherever I go men are stopping me and going, "I'm emotional! And I was emotional
yesterday!" [laughs]
And in a way, I'm being light about it, but I think when we are all allowed to feel, to
feel, to be connected to our hearts.
I spent a lot of time in the Congo and we have a massive campaign there because in the
Congo, in eastern Congo, the worst atrocities in the world are happening to women, in the
And the war, for those of you who don't know it, in the Congo, has been raging for 12 years.
6 million people have died, 6 million people.
It's essentially an economic war because the Congo is one of the richest in mineral countries
in Africa and they have coltan which goes into our cell phones and our Playstations.
And they have copper and tin and gold and so many of the Western countries use militias
that get those minerals out of the mines and then they take them to the West.
And we are all served in our luxurious items by those minerals but the way the militias
get to take over villages is they use rape and they use sexual torture and they go into
villages and they rape very little girls, six month old babies, eight year old girls,
eighty year old women.
They torture, they rape women in front of their husbands.
They rape daughters and force husbands and fathers to rape their daughters, and brothers
to rape their mothers and they do horrible, horrible acts of crimes that you can't even
imagine and all of that serves to destroy the community and break up the family and
absolutely destroy the infrastructure of the community so that people then flee and then
the militias take over the mines.
So all of us are a part of this same global story and I've spent a lot of time there in
the last few years. I've been there a lot and we're doing a huge campaign which I'll
tell you more about.
And I've interviewed lots and lots of women and I've heard stories ranging from eight
year old girls who've been raped by so many men they have holes inside them where their
pee just falls out or eighty year old women who can't lift their leg because it was taken
over their head when they were raped by seven men or women who have had their babies cut
out and been forced to eat them.
The stories are literally beyond belief and I think to myself, 'How can men do this?'
Like what happens to a man, and by the way I don't think all men do this.
I think a small, small portion of men do this but how does any man do that?
And the answer is that somewhere along the way, a man got separated from himself, got
disassociated from his heart, got separated from his feelings, forgot about his mother,
forgot to cherish his mother and honor his mother and love his mother and that process
is patriarchy.
How do we train boys to go and kill?
And how do we train soldiers to go and kill and what is that process about?
How are most boys brought up on some level to be soldiers?
It's really that same process.
Megan: I think this point is really important because there's - the boys are as much -
the women, the girls are victims but the boys are victims.
In the gay world, there was a young man murdered two years ago in Orange County -- a 15 year
old boy named Lawrence King and he was murdered for being gay.
And I think in this he was shot by a friend, a guy from school.
And the tragedy is actually of course him -- but also the other kid.
The other kid is now being tried as an adult -- he's going to go to prison, he's going
to be in prison for 25 years, and the system failed both of them.
Eve Ensler: Exactly.
Megan: It failed both of them; it failed the kid who shot in not understanding bullying,
indifference, inequality, and, of course, it failed the kid who was killed.
Eve Ensler: And also usually people who are afraid of being gay or who are attacking gay
people are afraid of their own femininity and their own vulnerability and their own
sensitivity because no one has given them permission to honor their own hearts and honor
their tenderness and you just see it kind of getting passed down and passed down and
passed down.
And I think the more I'm in this movement, and I've been doing this work now for a very
long time, trying to end violence against women and girls, like we can't do this without
boys and men -- it's impossible.
We're not raping ourselves.
Unless there's a participation and full participation of men and boys in this campaign and in this
work, it'll never end and I constantly am asking, "Where are the good men?"
Because there's tons of them.
Why aren't they standing up to make violence against women their issue?
Why aren't they honoring their sisters and their girlfriends and their mothers and their
daughters and their aunts and all the people in their families?
And I think when men and boys really start committing themselves to this, it will change
overnight -- it will change overnight.
But part of it is how do men risk leaving the kind of sanctitude of masculinity where
they have to forfeit their identities and their security to stand up against this violence.
And I can only share that when I first started talking about vaginas it wasn't like everybody
was happy about it. [laughs from audience]
It wasn't like, 'Oh goody, the vaginas are here.'
