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Lions Roar : March 2014
Deschryver. We just had our fourth class graduate, so that’s now at total of 300 women who have graduated. It’s a miracle that happened because these women had the resources to do what they do best. I think that’s what I’ve learned about service—to be present when you’re needed and disappear when you’re not. bell hooks: I want to ask you a hard question, Eve. Because of internalized racism, when a white person comes to serve or help people of color, we can put them in a position where we almost worship them and not raise the kinds of critical questions we would ask people of color. So how do you avoid reinforcing the framework of white privilege, for instance through their grati- tude? I think it’s a real question for privileged people of all kinds when we go to serve people who are without privilege. Eve Ensler: It’s something one struggles with. Look, I grew up in a racist world. That conditioning, that story, is in me. So if I am dominating, I want to be called on it. I want to be pointed out. Because we need to keep decolonizing every day. I’m just beginning to understand the nature of true service, which is how we do the work and yet know we’re not separate from the struggle. Gratitude would mean that I’m somehow sep- arate from the struggle, as opposed to being engaged in it. Why should anyone be grateful to me? I’m part of this same struggle to end capitalist patriarchy and racist practices. That’s what I feel my life is devoted to, so where is the outside and where is the inside? I’m working to get out of the outside and be more in the inside, if that makes sense. bell hooks: Yet we are affected by how people perceive us. Years ago when I wrote Ain’t I a Woman? I was accused of being homopho- bic because I didn’t use the word “lesbian.” My lived experience in my little Kentucky town had always been as an advocate, as an ally who could be counted on to stand up for lesbian and gays. But as a nineteen-year-old who was just beginning to create feminist theory, I felt that I shouldn’t say anything about lesbianism because I didn’t know enough about it. I wish I could find the words to talk about how crushed in my little spirit I was by that criticism. So we don’t always have control over how people respond to us, and that’s where the integrity of one’s intentions are very important. Because—let me be totally honest—a lot of times when you get slapped down, you want to just stay down. Then you have to come back to your commitment to service. What does it mean to be a servant leader? I feel my life has been committed to militant, visionary feminism, to using what- ever insight this mind has to push people—especially women and men of color—to be more engaged in the ways that feminist thinking can alter our lives. You know that Sweet Honey in the Rock song that says Some- times you look for friends, and friends just can’t be found, and some- times you’re standing all alone? That’s when the strength comes in, and it comes from the level of your commitment and the belief that you’re making a difference. For me, that rests on a larger framework of spiritual practice. You keep asking yourself—through meditation, through prayer—“What should I do? Where should I go?” In the case of Eve, her commitment to go to the Congo is danger- ous. It’s about that kind of choice. Many, many times I have thought about Goodman, Cheney, and Swarner, two wonderful Jewish boys and a black boy who died fighting for voting rights, and asked myself, “What is it I’m willing to put my life on the line for? What am I willing to give?” That is a question we have to continually ask ourselves: What are we willing to give? What are we willing to do? One Billion Rising in (left to right) New Delhi, Jakarta, and Beirut. PHOTOSBY(LEFTTORIGHT):ANOOBHUYAN,NEWDELHI;APPHOTO/DITAALANGKARA;REUTERS/JAMALSAIDI How can we have a world where the bodies of all women, and especially women of color, can be defended and protected? —bell hooks SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 47