With The Vagina Monologues, activist and writer Eve Ensler celebrated women’s strength. Now her new project, a global street party that launches this month, aims to raise awareness of abuse.
In July 1518, Frau Troffea began to dance feverishly in the streets of Strasbourg. She did not stop for almost a week and before long others had joined in. By the time a month had passed, there were around 400 jigging away, giving history one of its most pronounced outbreaks of “dancing mania”, a so-called epidemic, now characterised as a collective hysterical disorder, that cropped up in several medieval towns and cities in mainland Europe.
This month, Europe’s women will dance again; in fact, they will dance all over the world. With any luck, though, they will not be classified as witches in need of blood-letting. On 14 February, all those women who have been affected by violence are invited to go out into the street and dance. The global event is part of the One Billion Rising campaign and is the idea of the writer and activist Eve Ensler, the Frau Troffea of her day.
Charismatic, petite, yet tough, Ensler is regarded by her friends and admirers, such as the feminist writer Marianne Schnall, as exactly “what the world needs right now”. Her decision to mark the 15th anniversary of her annual V-Day campaign this month by mounting an even more ambitious scheme is typical of the “bold and indomitable spirit” Schnall describes.
“When she first set V-Day’s mission, she decided to make it ‘to end violence against women and girls’ and those words were chosen purposefully,” wrote Schnall. “It wasn’t something a little less idealistic or diluted like ‘to work to help stop violence against women’ – she set the bar pure and simple on ending it: no compromises, no excuses.”
At 59, Ensler, who grew up in the comfortable New York suburb of Scarsdale, is best known as the originator of the influential The Vagina Monologues show; a feminist performance franchise that has allowed women in many different cultures and countries to talk publicly about the taboos that have hampered their lives. Out of this success, she has created not just the concept of V-Day, but a number of safe houses for abused women; in 2011, a City of Joy in Congo was built as a refuge for those recovering from rape and violent abuse.
Now, with One Billion Rising, Ensler aims to instigate a revolutionary movement, what she calls a “woman spring”, mirroring activism in the Arab world. “We want to shake the globe (literally!) and announce that it’s time to end violence against women and girls,” she has announced. Read more …