That never happened and in a way, I think, for men to stand up, it requires a similar
kind of 'I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna be brave', and then trust that the rest of the men are
going to follow.
Megan: I think it's extraordinary how - if you can get - yeah, how do we engage people
and how do we pull them over.
I want to stay with Congo.
So we have a small team that's going to join a UN group and it's gonna be in eastern Congo
in about two weeks and our initial focus is going to be related to mapping and geo things
that we're particularly skilled at but part of it is also to learn more about what's going
on. You guys are doing extraordinary work at the
City of Joy which you've created so tell people about Panzi Hospital and City of Joy and what
might happen.
And, by the way, we've put $50,000 dollars into helping these guys build a tech center
Eve Ensler: We're so excited.
Megan: And if anyone wants to help me, we got to help them do it
Eve Ensler: We are really, really excited.
Megan: So it's ready for the opening in May.
Eve Ensler: And grateful.
Well, we've been working in the Congo now with women on the ground and local groups
on the ground because the way V-Day works is we've never, ever - V-Day's virtual and
we're everywhere.
So it would be hard for us to go into anywhere when we don't really exist in the first place
but there is a kind of central body of people, and the way we work is that we never go into
a place and suggest to anybody what they're supposed to do.
First of all, it works that people do "The Vagina Monologues" all over the world.
They come, they picket, they do it, and then they translate it into their language and
into their culture.
But in terms of supporting people, we support the work that's going on on the ground and
we find resources.
We don't direct people what to do; we don't determine their destinies.
We know that women on the ground know how to change their lives.
They know what they need to do; they just don't have the resources to do it.
So in the Congo, when I first went to the Congo and spent time there interviewing women
and I did a piece for Glamour, and I just kind of was - well, to be honest, I was completely
It was the hardest thing I've ever done, going to the Congo, and I went because of a man
named Dr. Denis Mukwege, who is a doctor and the director of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.
He's an extraordinary human being and he's devoted his life to saving women who are being
raped and tortured in the war.
He's sewing up women's vaginas as fast the militias are ripping them apart and at any
given time, there are 300 women in Panzi Hospital.
Most of them have fistula which is a hole between your vagina and your rectum, or your
vagina and your bladder, and a lot of these women have fistula because so many things
have been shoved inside them -- sticks and bayonets and many, many penises and they have
absolutely been ripped apart.
And I actually saw a fistula operation because I wanted to see what it looked
like and it's like literally a hole in your soul -- it looks like somebody has punctured
a hole in your soul.
And there are many people at Panzi with fistula at any given time so when you have it, you
can't hold your pee or your poop and so you have a world of 300 women who are just peeing
on themselves.
It's like a very bizarre Doris Lessing novel and you just can't even believe you are witnessing
such a thing in the year 2010 -- it's beyond belief.
But Dr. Mukwege has been there and he works -- he has 12 operations a day.
He is there with the women and they name their babies after him because he's one of the most
extraordinary people.
And when we went, we said, 'What do women need? What can V-Day do?'
And after women had been raped, it's very hard for women to go back to their villages
because they're exiled and their stigmatized and they're no longer welcome.
And what's happening to many women is they're sent back to their communities and then they're
re-raped so Dr. Mukwege may do nine operations on a woman to fix fistula and then she gets
sent home and she's raped again and then the fistula operation never works.
So we decided we would open a place called the City of Joy and we interviewed and worked
with a lot of women on the ground and it's an amazing place, and what it's going to be
is essentially a place, a literal place but a metaphor, a catalyst, a decision.
There will be a hundred women at any given time who will stay for six months -- all of
them will be survivors of gender violence.
They will be fed, they will be housed, they will be supported, they will have healing
therapy, they will have theatre and arts and dance.
They will learn their rights, they will have literacy training, they will get an economic
empowerment tool, something that the City of Joy creates.
There is a radio station where they'll learn to be advocates on their own behalf.
There will be ways that they fight their own and prosecute their own cases.
There's amazing fields where women will plow and cultivate and grow crops which they can
then take seeds from them and hopefully we'll have lots of goats and they'll have baby goats
that they can bring back to their communities.
