I Am an Emotional Creature, page 1
ALSO BY EVE ENSLER
The Vagina Monologues
The Good Body
Insecure at Last
A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer (editor)
For Colette and Charlotte
Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart.
These monologues are not interviews. Each monologue is a literary text inspired by traveling the world, by witnessing events, by listening to real and imagined conversations. On occasion a monologue was inspired by an article, an experience, a memory, a dream, a wish, an image, or a moment of grief or rage.
Having broken a rather astonishing silence by encouraging women to say “vagina” in public, Eve Ensler has now written a new set of monologues, intended this time for girls. “Dear Emotional Creature,” she begins in an introduction that is at once a cri de coeur and a call to action. As a woman, she knows the pressures on girls to silence themselves, to act as if they have no feelings or their feelings do not matter, to please everyone except themselves. The simple statement “I am an emotional creature” becomes a challenge to the myriad ways in which girls are looked at but not seen, talked about but not listened to, used, discarded, violated, exploited, maimed, and even killed. Like a woman claiming her body, a girl claiming her emotions breaks a silence and unleashes a vast resource of clean energy, an energy that can inspire all of us to transform and heal the world.
In addition to the girl facts recorded in this book, there is another series of facts worth considering: throughout the years of childhood, girls are more psychologically robust and resilient than boys, less depressed, less likely to suffer from learning and speech disorders, less likely to harm themselves and other people. The initiation of young boys into a masculinity that requires them to cover their emotional natures, to sacrifice love for the sake of honor and wed themselves to a false story about themselves, has its parallel in the initiation of girls at adolescence into the division between good and bad women, the worshipped and the despised. As an honest voice comes to sound or seem stupid or crazy, as girls are pressed to internalize a misogyny built into the very structure of patriarchy, in which being a man means not being a woman and also being on top, a resistance wells up inside them, grounded in their human nature. Like the healthy body, the healthy psyche resists disease, and girls being adolescents at the time of their initiation are for this reason more lie-resistant. Hence the power of girls’ voices to expose, and by exposing disrupt what otherwise goes on for the most part in silence.
I remember the day I went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with a group of eleven-and twelve-year-old girls. We were spending a week together, doing writing and theater exercises as part of a project designed to strengthen girls’ healthy resistance and courage. In the coatroom of the museum, as the girls shed backpacks and raincoats, I said we were going to be investigative reporters: our assignment was to discover how women appear in this museum. “Naked,” Emma said, without hesitation. A current of recognition ran silently, swiftly, through the group. Later, when asked to write a conversation with one of the women in the museum, Emma chose a headless, armless Greek statue, weaving into the conventions of polite conversation her two burning questions: “Are you cold?” and “Do you want some clothes?” The statue’s response, “I have no money,” leads Emma to say that she knows a place where they give away clothes: “It’s right around the corner.” At which point, Emma and the statue leave the museum.
The monologues in this book are scripts for girls’ resistance. Traveling around the world on behalf of V-Day, the movement Eve founded to end violence against women and girls, she was drawn repeatedly to the teenage girls she met along the way. Captivated by an electric energy that was in danger of being hijacked, she turned her writer’s eye and ear to conserving this energy by transforming it into pieces for girls to perform. Wise, funny, irreverent, shocking, the monologues give voice to what girls know. We hear a girl’s pleasure in wearing a short skirt and feeling the wind against her legs, her fear of being fat or hungry, her terror in finding herself sold into sex slavery, her desire to escape from those who in one way or another, whether with the best or worst of intentions, would deny or override her emotional nature.
The ten years I spent listening to girls, charting their development, going with them to beaches and museums, writing and doing theater work with them, had the cast of revelation. Passages from my journal recording pleasures unearthed and losses covered over bring back the visceral sensations of that time:
This morning in the shower, I remember what it was like on Monday, that intense experience of pleasure, seeing the girls at the beach—their bodies, their freedom. Minnow-like bodies darting in and out of the water. Running on the sand. Dancing, turning. I began to remember an eleven-year-old body—I began to remember my eleven-year-old body and to enter that body. Without thinking I began running, unencumbered, fast like the wind.
• • •
Covering loss with words. Embroidering beauty over the ragged hole of loss. An inner sadness and a sign: Do not touch. I am touched so directly, so immediately by these girls…. I begin to move directly in their presence, to speak without hesitation, to find a freedom and pleasure that I relish…. To leave this is to face the sadness of its loss….
