by Angela Sells, Intern at MissRepresentation.org
Sitting next to my mother in second row center in San Francisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral, I saw my long time hero, Eve Ensler, speak and inspire. During Susan Deyhim’s stunning vocal acrobatics (a middle-eastern chanting with a baffling ability to self-harmonize), Eve walked out onto the stage looking stunning and healthy, eighteen months in remission from stomach and uterine cancer. Eve began her speech on the topic of cancer; her battle, her despair, her survival and her new beginning.
Eve related her literal cancer to the metaphorical cancers of society: sexism, racism, poverty and repression. Chemo became her method of burning away her past abuse, past traumas, self-hatred and self-doubt. She then declared quite profoundly: “I am not my cancer”. To separate from the past is hard enough, but to separate one from one’s trauma is a life-changing epiphany. We are not defined by our abuse nor are we defined by our abusers. Women are not defined or confined by the patriarchal standards and gender-limiting stereotypes, or by political underrepresentation and unequal working class wages. Jut as Eve’s second wind began after her cancer, any woman’s life can begin again this moment. For Eve, cancer was a call to action, just as knowledge of the reality of abuse can breed the compassion to action. She reminds that, statistically, if one in three women has been raped, then one BILLION women worldwide have been raped!
Eve’s special interest is in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo. Eve has helped fund the City of Joy, a safe house built by and for the women of the Congo who are affected by the atrocities of poverty and by rape and abuse used as weapons of war. Eve described the women working by day and dancing by night. Dancing. Some of these women were shot, genitally mutilated, beaten, raped so many times their insides were pulled out: dancing. On Valentine’s Day 2013, the 13th anniversary of VDay (Eve’s non-profit organization supporting the end of violence against women), Eve calls for one billion women to dance. She calls for one billion women to rise and stand up for an end to violence. As she says, if one billion men joined with one billion women to dance, “the earth would move”. Cancer and abuse happened to Eve, but she is not a survivor. She survived these things. She is not a victim, though she has been victimized. Eve was taken as far as she could go without being gone. Now she is a woman helping to heal her community and move the earth with love. Eve is a dancer.