The only thing you have to redo to come to the City of Joy is that you will be a leader
and you will pass on what you're given and you have to sign that when you come so when
you leave after six months, there will be centers in your own community that we set
And you'll have a posse that you go back with and you'll pass it on to the women in your
community and we'll begin to turn pain to power.
And the idea is really to create a cadre of women leaders.
In five years, we'll have a thousand women leaders and those women will be the people
who create the revolution; not the violent revolution, the soft revolution in the Congo
that brings about radical change for the whole country.
And I was just there in December and first of all, it's the most beautiful place in the
It really is extraordinary and the building crew, about 180 builders, and the woman who
is the director there is this amazing woman named Christine
Schuler Deschryver who is a force of nature.
And she told them that there had to be - a third of the building crew had to be women
and women had never constructed or been on a construction crew ever in the Congo.
And when I got there, there were 60 women dancing across the fields with 90 pounds of
cement buckets on their head screaming and dancing.
They were so happy to be employed, to have a job, to be building a city which was going
to liberate and free women.
Megan: That's an extraordinary vision.
Eve Ensler: And now they are going to have computers and a whole tech center from Google.
Megan: Yay. But we really wanted to contribute to the City of Joy and we wanted them to be
able to tell their stories online and blog and learn about the Web and then also perhaps
run a side Internet cafe there or whatever they want to do.
Eve Ensler: That's what we're hoping.
Megan: We are up for helping them in any way.
Eve Ensler: That we'll have an Internet cafe there.
Megan: I want to open it up for questions to people so you can start thinking about
Okay. So what kind of support are you getting from the men of the Congo for this?
Eve Ensler: That's a very good question.
Well, surprisingly a lot of support.
We have been doing a lot of - the campaign does a lot of things as well as the City of
Joy and over three years, we've been training an enormous amount of activists, men and women,
to spread the news about ending sexual violence and
women's rights.
And in Goma and Kinshasa and in Bukavu, the movement is really growing.
I was actually in Kinshasa a few months ago when women did the first production of "The
Vagina Monologues" there and it was amazing.
And what was amazing is the next day all these male activists who've been working for months
came and talked about their feelings after seeing "The Vagina Monologues" and they were
more radical than most people I've ever met in my life and they were saying, "I had no
idea, I didn't know you could look at my wife's vagina. I'm gonna go home and look at it.
There were so many things I learned, I'm going to be a much better lover."
And they were so enthusiastic and so we have a lot of trained male activists who are really
fighting to bring about the V-Men's movement there which is the new men's parallel or integrated
movement in V-Day.
And then I've seen like in over the last year, we did these "Breaking the Silence" events
where women survivors came forward and told their stories in Kinshasa and Goma and Bukavu
to hundreds.
And there were many, many men at those events and men were literally sobbing and wailing
over what happened.
And now a lot of those men are really beginning to work with us to be part of this movement.
And Dr. Mukwege is the godfather of the V-Men's movement and we gave him a huge award last
year at the Superdome when we did the 10th anniversary in front of 18,000 people.
So he is now the symbol of the V-Men's movement around the world and I think more and more
men are getting involved in what we're doing in a very beautiful way.
So one of things - can you connect - you've connected some of the violence in Congo, not
only through the technology, but also just the behavior and how when the behavior ramps
up in a certain place how it makes other things.
I kind of wondered if you wanted to talk a little bit about why this is so important
to go help the women and the men there but also why it's important on a global level.
Eve Ensler: Well, people always - I was just at a luncheon and someone said like what do
you say when people say why the Congo.
There's so much happening in our own communities and one thing I've seen by the way is that
in all the V-Day's that are working locally to stop violence in Palo Alto or LA, or Alabama,
or Manila.
Working for the women of Congo is really powerful for them as well because when you have solidarity
outside your community, it gives you a reflection on what's going on in your own community in
a whole different way.
For me, I say this and I say this really strongly, the worst violence in the world towards women
is going on in the Congo.
It is beyond anything we can rightly imagine or should ever imagine and if we as a human
society give permission to this, we basically license this kind of behavior everywhere.
