Eve Ensler, the writer and producer of “The Vagina Monologues,” visited UCSB on Friday to deliver two speeches that were five years in the making.
Ensler, whose visit was sponsored by Arts & Lectures, the Women’s Center and the College of Creative Studies, delivered her first speech, “Imagining V-World,” to a packed Campbell Hall. The event was attended by approximately 600 people, most of whom were women. Ensler was also named a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the College of Creative Studies, giving a further speech there that addressed the problem of violence against women throughout the world.
UCSB alumna Julie Vong, who attended the Campbell Hall speech, commented that women needed to be active in the pursuit of their rights.
“The number one thing needs to be that women aren’t afraid to step up and stand up for their rights, whether it’s for ‘Take Back the Night’ or certain days,” she said.
The V-World movement, which began in 1998, evolved from Ensler’s experiences of violence toward women, in both her personal and professional life. As a child, she was the victim of physical violence at the hands of her father. While traveling and performing her play “The Vagina Monologues” as an adult, Ensler met women from around the world who had also experienced abuse. Ensler said she was profoundly affected by their stories, which led her to seek solutions to the cycle of violence.
“One woman said to me that she wouldn’t know who she was without violence,” Ensler said.
The goals of V-World include educating women and the public about violence prevention and active fundraising to create a change in society’s attitude toward violence. She said widespread brutality in American society is the result of America reacting to violence with more violence. Referring to the war in Iraq as an example, Ensler said, “You can’t bomb people into peace.”
The most outrageous aspect of violence, she said, is not just that it is happening, but that it is generally ignored. “One of the things that I have been struck with is the fact that no matter what country or city I am in, the worst possible things are happening to women, but it is completely invisible.”
A further development of Ensler’s V-World project is the V-Day movement, which reclaims Valentine’s Day as a time to educate people about the problem of violence against women. On or around Valentine’s Day, V-Day activists work to rally funds through local performances of “The Vagina Monologues.” The proceeds are donated to various grassroots organizations that help domestic violence victims.
Ensler said she based “The Vagina Monologues” on her interviews with women of different ages, sexual orientations, cultures and ethnic backgrounds, in which she asked them about their vaginas.
“I was curious about how women view their vaginas,” Ensler said. “Vaginas lead very interesting lives.”
Ensler applauded UCSB for the fundraising done by the Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe (W.E.T.T.) and its performances of “The Vagina Monologues.” W.E.T.T. has sold out every performance of the “Vagina Monologues” staged at UCSB in the last three years.
“I think this campus has incredibly powerful vaginas,” she said. “And I think women should listen to their hearts and their spirits and trust what they know.”