Eve Ensler isn’t waiting around. Although her groundbreaking masterwork, The Vagina Monologues, is now performed in nearly 150 countries and at countless colleges, boasts its own dedicated holiday, and has been translated into 48 languages, the Scarsdale local is still hard at work on both advocacy and creative endeavors. Her new book, The Apology, is a bold, intense, and heartbreaking glimpse into the years of sexual abuse Ensler suffered at the hands of her late father during childhood, told from his perspective. We caught up with the Isabelle Stevenson Award-winning author to get a sense of her acclaimed new book and what lies ahead.
Do you think growing up in Scarsdale influenced you as a writer?
It was a combination of living in a family that, on the inside, was filled with terror and violence and dread… that was just kind of a daily nightmare. On the outside, we literally had a white picket fence. So, it was the sense that everything was beautiful — my parents were handsome and beautiful, and we had all the trappings of the upper-middle-class life — but there was always that split. That divide came to occupy me because I couldn’t make sense of this world outside, which was pretending to be one thing, and this world inside, which was totally destroying me.
What compelled you to write a book about such an intensely traumatic event?
Having written about the impact of violence against women, here and abroad, and having traveled to refugee camps and detention centers in war zones and shelters for more than 21 years, I’ve seen a movement that has succeeded, with women telling their stories, women coming forward to call out men who are abusers, as well as the escalation of that in this new iteration of #MeToo. And I thought, Okay, we have broken the silence; we’ve declared that one out of three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. What’s changing? How are men changing? I started to ask myself if there had been any men in recent years who’ve come forward to apologize, to indicate that they have done self-interrogation or deep investigation, or really looked at the impact of patriarchy.
I’ve read a few apologies, but they weren’t apologies. They were men basically talking about how being called out ruined their lives, and they were mainly full of a lot of self-pity. I realized I had never read a true apology by a man about sexual abuse, ever, in my life. And I started to wonder how it is possible that I can’t find one man who has actually publicly apologized in a way that is true and sincere? And so, I thought, That’s what has to happen. If we’re going to move to the next level, we have to provide a process, a way, a method, for men to come forward and take responsibility and accountability and talk about the whys of what they’ve done and talk about the details of what they’ve done. I thought, Well, I could write my public apology. I could write a letter to myself, saying what I need to hear, and that could be an offering of sorts, a blueprint for what other people could do.
“I’m really excited to see what comes next with this brand-new frame of consciousness. I feel like there are boundaries I want to push. I want to really think about how we can imagine a future that is survivable and how we can employ our organizations in a way that can free us into a new world.”
What do you have in the pipeline?
I have several projects in the works, and they’re going to be very different than anything I’ve ever done before. I was just talking to my producer, David Stone, who produced The Vagina Monologues, and we may do something with The Apology as a play. I’m really excited to see what comes next with this brand-new frame of consciousness. I feel like there are boundaries I want to push. I want to really think about how we can imagine a future that is survivable and how we can employ our organizations in a way that can free us into a new world. Honestly, I feel like we need the brave men to come forward and say, “This isn’t about punishment; this isn’t about ‘I got you’; this is about transformation and freedom.”