We are basically saying we're okay with it and what's interesting and horrifying is to
see the spread of it like in Guinea this year, or in the post election riots in Kenya, or
in Zimbabwe.
We are seeing rape now being used more and more as a tool of oppression and control and
war, and I think as countries get poorer and poorer and have fewer resources to fight wars
with, if we don't end violence against women as a tactic and rape as a tactic of war, we
will begin to see that women's bodies are the landscapes on which wars will be fought,
and girls will be fought.
So we must stop it in the Congo if we're going to stop the spread of it.
But also, the Congo is the heart of Africa.
If you look at the map of Africa, it's the heart and to some degree, Africa is very much
the heart of the world so women are in the heart of the heart of the heart,
and if the heart of Africa isn't pumping blood and isn't pumping energy through the arteries
and through the veins of the rest of African, Africa is dying and Africa is suffering and
will continue to suffer.
So I feel, and I've had an incredible life in the last 12 years, I've been everywhere
in the world and usually the rape mines of the world, whether it's Haiti or Afghanistan
or Bosnia or Kosovo, I've seen pretty horrific things.
I really believe that if we can end violence against women and girls in the Congo, we can
end it everywhere because it's the worst and if we create a template there for transformation
and change, we can use that template everywhere so I'm saying to everybody right now, 'Let's
make Congo the project. Let's say we will serve the women of Congo, not tell them what
to do, not do further colonization where we go in and intervene and direct them and use
them as they have been forever' because we know the colonization that occurred through
the Belgians in the Congo was one of the worst anywhere in Africa and the horrible history
that has ensued is reflected and grows out of that colonization.
I'm talking about allowing women to have their destinies and to have their vision and to
have their voices and serving them and finding the resources to support them coming into
their power and leadership so they can own the minerals and own their country and own
their bodies and I think we can do that.
That's something that really can happen if we all put our minds and will - look, if you
can Google, come on! I mean, I look at Google and I still don't have any idea how Google
exists or what it is or where people are. Do people just sit in little rooms and put
this information in?
Megan: It's pigeons.
Eve Ensler: I have no idea how it works.
But if we can Google, for God's sakes, we can end violence against women and girls in
the Congo.
I mean, really.
I sometimes think how is it that we have so much attention to creating apps and I didn't
know much about apps until last night and I was just like, "Oh my God, there's a reason
I didn't go into app world because you just never get out."
[audience laughs]
But I look at things like apps and I think the attention we have for that.
Why don't we have attention for stopping the cruelty and atrocities and the heinous behavior
that is being perpetuated as we get to have our apps?
And I think if all of us really join and make the focus the Congo and put our attention
there, we really can, we absolutely can shift what's happening.
Umm, yes. Last time you were here you talked about a slightly different topic which was
the safe house that you had actually built and you gave a specific example of certain
donations were made to buy a van that could transport women to and from the safe house
and I'm not sure if it was
in Sudan.
Eve Ensler: No, Kenya.
Okay. So one, I wanted was to get an update that and this may be my own personal opinion
after hearing everything you say about the Congo is violence against women has happened
since the beginning of time.
It's always been a method of warfare and it's kind of a natural human instinct - I don't
mean it that way but it's something that's kind of been going on since the beginning
of time and so I guess I'm more pessimistic about being able to stop that in the Congo
or anywhere and I know it also happens against men increasingly in the same places so things
like stopping female circumcisions seem like, to me, something that's actually a much more
tractable problem to try to solve.
So I mean I think it's great to try in the Congo as well but it's not, it's just much
harder to fight that as opposed to the circumcision thing which is a lot more dealing with ignorance
and social mores in those regions that seem a little bit more changeable so I wanted your
opinion, if you agree on that.
Eve Ensler: Okay. Well, I'm going to address your second part of that first.
You know, it's interesting when people say that violence has always been – it's a natural
thing which I find completely unnatural actually, just for the record.
But you know, I'm sure there was a time when people said people will always be reading
on a tablet and that's really natural.
And then people said, 'Oh, they're reading in books -- that's really natural".
