Plenary II: Eve Ensler

[This link is her actual speech. The following are notes on the speech, except for the labeled portion.]

That video is a taste of what’s coming. I saw the power of women in Michigan, when 5,000 came after 48 hours of planning. I’m honored to be here. I have so much respect for NOW, it’s a crucial organization for holding ground and moving forward. I really respect Kim Gandy and her awesome work. I love Terry O’Neill, she’s had extraordinary leadership and honored NOW activists who devoted their lives to feminism.

The War on Women is bizarre but not surprising. There’s been an amazing rise up against it. No one would ever expect 5,000 people and 30 congresspeople to wear vagina shirts and signs. There were 5400 events across planet, the size of the movement is amazing. The genie is out of bottle, vaginas are here to stay!

The GOP makes the War on Women seem like it’s the whole story but it’s not, those are just men who are afraid. We’ve had lots of victories. The word vagina has been used and it wasn’t 15 years ago, not on TV (CNN did a 10 minute piece on The Vagina Monologues without using the word vagina) or the legislative floor. Women like Sandra Fluke wouldn’t have been accepted, things like sex abuse and DSK would have been accepted.

I was at the European Parliament performance of The Vagina Monologues and it was awesome, they started a ban on female genital mutilation as result.

V-Day, the movement I spearhead to end violence against women, gave money to a woman in Kenya who taught girls about FGM and opened a safe house to stop girls from being cut. Despite being criticized, she’s reached hundreds of girls. She’s a major now and running for Kenyan parliament, an amazing speaker. She’s an example of progress.

In Congo, which is a rape zone, the systematic desecration made me understand femicide, how war destroys women through rape and mass rape and gang rape and burning. It fully radicalized me to see the colonialism plus sexism plus racism, that women’s bodies are where the fight is. Babies are raped to death, old women are raped. These women have amazing spirit anyway. This campaign has been running for over six years. We opened City of Joy, where women turn pain to power, where there’s healing and literary education and a computer center from Google, where women learn defense and English. They are the new leaders of Congo.

I met Jean at City of Joy, she had been raped and was repaired and sent back to her war-torn village. She was raped again for two months by soldiers and her body was destroyed, she’s had nine operations and still isn’t fixed. Her story is not unusual. She was part of City of Joy’s first group of graduates in January. She is the best leader I met. She spoke to the governor and he cried. Jean goes by Jane now and she epitomizes spirit

We have victories, but we haven’t deconstructed patriarchy yet, we have to otherwise violence against women won’t end. We’ve moved so far and that’s why the GOP is resisting, what’s happening now are the last breaths of the patriarchal dragon.

Every year I want it to be the last V-Day, but it never is. More than one billion women are raped or assaulted every year. It impacts the soul, self-esteem, and body. We have to go distance and unravel patriarchy. WE MUST MISBEHAVE. I can’t say this strongly enough.

On February 14, 2013 we must walk out of institutors and empower. I mean WE. NOW is already in solidarity. One billion belongs to everyone, across the world. Indian women already writing songs of protest, aboriginal women in Australia are singing “I’m Every Woman,” all types of women, all classes and religions. We need one billion people. Women are organizing now.

[The following is a word-for-word transcript of what Ensler said. I strongly suggest you listen to her speech, as linked to previously, while reading along with this.]

So you might ask, why rising and why now? I think you know.

We are rising because the time has come. Because we have waited too long, worked too hard, built and rebuilt and built again, and frankly I don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over like Groundhog Day when I’m 85. We’ve opened shelters and hotlines, campaigned for rights, fought for legislation, and then fought for the same legislation again and again, protected our sisters’ choice and our sisters’ bodies.

We are rising because we are done convincing and cajoling, arguing and arranging, accommodating and acquiescing.

We are rising because the future of the earth is at stake and the world economy is at stake and our right to determine our identities and destinies. The future of the body, of the earth and the bodies of women, are one and the same.

We are rising for and with the native and indigenous women who have suffered multiple violations of culture, of land, and bodies.

We are rising because we refuse to be pushed back to the Dark Ages where women had no control over their uteruses, vaginas, desires, sexuality, reproduction, or health.

We are rising because we are over a tiny particular group of powerful men who are unable even to say the word vagina having the chutzpah to attempt to regulate and determine our vaginas

We are rising because we are over transvaginal wands and personhood amendments and being censored and spanked for mentioning our own body parts. [wild cheers]

We are rising because 1 out of 3 women on the planet is raped and beaten, 1 out of 5 women on college campuses is raped, and 1 out of 4 teenage girls are abused.

We are rising because we are over girls being trafficked and sold and reduced and objectified.

We are rising because we are sick and tired of women being on the frontlines of every revolution from Tahrir Square and being pushed to the back at the moment of victory, marginalized and disappeared.

We are rising to stop the War on Women in America, Congo, Sudan, Haiti, Egypt, Guatemala, name a place.

We are rising to tell religious leaders - and I mean this to religious leaders - and governments that the time has come to direct their energy to feeding, healing, housing the people rather than obsessing about our vaginas.

