Written by JLM; Published by GENDER FOCUS on May 18, 2012
Eve Ensler, meet my father. Father, meet Eve. That’s the way I would have introduced them if I were present when they met. But he encountered her on his own. I only knew about it because I received a copy of Ensler’s Best-Selling book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, in the mail. That was back when the book first came out in 2010. I was shocked that my father would send me the book, and I wondered if he was being sarcastic. As I studied the front and back covers, I figured out that he was serious.
I paged through it but didn’t read it. I put the book in my nightstand drawer and left it there until yesterday. I’m sure many of you have books that are waiting for you to come and spend a little quality time with them. If you have any inkling that you are an emotional creature, do something rash and get and read this book. Give an hour of your time – that’s all you will need – to develop your emotional intelligence and remember your inner girl and all her superpowers. I want that for you, I want you to be a tour de force in the world. Maybe my father wants that for me, too.
I Am an Emotional Creature may be an easy read on your aging eyes, but it makes the point that girlhood is never easy. Growing Up Girl, in any part of the world, is difficult. Ensler knows girls are survivors, and she speaks to girls in girl speak. Ensler’s language won’t wrap around the canopy of you, if you are a craft-enthusiast, as would a woody vine. Her words, instead, will punch you and make you uncomfortable:
It could have been your baby
I was carrying against my skin
strapped on like that
sucking life out of me
but it was a bomb
A girl’s reality, a girl telling her own story of survival, and a juxtaposition of life and death, all carried by a girl in a struggle to take back her own power. The words of girls, through Ensler’s translation, will leave you feeling naked (much in the way that girlhood is stripped of the clothes she is forced to wear). In the presence of authenticity and vulnerability, you might feel some critical, adult force within you judging and telling you that the teenage girl-voice is rubbish.
I hope, for your sake, that you are in touch you’re your girlish voice enough to check your inner critical elder spirit in at the door. If you read this book and you’re out of touch with your emotions, you won’t feel empowered, broken down, empathetic, or reactive. If you hate the book, you’re probably an emotional creature that is buried alive by emotional repression. Ensler did not write the book simply for emotional creatures. We’re all emotional creatures. She wrote it for emotional creatures that are, to some degree, in touch with their emotions.
Through the power of listening and empathy, Ensler weaves together multiple facets of girl consciousness. The inner conflict, or contradictions, of girlhood are evident in the largely connected and vastly separate accounts of girlhood. Stories that are worlds apart seem homogenous because they are told through one, singular voice of emotionality.
In the Dance of Emotion, we come together to form a cohesive and coherent emotional masterpiece. Picture a spinning jenny: a frame in which thread is pulled through individual spindles through a wood press. Ensler turns the wheel of her spinning jenny, spinning the fibers of girlhood and winding them around the spindle. She guides each thread (girl voice) to its allotted location on the spindle (narrative location). And the product is yarn, individual fibers made indistinct through their interlocking. The Yarn of Girlhood may be felt and appreciated as it is or it may be pulled apart or made into something new. It is collaborative and creative woman-made material.
What could, or would, you do with the yarn if you had it in your hands right now? Read what Ensler – in her love letter to emotional creatures – calls a “call to question,” and find out what you feel called to do. Ensler doesn’t tell you what to do. So how do you do it: how do you get in touch? E.T., phone home! If you’ve got the power, you’ve got the power.
I had the power when I was sixteen, in fact my poems could easily have been one of the threads woven into this spunky, colorful spool of yarn. I still have the power – to speak to girls, to speak to my inner girl and to emote! Ensler’s Girl Voice is at times vulnerable and seemingly unknowing, unsure and questioning (“Which part of me do I ally myself with? Which part do I ignore?). At other times, and often at the same time, the Girl Voice is strikingly wise, resilient and assured (“RULE 8. NO ONE CAN TAKE ANYTHING FROM YOU IF YOU DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM”).
Ensler is able to do this because she presents profound experience and instinctual wisdom in a voice that ebbs and flows. The current of girlhood is vast, powerful and malleable – the voice is doubting and profoundly knowing. Without the struggle for a better life, insecurity prevails. In the struggle for survival, steadfast inner confidence prevails. As you read, you might feel conflicted because you, like girls everywhere, are torn between settling for the status quo or demanding more.
Ensler puts the reader in the position of the Emotional Girl, who possesses an incredible gift of intuitive wisdom but struggles with the imposing forces of criticism in the world outside herself that seek to undermine, dismantle and mute her world-changing independent spirit. Wisdom is not reserved for the old; wisdom is present in the young, in girlhood. So often the resource is misused, abused, and depleted when it could be networked, connected, built up, and expanded. Ensler wants us to fight to recover and discover our natural resources. She, in this book, serves as a mentor to emotional creatures of all ages everywhere. She writes in her introduction, “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.” And then she speaks to you in the emotional language that we, as emotional creatures, share.
I Am an Emotional Creature is a collage of girlhood, of emotionality. Its artful pieces, internal monologues laced with pieces of conversation, are crafted coherently, irreverently and transformatively. The emotional voices of girlhood, even the ones buried deep in silence – in the almost-suicide bomber, blare through Ensler’s poetic diatribe. She takes the most localized, intimate account of girlhood and translates it into the most universal. She emphasizes that the grassroots core of community resistance mirrors the whole – that the two are composed of the same substance.
Ensler’s International Girl’s Voice is in English, which might be problematic for some who consider English the international language of oppression; however, those involved in the V-girls Movement, a global network of girl-led activism, are focused on fostering connection and building international bridges. A French translation, “Je suis une créature émotionnelle” of Ensler’s work came out, not long ago, in December 2011. Visit http://www.v-girls.org/ and join the movement to speak your truth in your own voice and language. Answer the call to FREE BARBIE, to free CHANG JING from her “dirty sweaty factory,” to hear the Head Send of girls far away from you without the ability to speak and to share the contents of your head with other girls around the world. Let’s work together in our Ocean Emotion, and “let’s speak it, let’s fight it, let’s right it.”
My father bought me this book, but I bet he’s forgotten about it by now. I will remind him and show him the positive power of my emotions. “You don’t tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave,” Dad, you jump in and ride on her waves! I never thought my father would show an interest in my language of emotionality. Now I have his encounter with Eve to thank for re-introducing me to my inner girl and my emotional gift. I will have to call him today to tell him that I spent an hour with Eve and that he was right to follow his first impression. I hope to give him back the gift and introduce him to some emotions of his own. I cannot bring him to his emotional nature; I can only lead by example. And I know, intuitively: my power to affect change in the world is my power to listen to and support others while I affirm my own emotional being. If there is power in me, then there is far more in we. This is from me, to we:
I Am an Ocean of Emotion
in an Ocean of Emotion, with you.
The tides are changing, the time
is Now. Let go of your anchor,
while you ride it out. Let go
of your raft: you are your own
life-vest. Call off your search party,
you have the know-how.
You’re your own flare, set off your spark
and light the Great Dark.
You are an Ocean of Emotion
in the Ocean of Emotion of We.