Vagina Monologues author talks gender

Eve Ensler focuses on the commonalities between women across the globe in her talk last Sunday

By Crystal Tsoi

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On any other night at the International House, there might not be anything special about hearing stories from China, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Sunday, however, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, returned to Chicago for the first time in four years, bringing with her female voices from around the globe.

Ensler read from I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, her newest bestseller.

While writing her new book, Ensler said she discovered that the same gender problems persist across international lines. “It seemed to me that the central dilemma was that girls were being taught to please somebody other than themselves,” she said.

“Writing Emotional Creature has really been a profound experience, but putting it out to the world and spending time with teenage girls has been an even more amazing experience,” Ensler added.

Ensler’s experiences and messages resonated with several members of the audience, including a 14-year-old girl who said she found her voice through Ensler’s writings. “I thought I couldn’t be loved,” she said to Ensler, “but I read your book and I met amazing people this year, and you’re my hero because you’ve inspired me so much.”

“No, you’re my hero,” Ensler replied.

The feminist playwright spoke about V-Day, her foundation that is devoted to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. The international movement has spread to the U of C campus in recent years: U of C women will perform The Vagina Monologues April 30th.

“I want to honor the University of Chicago. I know you’re new to V-Day and that you’ve only been doing V-Day for two to three years, but I hear that you’re doing an amazing job,” Ensler said.

Ensler’s newest book approaches feminism from a global perspective, a common theme in the evening’s reading. Drawing from her experiences in places like Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China, Ensler emphasized the way the message of V-Day transcends geopolitical lines.

“I get to fly around the world and meet the most amazing women who’ve done the most extraordinary things,” Ensler said. “I can say that the women in Haiti are the fiercest, most generous, most alive people and are doing all kinds of extraordinary things there.”

Ensler said she hopes her message will also reach men.

“We all have a girl in us,” Ensler said. “I love the way V-Day works in that universities support local women and local women become partners and so that we’re all in this together, one world supporting each other.”

The talk was part of I-House’s Global Voices Author Night Series and co-sponsored by International House Global Voices Program, Seminary Cooperative Bookstores Inc., and the UChicago Global Affairs Leadership Society.