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Lions Roar : March 2014
ell hooks : Eve and I agree that love begins with the body. So we want to start our discussion with the whole question of our bodies and where the love is. Eve Ensler: Maybe I’ll start with how trauma and violence take love out of the body, or at least make it hard to have love in the body. How do we get back into our bodies after we’ve been trau- matized? How do we get back to the love in our body? How do we take back our bodies and see them as these stunning miracles that were given to us? Just the way they are. Because of the methodology of violence, so many of us have become separate from our bodies. We have become objects to ourselves. When I got cancer, and I woke up after nine hours of surgery and had lots of organs and nodes missing, it was the first time in my life I was in my body. I felt how amazing it is to have a body! How incredible it is to have a body! It was like I hadn’t been getting it my whole life. I didn’t get it. I have a body! bell hooks: It is domination that separates us from our body. People who read my books know I use the phrase “imperial- ist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” [laughter] It’s not so much that I like that phrase, but it connects all the forms of domination that are enslaving us in the world today. Domination separates us from our bodies no matter which of those forms it takes. Especially, we want to think about white supremacy and patriarchy—forms of domination maintained by violence—that are primarily enacted on the bodies of women and children. White supremacy has divided us along the lines of bodies—black and brown bodies exploited, oppressed, and dominated by white bodies. Eve’s new book, In the Body of the World, is a memoir of her seven years working with women in Congo. There are not many white women who put their lives on the line to help protect and serve black women’s bodies. In fact, there’s hardly anybody at all who puts their lives on the line for the redemptive saving of black women’s bodies. So, I’m hoping that Eve will open her heart and share with us some of what motivates her. Eve Ensler: Seven years ago I interviewed an extraordinary man named Dr. Denis Mukwege, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. He is a surgeon and gynecologist who is devot- ing his life as a Congolese man and a doctor to healing women who were being eviscerated and raped and destroyed in war. Dr. Muk- wege asked me, “Would you come and help, because we’re com- pletely alone and we’re drowning? We’re drowning in the rapes; we’re drowning in the violence; we’re drowning.” I went because he moved me to my core. I went because the injustice that has been wrought on black women’s bodies has always moved me to outrage. I spent weeks with women at Panzi Hospital who had been eviscerated by a war over a mineral that is used in our cellphones. I saw the hundreds and thousands of women’s bod- ies that were literally being destroyed because of greed. I was shattered. Something changed in my life forever. The con- nections we’re talking about were so clear—this colonial, capitalist plundering of a country, and of women’s bodies simultaneously. I met with many Congolese women and asked them, “How can we serve you? What do you want us to do?” I’ve been taught by activists throughout the world that our job as people of privi- lege is to go and listen and serve. I have a motto over my desk that says “Shut up and serve.” It’s not our right to dictate what people should do. It’s none of our business. Our job is to find resources so people can do what they do best. The seven years we’ve worked in Congo have been radically transformative for me. I watched the women determine what they wanted, which became a community for survivors of violence called City of Joy. It is owned by them, run by them, directed by them. The women who come there are all survivors of gender vio- lence, so the first goal is to transform their enormous suffering. But then we train them to be leaders. This morning I was talking to the extraordinary director of City of Joy, Christine Schuler SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 46