Think Again – a Big Think Podcast
Think Again – a Big Think Podcast
Big Think / Panoply
230. Eve Ensler (Jason Plays Favorites #2) – no way out but through
1 hour 2 minutes Posted Feb 15, 2020 at 3:00 am.
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Show notes

[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]


Note: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don’t want to scare anybody off—I think it’s one of the most valuable conversations we’ve ever had on the show. 


For a human child growing up, trust is the foundation of everything. We learn how to regulate our emotions, how to see the world as relatively stable and safe through the connection with the people who care for us. Severely neglected children can suffer all kinds of harm to their ability to think, connect with others, and learn. But what happens when the caring bond is not only missing, but is horribly abused? Distorted through incest and sexual violence? How do you build a self and life after that? And let’s say you somehow manage to survive to adulthood…to thrive, even. How do you fill the place in your heart where the love and the trust is supposed to be?

My guest today has had to answer all these questions for herself. She is the playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler. You may know her as the creator of the Vagina Monlogues. What you might not know is that all the horrors I’m talking about happened to her as a kid. Let me take that out of the passive voice: her father did that to her, and more. And he died without saying anything remotely close to “I’m sorry”. So Eve wrote his apology for him—her book THE APOLOGY is a letter to her—to Eve—in the imagined voice of her dead father, retelling what happened, why it happened, and trying to figure out in these twisted circumstances what an apology would even mean…

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Jared Diamond on immigrants and innovation 


Thoughts on relistening

This episode with Eve Ensler means a lot to me. I came late to the feminist conversation about patriarchy and masculinity. About the ways men are taught to be ashamed of vulnerability, and how all that fear and shame can lead to violence. Listening back I’m struck again by this one thing she says: “Language changes everything. It’s like the word 'vagina'. If you can’t say it, you can’t see it. If you can’t see it, a lot of things can happen to it in the dark without your permission.” There is so much hope and power in the work Eve does to break the silence and encourage others to do the same. As a man, I hear it especially loud and clear when she says it’s time for men to “...make a choice. Whether they’re going to maintain allegiance to the male code or step into the next paradigm. Stopping the domination so they get to be free in this lifetime.” I hear it and I personally, enthusiastically accept that call. 

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