The research with girls was taking me back into what had been a lost time, a moment of freedom before womanhood set in. The sound of girls’ voices, at once familiar and surprising, brought home the extent to which I and other women have rewritten our histories to conform to a story I now recognized as untrue. Like Anne Frank rewriting her diary, I had muted my pleasure with my mother. Like thirteen-year-old Tracy, I had come to hear an honest voice as “stupid.” Like sixteen-year-old Iris, I feared that “if I were to say what I was feeling and thinking, no one would want to be with me, my voice would be too loud.” Like Iris, I knew that “you have to have relationships,” while at the same time I knew that relationships maintained by silencing myself were not relationships in any meaningful sense.
I Am an Emotional Creature was written for girls. As Eve says, it is “a call to question rather than to please.” It is also a call to all of us to join girls’ resistance to turning their backs on one another and themselves. The opposite of patriarchy is democracy, rooted in voice rather than in violence and honed through relationship. Whether read in silence or performed on a stage, these monologues carry the hope of recalling us to our better selves. They remind us of a store of energy in our midst that doesn’t cost anything and does not pollute, a source of power waiting to be set free. To understand the forces marshaled against its release is to recognize the extent to which we are held captive to a false story about ourselves, a story about manhood and womanhood that belies the fact that, as humans, we are all emotional creatures.
Foreword by Carol Gilligan
Introduction: Dear Emotional Creature
You Tell Me How to Be a Girl in 2010
Let Me In
What Don’t You Like About Being a Girl?
GIRL FACT: THREE ADULTS YOU CAN TRUST
What I Wish I Could Say to My Mother
GIRL FACTS: ABSTINENCE/TEEN PREGNANCY
It’s Not a Baby, It’s a Maybe
What’s a Good Girl?
GIRL FACT: FGM
Would You Rather (I)
GIRL FACT: SPORTS
Moving Toward the Hoop
Sophie et Apolline, or, Why French Girls Smoke
Things I Heard About Sex
I Dance (I)
I Build It with Stone
GIRL FACTS: LOSING AN ARM/ANOREXIA
The Joke About My Nose
Would You Rather (II)
GIRL FACT: SLAPPED BY PARTNERS
GIRL FACT: VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING
I Have 35 Minutes Before He Comes Looking for Me
GIRL FACT: BARBIE’S PAST
Sky Sky Sky
GIRL FACT: CHILD SOLDIERS
A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery
I Dance (II)
GIRL FACT: CHILD LABOR
What Do You Like About Being a Girl?
Asking the Question
Would You Rather (III)
Things I Like About My Body
My Short Skirt
Things That Give Us Pleasure
GIRL FACT: LESS THAN A DOLLAR A DAY
Five Cows and a Calf
I Am an Emotional Creature
I Dance (III)
Epilogue: Manifesta to Young Women and Girls
Girl Fact Sources
Dear Emotional Creature,
You know who you are. I wrote this book because I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-sync every single memorized lyric. I love your restlessness and your hunger. You are one of our greatest natural resources. You possess a necessary agency and energy that if unleashed could transform, inspire, and heal the world.
I know we make you feel stupid, as if being a teenager meant you were temporarily deranged. We have become accustomed to muting you, judging you, discounting you, asking you—sometimes even forcing you—to betray what you see and know and feel.
You scare us. You remind us of what we have been forced to shut down or abandon in ourselves in order to fit in. You ask us by your being to question, to wake up, to reperceive. Sometimes I think we tell you we are protecting you when really we are protecting ourselves from our own feelings of self-betrayal and loss.
Everyone seems to have a certain way they want you to be—your mother, father, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, boyfriends, fashion gurus, celebrities, girlfriends. In researching this book I came upon a very disturbing statistic: 74 percent of you say you are under pressure to please everyone.
I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to please. To please, to embody the wish or will of somebody other than yourself. To please the fashion setters, we starve ourselves. To please boys, we push ourselves when we aren’t ready. To please the popular girls, we end up acting mean to our best friends. To please our parents, we become insane overachievers. If you are trying to please, how do you take responsibility for your own needs? How do you even know what your own needs are? What do you have to cut off in yourself in order to please others? I think the act of pleasing makes everything murky. We lose track of ourselves. We stop uttering declaratory sentences. We stop directing our lives. We wait to be rescued. We forget what we know. We make everything okay rather than real.
