‘We are the people of the second wind. We, who have been undermined, reduced, and minimized, we know who we are’ Eve Ensler

Today I am posting a few quotes by Eve Ensler from her book, In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection, a story of the body and the body of the world. Eve Ensler is a writer, performer and activist, who created V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. She has devoted her life to stopping violence. The V-Day movement has educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media, and campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Indian Country, and Iraq.

Stories entering me like emotional shrapnel lodging in my cells and gut. Stories that would eventually own and direct me. Stories that would never let go. And of course these stories would lead to other women, other countries, other stories, all of which would eventually lead to the ultimate story that was the Congo. It all began here in Bosnia with my friend Rada and the stories I needed to hear, although I am not sure what I was seeking. I needed to know what violence looked like. I needed to know how others survived. I needed to listen. But what I really needed was to know the world, the truth of the world. I needed to find the invisible underlying story that connected everything.

I don’t tell them they’re removing what seems like a tumor but is really a flesh monument inside me. Huge and round. A taut ball of cellular yarn spun out of the stories of women, made of tears, silent screams, rocking torsos, and the particular loneliness of violence. A flesh creature birthed out of the secrets of brutality, each blood vessel a ribbon of story. My body has been sculpting thistumor for years, molding the pieces of pain, the clay residue of memories. It is a huge work and it has taken everything.

Humans had become hole makers. Bullet holes and drilled holes, hurt holes, greed holes, rape holes. Holes in membranes that function to protect the surface or bodily organ. Holes in the ozone layer that prevent the sun’s ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface. Holes that cause mutation of bacteria and viruses and an increase in skin cancers. Holes, gaps in our memory from trauma. Holes that destroy the integrity, the possibility of wholeness, of fullness. A hole that would determine the rest of this woman’s life,

This was his deepest and most sustained legacy. I see how the division plays out everywhere, how this early destructive mutation of the family, just like that of a cancer cell, determines the psychic and social patterns of our existence. The world seems to be constructed on empires born of these mutations— of poor pitted against poor, ethnic group against ethnic group, elevating one group over another— a seduction that keeps the powerful in place.

The day before chemo, Lu surprises me with a wall-size photograph of Muhammad Ali, the moment after he knocks out George Foreman in Kinshasa. It’s one of those almost impossible photographs where time has stopped— Ali is standing, Foreman is on the ground. Ali has clearly won, but it’s not the glory that hits you, it’s the shock and the stagger of the struggle.


“When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet” Eve Ensler

In her memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd tells her own story of spiritual awakening through the deeper lens of patriarchy, which runs through the whole tapestry of our outer and inner life. The opening chapter begins with a scene in a store:

It was autumn, and everything was turning loose. I was running errands that afternoon. Rain had fallen earlier, but now the sun was out, shining on the tiny beads of water that clung to trees and sidewalks. The whole world seemed red and yellow and rinsed with light. I parked in front of the drugstore where my daughter, Ann, fourteen, had an after-school job. Leaping a puddle, I went inside. I spotted her right away kneeling on the floor in the toothpaste section, stocking a bottom shelf. I was about to walk over and say hello when I noticed two middle-aged men walking along the aisle toward her. They looked like everybody’s father. They had moussed hair, and they wore knit sport shirts the color of Easter eggs, the kind of shirts with tiny alligators sewn at the chest. It was a detail I would remember later as having ironic symbolism. My daughter did not see them coming. Kneeling on the floor, she was intent on getting the boxes of Crest lined up evenly. The men stopped, peering down at her. One man nudged the other. He said, “Now that’s how I like to see a woman— on her knees.” The other man laughed. Standing in the next aisle, I froze. I watched the expression that crept into my daughter’s eyes as she looked up. I watched her chin drop and her hair fall across her face. Seeing her kneel at these men’s feet while they laughed at her subordinate posture pierced me through.

The memoir becomes a feminist critique as she tracks her spiritual awakening within her church and inevitably all aspects of her life:

I was going along doing everything I “should” have been doing, and then, unexpectedly, I woke up. I collided with the patriarchy within my culture, my church, my faith tradition, my marriage, and also within myself. And this collision changed everything. I began to wake up to a whole new way of being a woman. I took what seemed to me then, and seems to me now, an immense journey. It was true: There had been other awakenings in my life, but no waking experience had been as passionate and life altering as this one, nor had there been another where I felt more was at stake.

Since 1996 there has been an evolving feminine and feminist awareness within churches, and many progressive strides have been taken. But sadly, holy misogyny continues to this day in some traditions, now framed as a “separate, but equal” policy reminiscent of segregation, causing me to wonder if religion might just become the last patriarchal stronghold.

She also refers to the opposition that will always come:

For opposition nearly always comes. I had my moments of it, some large, some small. But remember: At the time it’s happening, all opposition feels large, and even when it’s quite small, you still have to reach inside for the same unwavering grit.

Meanwhile the full realization about the opposition that’s out there came crashing down like a piece of the sky.

And as each story, with its individual differences and unique voice, is written or spoken, it becomes part of a collective narrative of the process, the suffering and the plundering:

When we start on this journey, we discover a couple of things right away. First, the way is largely uncharted, and second, we are all we’ve got. If women don’t tell our stories and utter our truths in order to chart ways into sacred feminine experience, who will? It is stories women need. Stories give us hope, a little guidance, and a lot of bravery.

We tell our stories for ourselves, of course. But there are also those thousand other women. And yet I’m aware that no two women’s journeys into the Sacred Feminine are the same. Nor is this book, by any means, a complete picture of that journey. It is one woman sending out her own unique vibration.

Hi. Today I’m posting an extract from another book informed by a deep deminist approach on waking up, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. The extract refers to victimization and victimhood, which is relevant to the previous post and what I have been re-exploring recently.

‘There’s always the danger, though, that as we open our eyes to the social, physical, psychological, and spiritual violence done to women throughout history, not to mention the wounding in our own personal histories, we will become paralyzed by a sense of victimization. For me, opening my eyes to the feminine wound was rather like getting hit by a stun gun. I felt knocked down by the force of it, and for a short while I didn’t get up. On some level, I felt overwhelmed by the depth of the feminine wound, which I was uncovering, not only in myself, but all around. The danger of getting stuck in feelings of victimization is real, but nevertheless, recognizing the feminine wound is important because in the end it’s the only way we can stop being victims. We can’t change anything until we acknowledge the problem. I’d been an unconscious victim before my awakening began. Discovering the truth was waking me up to my victimization, but it was also making it possible for me to move beyond it. Feminist writer Naomi Wolf has especially cautioned women not to shape our identity as victims. Yet shaping our identity as victims is quite different from naming the truth of our victimization in order to work against it and live into our power. If women don’t document and protest the harm done to us, who will? As Wolf says, “Women are not natural victims, but they sure are victimized.” While holding onto the awareness, then, that we must not fall into shaping our identity as victims, we have to tell ourselves the “flat-out truth’…….. we have come into a world, into a church or faith tradition, that for millennia has believed us inferior. It is a tradition permeated by an authoritarian attitude that devalues, diminishes, rejects, and limits women and the feminine. But seeing such truth can be dangerous. Philosopher Mary Daly reminds us, “It isn’t prudent for women to see all of this. Seeing means that everything changes: the old identifications and the old securities are gone.” The question, she says, is whether women can forgo prudence in favor of courage. That was the question that followed me.’