Eve Ensler of 'The Vagina Monologues' speaks on violence against women for University Lectures series

The activist has promoted change and education in more than 140 countries.

World-renowned performer, activist and playwright Eve Ensler continued the University Lecture series on Wednesday, lecturing a Hendricks Chapel audience on global violence against women.

“Stand up for your rights. Stand up for what you believe in,” Ensler said to the audience, in a message she emphasized throughout her passionate lecture.

Ensler, who is best known for her play, "The Vagina Monologues," and her activism for ending sexual violence towards women, titled her lecture “In the Body of Justice.” She is one of the most influential people in the world, named among Newsweek’s “150 Women who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.” Her activism includes founding V-Day, a global campaign to educate about violence against women.

Ensler began her lecture by reading an excerpt from her book "In the Body of the World." Her book became what she described as an “exit point” in her fight against uterine cancer. She described her life before being diagnosed with cancer as a constant chase to remove herself from the body she never felt attached to.

“A fever of language I’ve never had before burned through me as I was writing my book,” Ensler said. “After waking up after nine hours of surgery to remove the tumor, I realized that I was in my body for the first time in my life.”

After receiving support from family and friends after her surgery and through months of chemotherapy, Ensler said she realized that love is everywhere and that it is important to recognize it.

“A UN statistic says that 1 out of every 3 women in the world will be raped or abused, which is roughly one billion women,” Ensler said. “That sparked my idea of what would happen if one billion people would come together to advocate against violence towards women.”

This spark became 1 Billion Rising for Justice, an event that promotes a day of dance to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. Ensler said she believes in the power of dance to encourage survivors to release the trauma caught in their bodies.

Ensler has used campaigns like 1 Billion Rising for Justice and plays like "The Vagina Monologues" to promote change and educate people on violence against women in more than 140 countries. Some of these people include Syracuse University students, who have performed renditions of The Vagina Monologues in the past and have staged protests against the closing of the campus advocacy center.

“I admire the students who have acknowledged and spoken out about the closing of the advocacy center,” Ensler said. “I find it funny when during a time of rise in campus violence, we would close anything, especially the advocacy center. We should be building more.”

Ensler went on to say that she thought shutting down the advocacy center was a violation. She ended the night by stating that she would like to see students get an apology from Chancellor Kent Syverud.

“Ignorance, along with the closing of the advocacy center, is a form of maliciousness, whether it is intended or not,” Ensler said.

Students said they were both inspired and moved by Ensler’s personal story and the stories of the women she has met on her journey to rid the world of violence.

“She’s my idol so I loved the lecture. I always get empowered after hearing her,” said Mara Reltien, an acting freshman, who added that she especially liked when Ensler read a piece from her book and discussed owning one’s body.

Other students said they were encouraged by her discussion of the closing of the advocacy center. Nikki Conroy, a child and family studies Ph.D. candidate, said that she thought it was bold of Ensler and necessary to speak about the subject with no reservation.

At the end of a lecture on love, women's empowerment and advocacy, Ensler left the audience with a charge of her own.

Ensler said: “We’re at an incredible turning point in human life and we can’t wait anymore. Stand up to protest the closing of the advocacy center and to sexual violence.”

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