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Eve Ensler – I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World

February 26, 2010

Another wonderful book by Eve Ensler available to buy now .  Just like a cliché review, I read ‘I Am An Emotional Creature’ in one sitting and passed it on so somebody else could read it.

Of all the pieces, I found the three ‘I Dance’ poems touched me the most and wasn’t surprised to find an interview with Ensler where she explains how ‘Dance has a transformative effect on bodily trauma. When you’ve been raped, the trauma lodges itself in your being. Dance is a surefire way to release it.’  I’m way past pogo’ing now – thanks pregnancy – but yes, dance really does have a transformative effect which is portrayed perfectly in Ensler’s poems.

Ensler spoke to Amy Goodman earlier today about this book and the work V-Day is doing in Haiti following the devastating earthquake.

I really want everybody to read this book but I am finding it difficult to put into words what ‘I Am An Emotional Creature’ meant to me on reading it – perhaps when I get it back and read it again I will be able to cobble some words together, so in the meantime here is part of a review from Alternet:

After the success of The Vagina Monologues, the idea of a work about girls intrigued Ensler, though she didn’t want to simply do it “by rote.” But observing girls in her own life as well as those she met through her travels with V-Day, a central theme emerged: “the girl in everybody, the muted, censored, shut down, diminished, undermined girl in the entire species.” She began to write.

Ensler describes the result as “a call to girls, about girls, for girls, around the world, to be their authentic selves,” to overcome the “pressures that rob them of their originality and power.” Though the pieces are all fictional monologues, Ensler says they are “based on what is real and true” in her observation of the lives of different girls all over the world. Among the girls Ensler creates are a teenager in a New York suburb struggling with high school peer pressure; a Masai girl resisting female genital mutilation in Kenya, where V-Day maintains a safe house; a survivor of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a teen who blogs about her self-starvation. Says Ensler, “I hope it tells these interior stories of girls that don’t normally get told, the secret stories … as opposed to the fantasy version of what girls are living.” She hopes that through the stories, “girls get freed into the reality of their lives.”

Too often, she discovered, no matter their geographical location, girls are silenced. “It’s one universal story with different manifestations, depending on the class, the culture, the community, the religion: how does the culture in any given place, mutate, censor, undermine, diminish and eradicate girls, and the power of girls?” observes Ensler. “And that can be getting a girl to believe that she has to be the size of a pencil,” so that she devotes all her energy to “losing weight and disappearing. Or it can be a girl sold into marriage with an old man in a culture where people cut off girls’ clitorises. Or she can be used to blow herself up in the front line of a fundamentalist war. In all of it she is basically fodder.”

Ensler likens the experience of putting together I Am an Emotional Creature to her earlier project. Interviewing women for The Vagina Monologues, she discovered a world no one was talking about. “It was exhilarating and it was terrifying. And I felt the same thing in the last five years travelling the world listening to girls.” She was amazed by what they are up against, “and it’s also pretty illuminating and hopeful-making to see the triumph of girls over these obstacles.”

She has also begun to identify what she calls the “girl self” that has been largely undervalued and suppressed. “It’s the part of us that’s passionate, and compassionate and associative and intuitive and emotional and resistant,” she says. From the time we’re born, women and men, she says, “we’re taught that the worst thing you can be is a girl. That to be a leader you should never be ‘a girl.’ So it must be pretty powerful to be a girl if everyone’s taught not to be one, right?” That realization is what inspired the title, “I Am an Emotional Creature.” She has been told her whole life “that I’m too emotional, too extreme, too dramatic, too intense, too alive. I started to think, what if I actually saw that as my advantage, as my gift?” It’s crucial, she says, “to respond with our heart — not insanely or without analysis — but I think the missing piece right now is that passion, that outrage and empathy that motivates you to break out of the box to change things.”

Ensler believes in the dramatic medium of a monologue. “You can allow the interior world of the character to speak and be revealed, which is very difficult to do with a journalistic piece. You can explore the poetry of the character, you can explore high emotions, low emotions.” Going deeply inside to understand motives and fears, she says, “is the crucial step if we are going to find a way to transform consciousness.”

In the introduction to I Am an Emotional Creature, Ensler describes the power of girls as one of our “greatest natural resources.” Look at the girl in Africa, says Ensler. Her father sells her into marriage for “maybe a thousand dollars at most. But if she is educated, she will take care of that family forever. Girls’ empowerment is not going to take things away from people. It’s going to feed people and make sure we stop destroying the Earth. It’s going to be responsible for ending wars and bringing up children in more holistic ways. It seems so crazy to me that people don’t understand this.” Unleashing their energy would create “a new wind healing the world.”

Before reading  the poem  ‘I Am An Emotional Creature’, (you can find the text here) at the end of the video below Ensler says:

Violence against women isn’t a given.  We don’t have to live in a world where one out of three women are beaten or raped.  That’s a UN statistic.  We don’t.  It’s really a determination that we get to change that.  One of the ways we get to change that is by being outrageous, by being emotional, by being passionate and by being difficult.

Ensler supports us all in being outrageous, emotional, passionate and difficult in the fight to end violence against women  This violence which not only damages and kills women – it damages us all.

From the notes accompanying the video:

Eve Ensler’s newest work, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, was released in book form by Villard/Random House on February 9. Made up of original monologues about and for girls, the book aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts and curiosities. V-Day has developed a corresponding targeted pilot V-Girls program engaging young women in our “empowerment philanthropy” model, igniting their activism and giving them a voice.

I Am an Emotional Creature chronicles the stories inspired by girls around the globe. Girls today often find themselves in a struggle between remaining strong and true to themselves and conforming to society’s expectations in an attempt to please. I Am an Emotional Creature is a celebration of the authentic voice inside every girl and an inspiring call to action for girls everywhere to speak up, follow their dreams, and become the women they were always meant to be.

Among the girls Ensler creates are an American who struggles with peer pressure in a suburban high school; an anorexic blogging as she eats less and less; a Masai girl from Kenya unwilling to endure female genital mutilation; a Bulgarian sex slave, no more than fifteen, a Chinese factory worker making Barbies; an Iranian student who is tricked into a nose job; a pregnant girl trying to decide if she should keep her baby.

It is through these varying voices and experiences that V-Day hopes to nurture the future activists of the world. I Am an Emotional Creature will be a vehicle to empower girls and inspire activism. In 2010, readings of the book will be staged in twenty pilot locations, where teen girls will engage in the creative process, accompanied by a specially written curriculum addressing the issues in the book.

Through the V-Girls Program and I Am an Emotional Creature, we can come to understand the universality of girls everywhere: their resiliency, their wildness, their pain, their fears, their secrets, and their triumphs. I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls will be a vehicle to empower girls and inspire activism. Through the newly created V-Girls program, young girls can participate in the V-Day movement. The goal of V-Girls will be to engage young women in our empowerment philanthropy model, giving them a platform to ignite their activism.

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement. Women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true.

About V-Day – V-Day is a global activist movement shattering taboos, raising millions and transforming communities to end violence against women and girls. Annually, activists stage thousands of benefit productions of Founder/playwright Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and other works. Working at the intersection of art, social action and politics, V-Day empowers grassroots activists to become leaders, turning pain to power. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $70 million, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 11,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic Of Congo, Egypt, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan and South Dakota. V-Day was named one of Worth magazine’s “100 Best Charities” in 2001 and Marie Claire’s Top Ten Charities in 2006. The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. http://www.vday.org

 

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