And now we have computers and that seems really natural.
Now, why do we have the imagination to perceive and foresee and look out and see an evolution
in things like computers and online and virtual reality but we don't have the imagination
to see an end to violence?
And I think it's something to really examine in ourselves.
Why do we assume that the worst of people will continue forever.
It's just something I urge us all to consider because I think there's a way we're enslaved
by our refusal to have a bigger vision.
We once did an exercise in V-Day where we asked people one year to say what would your
life be like if there were no violence towards women, and it was fascinating.
I did it in a prison group and women said, "I can't do this, I won't do this".
And I was like, "Excuse me?"
And they were like, "First of all, I can't even imagine it and just to imagine it really
upsets me."
I said, "It upsets you to imagine it?"
And it was upsetting because so much of their lives had been about violence that just to
open the door to a time when they would be safe and free and protected and could walk
in the world where they wanted to go and wear what they wanted to do, it was almost unbearable.
So I want us to all dare to go into the unbearable, to imagine what it would be like to live in
a world without violence.
Just even on a daily basis, take an hour, take ten minutes, take five minutes, you're
walking down the street and there's no more violence -- what are you doing?
I'm naked. I'm naked all the time and I don't care because no one's bothering me.
No one is harassing me, I don't wear clothes.
Why would we wear clothes?
The only reason we wear clothes is because people would hurt us.
You just begin to think, 'Would we have doormen?'
No. Gone. No more doormen.
Would they do something else?
They'd probably do something happy and joyful but you just start looking at how our life
is based and predicated on attack - so that's number one.
Number two, I'm really happy to report that in Kenya -- we were just there in August and
Agnes is a superhero.
She, Agnes Pareiyo, is the woman who has been for years; she was cut as a girl, female genital
mutilated as a girl and decided that she would devote her life to ending the practice.
And she is a Masai women and she is brilliant and strategic and clever and loving and powerful
and she created an alternative ritual where girls come of age without the cut.
And she walked through the Rift Valley for years and years with this box and a female
torso and the torso had vaginal replacement parts and she would show people what a healthy
vagina looked like and what a mutilated vagina looked like.
And she would teach girls and boys, and mothers and fathers and in the years that she walked,
she saved 1,500 girls from being cut and when we met her I was like, "Okay, this is the
woman we are going to support."
I said, "How can we help you?"
And she said, "Give us money and I'll buy a Jeep and I can get around a lot faster."
So for the first year, she reached, I think, 3,500 to 4,500 girls.
And then we said, "What else can we do?" and she said, "If you give me money, I could open
a house and girls could run away. They'd be protected. They wouldn't be cut. They wouldn't
be forced into marriage with an old man, and they'd be able to go to school."
So seven years ago, she opened the first Safe House.
It's been wildly successful.
She has saved many, many girls from the cut.
They're in school and they've been reconciled with their own families and this year she
opened a second house in a place called Sakutiek.
It's a very remote village and it was very difficult to build the house but she was so
She worked with another MGO that works on water and they built her a well and right
now in Kenya, there's a serious drought and she, in Sakutiek, has the only water so guess
If you want water, you don't cut your daughter, right?
And so now [inaudible replies back from audience] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, and so when I was at
the Safe House and we had the ceremony, it was packed with men who had all brought their
daughters to the house to support them, to go through the ceremony without the cut, and
were very happy because they were getting water.
And so we are learning how to integrate these things and bring ecological needs and basic
survival needs together with ending that tradition.
I'll tell you one story.
When I was there, there was a girl named Jacqueline and it's actually in the book, a little bit
of her story but then I embellished and invented a lot of it, but she was 14.
Her sisters had been cut and she was in a Masai family, a very tight community.
The cows were dying because of the drought and she knew things were getting bad.
She heard her father talking to a man who was missing an eye, an old man.
She knew she was going to be sold, she knew she was going to be cut, she knew she wouldn't
go to school, and she ran away.
She'd heard about our house and she ran for two days.
She got there and she slept with the hyenas; she was really scared.
When she got there, Agnes greeted her.
She stayed for a year, she went to school, and her whole life changed.