I have had the good fortune to travel around the world. Everywhere I meet teenage girls, circles of girls, packs of girls walking the country roads home from school, hanging out on city street corners, arm in arm, laughing, giggling, screaming. Electric girls. I see how your lives get hijacked, how your opinions and desires get denied and undone. I see too how this later comes to determine so much of our lives as adults. So many of the women I have met through The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body and V-Day are still trying to overcome what was muted or undone in them when they were young. They are struggling late into their lives to know their desires, to find their power and their way.
This book is a call to question rather than to please. To provoke, to challenge, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite. To know yourself truly. To take responsibility for who you are, to engage. This book is a call to listen to the voice inside you that might want something different, that hears, that knows, the way only you can hear and know. It’s a call to your original girl self, to your emotional creature self, to move at your speed, to walk with your step, to wear your color. It is an invitation to heed your instinct to resist war, or draw snakes, or to speak to the stars.
I hope you will see this book as something living, that you will use it to help you to identify and overcome the obstacles or pressures that prevent you from being an emotional creature. Maybe after you read these stories and monologues you will be inspired to write and share your own, or paint your bedroom wall or fight for polar bears or speak up in class or learn about sexuality or demand your rights.
When I was your age, I didn’t know how to live as an emotional creature. I felt like an alien. I still do a lot of the time. I don’t think it has much to do with the country I grew up in or the language I speak. In this book you will meet girls from everywhere. Some live in remote villages, others in huge cities or posh suburbs. Some worrying about whether they will be able to afford the latest purple UGGs, some worrying if they’ll ever get home after two years of being held as a sex slave. Some deciding whether they are able to kill a supposed enemy, some on the brink of killing themselves, some desperate for the next meal, some unable to stop starving themselves. Girls from Cairo, Kwai Yong, Sofia, Ramallah, Bukavu, Narok, Westchester, Jerusalem, Manhattan, Paris. All of them, all of you, live on the planet right now. I think whatever country or town or village you physically live in, you inhabit a similar emotional landscape. You all come from girl land. There you get born with this awakeness, this open-hearted have to eat it, taste it, know it, defy it. Then the “grown-ups” come with their rules, their directions. They teach you how to make yourselves less so everyone feels more comfortable. They teach you not to stand out. They get you to behave. I am older now. I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, with being this alive, this intense. I just don’t want you to have to wait that long.
YOU TELL ME HOW TO BE A GIRL IN 2010
Questions, doubt, ambiguity, and dissent
have somehow become very unmasculine.
Authoritarian maniacs are
premiers, czars, and presidents.
Each one is more righteous than the next.
Each town they bomb
each human they kill
is done for “humanitarian” purposes.
People don’t own the water in their own village
and they certainly don’t own the diamonds and gold.
Millions are forced to make dinner out of garbage and dust
while Russian businessmen and movie stars
are buying 500-million-euro villas on Côte Sud.
Bees have stopped making honey.
People are drilling in all the wrong places.
The U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark, and Norway all claim the Arctic
but none of them seem to care that the polar bears are drowning.
They are fingerprinting, photographing our licenses and teeth.
Big Brother is now in our phones, our pods, our PCs.
Not one of us feels even a little safer.
New Age mental health providers turn
out to be former war torturers with beards.
And the pope in a dress showing off his
ermine trim and cuffs
is telling everyone that
people kissing people they love is the greatest evil.
A woman running for U.S. vice president
believes in creationism
Why is everyone so much more afraid of sex
than SCUD missiles?
And who decided God wasn’t into pleasure?
And if the hetero nuclear family is so great
how come everyone is fleeing it
or paying their life savings just
to sit in a room with a stranger and cry about it?
The Iraq war cost nearly $3 trillion.
I can’t even count that high
but I know
that money could have
ended poverty in general
which would have canceled terrorism.
How come we have money to kill
but no money to feed or heal?
How come we have money to destroy
but no money for art and schools?
The fundamentalists now have
billion-dollar private armies.
The Taliban is back
but never went away.
Women are burned, raped, bludgeoned, sold,
starved, and buried alive
and still don’t know they are the majority.
Water is clearly nearly running out
but even in the desert where there’s serious drought
the golf courses are green and lush
and the swimming pools are full of water
for the twelve rich people who might decide to come.
Special people adopt hand-picked babies in faraway lands.
Their flights there cost more
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