Eve Ensler is an author and playwright, best known as the creator of The Vagina Monologues. She has also written plays about the homeless, women in prison, and nuclear war.
Ensler grew up in a prosperous family in Scarsdale, New York. Her father was a food company executive, her mother a homemaker. Ensler claims: “I was deeply abused both sexually and physically by my father from an early age. He hit me with belts, beat me, threw me. He invaded me in ways completely and totally inappropriately [sic].”
Ensler graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1975.
The Vagina Monlogues, which made its debut in 1996, is based on Ensler’s interviews with more than 200 women and is billed as a celebration of women’s sexuality, independence and power. However, feminist Camille Paglia has called the play “ravingly anti-male” and a “painfully outmoded branch of feminism.” One scene in the play depicts an older woman seducing and raping a 13-year old girl.
The positive reaction to The Vagina Monologues by the media, academia, and the artistic elite (actresses like Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Susan Sarandon have all participated in the Monologues) inspired Ensler to establish “V-Day,” a global movement to change Valentine’s Day into an occasion to "raise awareness" about "violence against women and girls." V-Day was celebrated for the first time on February 14, 1998, and Ensler claims that all fifty states, 700 American colleges, and 76 nations now recognize V-Day.
In 1999 Ensler befriended First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who she met at a Kennedy Center reading of Ensler's play Necessary Targets, which was staged in Mrs. Clinton’s honor. The work is ostensibly a look at rape victims in Bosnia, but Ensler has said it is really about the spiritual poverty of consumer-obsessed Americans, and how much they can learn from the Bosnians. “Coming from America, we really don’t know how to be with each other,” says Ensler. “... we know how to consume.” Mrs. Clinton enjoyed the performance so much that she wrote the foreword to the book version of Necessary Targets. Candidate Clinton would later invite Ensler to join the exploratory committee for her 2000 U.S. Senate run.
Opposed to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Ensler helped form the group New Yorkers Say No to War, joined the artists' network of Refuse and Resist!, and lent her name to the Not in Our Name antiwar coalition.
In Ensler's opinion, the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was an example of American terrorism: “[V]iolence only creates violence. And there may be a momentary, apparent victory in Kabul, but that violence has created in so many other people seeds of things that will come to be, in our lifetime, as deadly as anything we’ve seen ... Our terror is better than their terror? I don’t believe that.”
Ensler has traveled at least three times to Afghanistan, where she visited with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) which opposed the U.S. invasion. Says Ensler, “There are a lot of people who say all kinds of false things about RAWA -- that they are Maoists, they are communists. They are very militant, they are very pure. They are very radical. And I’m very drawn to that. People call them uncompromising, and they are right. But bravo! I feel a kindred spirit.”
In a 2005 interview about the Iraq War, Ensler said: “[W]e have killed thousands of Iraqi women and children, not to mention American soldiers. We have completely uprooted a country so that women are completely unsafe. ... Not to mention the complete desecration of women’s rights [in the U.S.], whether it is the ending of women’s reproductive freedoms, the complete cessation of funds that go to stopping violence against women, or the lie that the women of Afghanistan are better off.”
Condemning President Bush’s January 2002 allusion to the “Axis of Evil” (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea), Ensler said: “I have problems with this ‘evil’ thing. Evil is a really problematic word … Evil is reductionist. It destroys ambiguity and takes away duality and complexity; it says that they are dark and we are light, they are evil and we are good. That's all a lie ... There are a lot of things that govern us. But I'm not going to accuse anyone of evil.”
Over the years, Ensler has made campaign contributions to a number of leftwing political candidates, including Howard Dean, Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Charles Schumer, Nita Lowey, Jan Schakowsky, John Kerry, and others. She has also given money to the Web-based political network MoveOn.