She learned her rights and she became this strong, fierce girl and I was in the hut
-- we all were -- when she was brought back for the reconciliation with her father.
And it was one of the most emotional things I've ever seen.
The whole family, the four wives of her father and her mother, all wept.
Her mother had been beaten because she had stood up for her and went to the elders.
The father wept.
He said she'd become an amazing girl.
He accepted her back and then he looked at her sisters and said, "I will not cut you."
And then the whole Masai community took the day off in the market and celebrated her return.
It was gorgeous.
So we're having incredibly good luck and we've just envisioned a ten year plan where Agnes
will create more houses and a radio station and this whole amazing plan and I hope in
ten years we'll see the end of FGM in Masai land.
So yes, I think it is easier to end that tradition than it is to end rape but I don't think it's
impossible to end rape, and I urge you to just go there in spite of your own pessimism.
Megan: I think part of this being willing to imagine is sort in another area of Professor
Yunis, the inventor of the Grameen, micro loans, and just a brilliant Nobel Prize winner.
He actually wants there to be a poverty museum by 2030 and he totally believes that it's
possible because he thought a little bit about how do you take banking, which is a big industry,
and include the poor so that everybody gets to participate.
It's like an airline has first class, business class, economy.
Why can't every business have something where everyone can participate.
So it's not exactly related but in the way, can you imagine if the only place you could
see poverty is in a museum?
And so I think in the same way maybe it's sort of an extraordinary thing to think about
but I think memes happen.
There was a New York Times piece last summer about the book "Half the Sky" and some of
the things going on with sort of how we're thinking about women and girls and half the
talent in the world and how we're including people who have not been included across a
lot of different boundaries in the past.
And I think that a lot of the people in that article, the thesis was that in the 19th century
the majority, the vast majority of people, came to understand that slavery was wrong
and that that became a meme that we understood as fundamental meme.
And then in the 20th century, totalitarianism, and the idea of democracy and it became sort
of general meme that moved into many, many parts of the world.
And they were theorizing that in the 21st century that this idea of gender apartheid
goes away, that gender equality comes and I think there's a lot to that.
And I actually think that many things contribute, and I think technology has an extraordinary
impact and that because it's interconnecting people.
So the little girl in Kenya didn't know she had power until she had information that there
was a safe house to run to and then she could go there and her sisters could go there and
then their friends could go and so with that information instead the technology bring the
It's the plumbing of information and community.
Eve Ensler: And I also think movements do it.
Like Nicholas Kristof and "Half the Sky" didn't just happen.
We've been working for years and years and years in a women's movement and that book
is now visible but a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of work happened before that book happened.
And I think we don't even know what seeds we're planting when we're activists.
I ran into a woman the other night who is now the head of a city council who was a V-Day
activist for years and I ran into another woman who's become this and you don't even
know what saying the word "vagina" is going to do, what door it's going to open up.
I'll tell you a really funny story.
I was once in -- I'm sorry, you want to ask your question -- but I was once in Bulgaria
and we had this meeting of women in all of Eastern Europe and they all came from all
across the Balkans and all across eastern Europe and the woman who was running it decided
the way everyone was going to introduce themselves was by saying "vagina" in their own native
languages and it was fascinating.
It was like this one 'peechka' and 'puchka' and 'poopyene'.
And this woman from Macedonia, she was a gypsy woman and very much a minority.
And just the fact that she was there was a miracle and she's from a very, very traditional
She stood up and was like, "Okay, I couldn't do it."
And sat down and stood up again and sat down.
And finally, she just went "NINJA!"
And for the rest of the weekend, all anybody did was walk around going "NINJA!"
That so radicalized her, just doing that, that she went back to her community and they
had this really horrific tradition that on the marriage night the husband's father could
sleep with his bride to see if she was a virgin or that she would lose her virginity and the
whole community would come and check her sheets.
And she was horrified of this and she had been raped actually on her wedding night.
So she went home after that and she created a theatre piece called "The Gypsy Virgin Bride"
which she then toured all through the gypsy communities and she literally ended the tradition
-- she literally ended it.
