Author of 'The Vagina Monologues' speaks to Rutgers crowd at annual Institute for Women's Leadership Consortium lecture
In a room adorned with signs reading “In Vagina We Trust," famous playwright and feminist Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” held a lecture Thursday night before feminists and fans.
“A Conversation with Eve Ensler,” was the lecture for this year’s Annual Susan and Michael J. Angelides Lecture, sponsored by The Institute for Women’s Leadership Consortium, the Rutgers Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance and the School of Social Work’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children.
Lisa Hetfield, associate director and the director of development at the Institute for Women's Leadership, introduced Ensler to the audience.
“Ensler first performed ‘The Vagina Monologues’ 40 years ago,” Hetfield said. “Since then it has become the foundation for a grassroots movement against the violence against women and girls.”
This year is the 20th anniversary of the premier of “The Vagina Monologues,” which has been translated into more than 45 languages and performed in more than 120 countries, according to event’s website.
Maya Younker, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, came to the event directly after class to expand her knowledge of feminist issues.
“I’m in ‘Knowledge and Power’ and we talk about feminist issues,” Younker said. “I feel like there’s an extent to which we can discuss them, so I feel like I want to hear somebody who has a very strong position on these issues and can speak without restriction, and already has.”
Ensler’s passion for writing and women's rights stemmed from the fact that it was her only escape from an abusive childhood, and helped her become the outspoken feminist that she is today.
“All I wanted to do when I was growing up was survive. I didn’t have big plans,” she said. “I never thought I’d have a career or even live past 30 because I was so depressed. Writing while I was a child was my survival. Without writing, I don’t know if I would have found a way to save my sanity.”
Everything about “The Vagina Monologues” came as a surprise to her, she said. When she wrote it, it was completely accidental.
After a woman opened up to Ensler and told her that she has never had sex since a very bad sexual experience as a child, Ensler wrote a small piece entitled “The Flood” as a montage to her, and performed it one night at a small café in New York City.
“Women literally lined up after the show every night, literally lines of women, to tell me their stories,” she said. “I basically set up shop in my little studio and women would just come in and sit, sometimes for hours, and tell me the history of their vaginas. I felt so privileged and moved.”
Ensler also believes that we have to reimagine and look at what our feminism is and what we are fighting for.
Younker came to the event to be given more exposure to feminist issues and different arguments and support for the issues.
“I have certain views that I want to learn more information about so that I can be more empowered when I speak about them,” Younker said. “I feel like it’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a feminist,’ … but it’s another thing to be educated to the point where you can argue your point and be confident about it.”
Feminists have to be careful with activism so that they do not get stuck on various levels and keep being bold and dangerous and disruptive with what they are doing, Ensler said.
“The next years are really critical years, and it’s really critical for women more than ever to be bold,” she said.
Alexandra DeMatos is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double-majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. She is the copy editor of The Daily Targum.