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Lions Roar : March 2014
Eve Ensler: When you serve, there’s ego that’s operating and then there’s the reason you’re there, which is to transform reality. Sometimes they’re at odds. When The Vagina Monologues first started, Rosie Perez and Lisa Gay-Hamilton had this vision to bring it to Harlem and do this incredible women of color pro- duction. As we worked on it, all kinds of class and race issues came up. Finally, they came to me and said, “We’ve decided we really don’t want you in the show. We want it to be an all women of color production.” I remember thinking, “I’ve just been disinvited from my own show—but yeah, absolutely, I will not be in the show.” Because this was a production looking at violence against women of color, and women of color wanted to own that show. Part of me felt really left out, but another part of me said, “The bigger story is operating here. Shut up and serve.” There’s that lesson again. And in the end it was absolutely the right choice. But my ego wanted to be in that show with all those amazing women! So part of service is learning to let it go. It takes a lot of service and spirituality and coming into one’s center to know the right places on that axis of service. bell hooks: Most of America’s intimate social relations are gov- erned by racial apartheid. Many white people don’t have people of color in the dailyness of their intimate lives. People may work in an office with a black person, but when they go home their world becomes white again. In that world of intimacy, the deep- est forms of racial apartheid continue in our lives. So, Eve, I want to hear more about your own process of decolonization. Because part of how we get away from imperial- ist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is to decolonize our minds. That’s true for all of us, irrespective of our color. What led you to place your body within a sphere of equality with other bodies, and with bodies of color? Eve Ensler: To a large degree it was being a survivor of violence myself. I came from a white middle-class family in which I was treated with contempt. I was violated regularly. I was raped. I was beaten. I was exiled from that family at a very young age, and I think as a result I’ve always identified with people who have been annihilated and eviscerated, outsiders. bell hooks: But part of it—and this is where we link up from two very different class and race locations—is your critical reflection on what is taking place in society. Eve Ensler: Absolutely. I grew up in the 1960s, and I witnessed the incredible injustice that was being done to black people. My witnessing of the racial oppression that existed in this country had, of all the things in my life, including sexism, the deepest impact on me. I felt called to that, but it took me a long time to understand how to be in that struggle in a way where I would be welcomed and could serve in a meaningful way. And be trusted. I think that was a big part of it. bell hooks: Where does the trust come between dominator and It inspires me to see women around the world dancing and moving and being free. How do we create more spaces where women can come into their bodies and their power? —Eve Ensler Left to right: Washington, D.C., Berlin, and Manila (Eve Ensler, center, and Filipina actress Monique Wilson, right).