So you think who knows what 'NINJA', what door it's going to open it, and when you suddenly
realize you have power and you have rights and your anger arrives and your passion arrives
and we don't even know how powerful we are, we don't have a clue how powerful we are.
I was just going to ask what we can do to help.
What we as individuals here can also do to help if we have, let's say, a few hours every
week or is there a cause you want us to donate to? Point us in the right direction.
Megan: And think about multiple things. Think about like things an individual could do but
think about things like with all our crazy teammates.
Eve Ensler: Yeah.
Megan: There's 20,000 Googlers all over the world
Eve Ensler: Wow!! 20,000!!
Megan: And there's people in YouTube world, phenomenal people all around the world who
could help too.
Eve Ensler: Well, I've always felt that you should do a V-Day at Google.
I've been saying this for years, that the women at Google should put on a production
of "The Vagina Monologues" and raise a lot of money for V-Day.
That's what I think you should do. You should do a major production, get all kinds of people
who would be in the cast, produce it, do it in some incredible space here for the whole
community, and raise a lot of money for the movement.
That would be the greatest thing you could do because then you'd be in the play, you'd
be talking vaginas at Google.
And virtual.
We could do a whole virtual 'V V' for vagina and merging of the two, and if you do it this
next year, men can be part of it because there's going to be this whole new men's piece that
will be coming out so we can bring that in so that's one and I'd love to see Megan doing
the moans myself [laughs].
You're blushing [laughs].
But if you go online too, there's many things you can do.
I'll tell you another fantasy I have.
We have something called the Congo Wall where people from all over the world go on and they
sign up and write messages to the women of Congo.
Now it has a couple of thousand people.
I would like a million people on the wall.
If you would all work with us to get millions of people to sign up for the woman of Congo
so we can have a million people on the wall supporting the woman of Congo, that would
be an awesome thing.
And I know you all know how to do that and could figure out a way to do that so we would
be greatly - raise money, tell the stories wherever you can.
Spread V-girls, read the books, carry the message.
Be your emotional, powerful selves. >> My question is you just mentioned getting
men more involved in the movement.
I'd love to hear more about that, particularly how you are going to do it in a way that's
really going to encourage them to fight for the cause and not alienate them because one
of the kind of concerns with talking about "The Vagina Monologues" and using the 'V'
word is that it can make men very uncomfortable and maybe feel a little bit alienated.
So how do you get them to really rally around this cause in a way that's going to get your
average man on the street to feel comfortable?
Eve Ensler: Well, I want to say that many men have come to "The Vagina Monologues" and
are actually very attracted to vaginas and aren't alienated by them, just for the record.
[laughs from audience]
But I've always felt that when men create this movement, they'll bring in other men
but I don't think women can convince men to care about violence against women -- I think
men can.
What's happened over the last year is that a group of men got together and met a lot
of other men and decided they would launch something called "V-Men".
So what they've done this year is they've launched this pilot project called "Ten Ways
to be a Man" and there are workshops, a hundred places signed up this year to do the workshops.
75 men in Lubbock, Texas, I'm really proud to say, are doing a workshop on how to be
a man and what they're doing is that there's a whole pilot – What are those things called?
-- PowerPoint where men come to the workshop and talk; you can see how technologically
illiterate and scary I am [laughs] but I'm trying with apps.
Just saying it I feel - [laughs].
But anyway they are doing these workshops all around the world this year and then they're
going to send in all these results they've had and stories and then they are going to
be put together by men and they are going to be made into a play.
And then next year it will go out with the V-Day movement to all the thousands of places
and men will perform this play on "Ten Ways to Be a Man" and we will probably have a PSA
campaign and we'll have a whole thing about men celebrating women and what it looks like
and that's all being generated by guys.
So I'm not telling men what to do.
I have no idea.
And also, I don't think men need women telling them what to do.
I think if men really care about ending violence against women, they've got to care and they've
got to generate this.
They've got to be the people moving it. We were just in a meeting last night where a
whole group of men in San Francisco are trying to figure out how to launch "V-Men" here.
It's happening, it's definitely happening and I think it will happen more and more.
