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Activist Art (The Citizen)

Originally published in:
The Citizen

By Natalie Bosman


Fifteen years ago, playwright and activist Eve Ensler liberated women through her renowned play The Vagina Monologues.

Her cheeky, provocative and in-spirational script taught women to love and laugh at themselves again, and to embrace everything that being a woman entails.

Now Ensler is doing it again, only this time she's turning her attention to a younger age group with her play I Am An Emotional Creature.

"My intention was to kind of say 'Okay, what if we got girls before they were muted and undone; before they were done in and went underground and became someone else?'" she says, in between munching ferociously on a chicken salad.

"What if we got them at the point in their life when they could actually be their fully voiced, powered and authentic selves?

"Most of us are climbing out of the chains or unbinding the chains or finding our voice after years of being muted; loving our bodies after years of hating our bodies, or getting ourselves out of horrible relationships or marriages where we have been abused or shut down," Ensler says.

"But I think if girls were free, maybe they wouldn't have to go down that path, and they could be way ahead of us."

Having recently undergone chemo and survived cancer, Ensler finds herself wanting to reach out and help women even more.

Part of her drive as an activist she says comes from being close to death and feeling "connected on a deeper level with the suffering of the world", and part of it stems from the abuse she herself suffered as a young child.

"I was very badly abused, and because of that I had two alternatives: go crazy and die, or become an activist and transform suffering," Ensler explains.

"Every time I do something that makes the world better for someone else, particularly a woman, I heal my own trauma and I feel like we heal the world."

Just as the Vagina Monologues sparked the "V-Day" global movement to end violence against women and girls - "one huge vagina miracle", as Ensler fondly calls it - I Am An Emotional Creature has given rise to the targeted "V-Girls" pilot programme, using an empowerment philanthropy model to provide young girls with a platform to get their voices heard.

The play is composed of fictional monologues told by girls in various countries and contexts - from the Chinese factory worker making Barbies to the 15-year- old Bulgarian sex slave. It's a powerful platform of voices demanding to be heard, that resonates as strongly with women as it does with young girls.

"We are all repressed girls. We all began as these wildly imaginative, powerful, emotional, devotional, intense and brilliant creatures, and then the world came and said, 'Don't be so intense, don't be so emotional, don't be this or that'," says Ensler.

"I think where we overlap is that girls can free us. We shouldn't be scared of our teenage daughters, we should be begging them to help us become liberated and to take us where we need to go," she says.

"But I think what happens to most people is that we see our teenage daughters and we get panicked, because they remind us of our losses."