We are rising so the marginalized majority steps into equality, voice, and power.

We are rising because we are over the overregulation of women’s health clinics and women’s bodies and vaginas when those same overregulators do nothing to protect those same women when they get pregnant, when they get raped, unemployed, or sick and need moral and financial support.

We are rising because we are over those who pretend to care about our personhood and then cut funding from Planned Parenthood, which makes the health of our personhood possible.

We are rising because we are over brilliant, passionate remarks by women being called tantrums, and outspoken women being called crazy, slut, inappropriate, and lacking decorum simply because they disagree.

We are over rape culture, rape mentality, and rape jokes.

We are rising because we are over people not understanding rape is not a joke, and over being told we don’t have a sense of humor when most women I know are really fucking funny. [cheers] We just don’t think an uninvited penis up our anus or vagina is a laugh riot.

We are rising because we are over 1 woman out of 3 in the US military who defend this country getting raped by their so-called comrades.

We are rising so women can stop being silent about rape because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen or it’s really not that bad.

We are rising for the Violence Against Women Act to finally pass and be done once and for all! The destruction…of women is the destruction of life itself. No women, no life. Duh!

We are rising because we are over some powerful men pretending this deep love of fetuses or babies and life when really it’s a guise for their terror of our sexuality and power. If you cared so much about life, you would never ever consider letting a woman die rather than performing an abortion. You would ask the lifegivers, the women themselves, what they need and want, and you would honor their decisions and trust their decisions and believe that they were thought out carefully, with depth, because that’s how women are. And you would maybe even worship their vaginas, you would cherish the word vagina and know there’s nothing dirty or disgusting about the place where all of life comes from.

We are rising because we are over people talking about the weight of our bodies rather than responding to the weight of our ideas.

We are rising and we are calling the good men to rise with us. There are plenty of good men. You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation and censoring of us?

What does the rising look like? This is what it looks like. It looks like 5,000 people in Lansing, Michigan screaming “vagina!” on the Capitol steps to protest the banning of Lisa Brown for saying the word vagina. Go Michigan!

It looks like women’s groups across the world uniting and having each others’ backs. And I can’t say this strongly enough, we all have to get over our stuff, we just have to get together now and we have to make this happen. This is our moment. The GOP has given us a gorgeous opportunity. Let’s turn it into our moment where we bust patriarchy once and for all and unite and come together and do it.

And when we talk about solidarity, no one gets marginalized or made to feel less important. Those women who have been traditionally invisible - women of color, Native women, LGBTQ women - got to lead the way.

It looks like every color rising and every religion and every sexual orientation and every class.

It looks like one billion. And I’ve been doing all these ways of conceptualizing what one billion looks like. This artist figured it out. If you had a panel and it was 8 feet tall and you had just a tiny little symbol that repeated itself on a panel of 8 feet wide, it would take 143 miles with just those little repeats. It’s a lot of people. We have a lot of power. One billion women and all the men who love us, that’s a lot of power.

It looks like Tahrir Square and Zucotti Park times a billion. So just imagine that and then multiply it times a billion. It looks like the women’s spring and I’m gonna tell you something, deep in my soul, in my heart, in my vagina, I know the women’s spring is here. It is here. Our time is here.

It looks like millions of women taking back their bodies…and wishes and destinies.

It looks like teenage girls breaking free from brothels and pimps and abusive boyfriends.

It looks like an end to cutting and beating and acid burning and stoning and forced marriage and rape.

It looks like women dancing in the streets, in the alleyways, and in the dark or any place where they have not been allowed to walk or travel or feel safe.

It looks like dancing.

It looks like women having energy because fear has lifted and their energy gets directed towards healing and growing and feeding and…leading.

It looks like men grieving and opening and supporting and finding a new way to be men, which looks like freedom.

It looks like an end to shame.

And yes, it looks like a big yes to touch and skin and kissing and sweating.

It looks like leaves shimmering in the sun and wind. It looks like waves rising. It looks like we’ve all been waiting for for most of our lives. It looks like radical love.

We will hear it in the drums, in the two billion feet stomping, in the bodies spinning and writhing and whirling, a weight that breaks the heart of the world open, that shakes the Richter scale and lands us in ripeness.

This is the moment. This is where it all turns around.

This is where we talk back, speak back, this is where we dance and dance and dance and do not stop dancing, this is where we rise up.

This is where we celebrate every brave woman who has stood up before us, we stand up now because of her. This is the moment where we multiply her efforts and our efforts, it’s the billion effect. One woman reaching ten reaching 100 reaching 100,000 and so on and on.

This is where we go the distance and stop apologizing and asking permission. We don’t do this for us, we don’t do this for power. We do it for life, for our children, for the future.

This is the moment we dance and I mean dance, we take up space, we spread our wings, this is the moment of our rising. It begins here and now. Each day until February 14 is part of the rising, each action must be bolder and more determined and more disruptive.

Who can stop one billion of us? Who?

This is the moment of our rising. Will you rise with me?