There's so many great guys in the world and if they would stand up and say it matters
then a lot of other guys will stand up.
Megan: I think part of the - you know, we were at TED last week and Esther Duflo, who
is a phenomenal economist at MIT, a French economist, was mentioning that there's a Haiti
that occurs.
There's so much coverage of Haiti which is so important to help the people of Haiti right
now and she's saying we need to do this and yet at the same time, for children who are
0-5 years old, there's a Haiti every eight days if you're in emerging countries, as well
as even in some of the developed countries.
And so I think in some ways like poverty, like violence against women, it's a story
that's always been present to sort of your point, it's always here and it's always this
undercurrent and it's always there.
So I think that the collaboration of your extraordinary storytelling and those in the
world who have those skills to hear and transpose and create that together with our skills of
sort of platforms and apps and getting things out there when they combine and others who
have other talents to bring will -- and men who step, women who step up, will help a lot.
I don't know if there's any other questions; otherwise - Eve, it's been incredible to have
to you here.
Eve Ensler: Oh, I'm so happy.
Can I close by reading you one piece from the new book?
So, I'm going to do this tonight for all the girl cells that live in us so boys and girls,
like the girl in you.
Something I've been thinking a lot about lately; violence against women isn't a given, it's
not a given.
We don't have to live in a world where 1 out of 3 women are beaten or raped -- that's a
U.N. statistic; we don't.
It's really a determination.
We get to change that but one of the ways I think we change things is by being outrageous
and by being emotional and by being passionate and by being difficult.
And by people saying things like, "Ugh, there she is again."
It doesn't matter.
You really have to make a decision whether you want to be admired or liked.
Admired or liked, and usually people who continue to push the edge aren't liked by everybody
but it doesn't matter because if you keep going, people get freed because of it.
So I want to leave you with that.
I'm going to do "I Am An Emotional Creature" because I'm just feeling that way today.
So this is for all of you.
"I love being a girl.
I can feel what you're feeling as you're feeling it inside the feeling before.
I am an emotional creature.
Things do not come to me as intellectual theories or hard pressed ideas.
They pulse through my organs and legs and burn up my ears.
Oh, I know when your girlfriend's really pissed off even though she appears to give you what
you want.
I know when a storm is coming.
I can feel the invisible stirrings in the air.
I can tell you he won't call back.
It's a vibe I share.
I am an emotional creature.
I love that I do not take things lightly.
Everything is intense to me.
The way I walk in the street.
The way my mama wakes me up.
The way I hear bad news.
The way it's unbearable when I lose.
I am an emotional creature.
I am connected to everything and everyone.
I was born like that.
Don't you say all negative that it's a teenage thing or it's only only because I'm a girl.
These feelings make me better.
They make me present.
They make me ready.
They make me strong.
I am an emotional creature.
I am connected to everything.
There is a particular way of knowing.
It's like the older women somehow forgot.
I rejoice that it's still in my body.
I know when the coconut's about to fall.
I know we have pushed the Earth too far.
I know my father isn't coming back and that no one's prepared for the fire.
I know that lipstick means more than show and boys feel super insecure and terrorists
are made, not born.
I know that one kiss can take away all my decision making ability, and you know what?
Sometimes it should.
This is not extreme.
It's a girl thing.
What we would all be if the big door inside us flew open?
Don't tell me not to cry.
To calm it down.
Not to be so extreme.
To be reasonable.
I am an emotional creature.
It's how the Earth got made.
It's how the wind continues to pollinate.
You don't tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave.
I am an emotional creature.
Why would you want to shut me down or turn me off?
I am your remaining memory.
I am connecting you to your source.
Nothing's been diluted.
Nothing's leaked out.
I can take you back.
I love that I can feel the inside of the feelings in you, even if they stop my life, even if
it hurts too much, even if it breaks my heart.
It makes me responsible. I am an emotional, I am an emotional, devotional, incandotional,
roller coasteral creature.
And I love, hear me, I love, love, love being a girl.
>> Woo! Eve Ensler. [more applause]
Eve Ensler: Thank you all.