tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 23, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with eve ensler, the best-selling author. she has written a new book, a call to action, entitled "in the body of the world," which talks about her own battle with cancer and ending violence to women and girls, particularly in the democratic republic of congo. we are glad you could join us for our conversation with eve ensler, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can
stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: for decades, eve ensler has championed for women and girls in war-torn regions, such as the democratic republic of congo, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war. she has documented these experiences, a series of powerful plays that serve as a catalyst. she has now written a very
personal book about her challenges, including battling cancer in a new tome called "in the body of the world." to have you.lad >> always love being here. tavis: that this book wrote you as much as you wrote it. what do you mean by that? >> i feel this came from my body, and there is the diagnosis of cancer, the treatment of cancer, and then there was the book, and the kind of feel like they were of one, and so much of this body, see, i cannot even tell the difference, was no physical. it seems like it was a language that pulsed through may, and when it was over, it was over, but it was a very intense experience. >> speaking of intense experience writing this book, and there is a lot of funny in
there. it would not be a book of there was not some funny in there. funny.ler has if one has not battled cancer or have somebody in their family and has battled cancer, this gives you a sense of what it is like to what the hand of someone. that is a long way of asking why some details. >> i did not know how to tell the story without telling the detail. it would have been born. this was a book about the body. when i got diagnosed, i read a lot of books about cancer. i read everybody, but nobody told me what it was going to be like, what would happen, and i think so much of the journey of the book is a journey to the back in my body, because i left at an early age to do to sexual an incredible physical violence, my father, and there was this
desire my whole life to get back in, to rehab, and i think my work has been about how do women get back, how do men get back, we are all disassociated, and to tell the story, it had to be real in order to get back in, because otherwise, it would have remained abstract. >> you mentioned a bit ago, and i want to be careful when i asked this, and i do want to get to this, and not that you and i are entitled to anything, but you have done so much good in the world. i wonder if you ever felt like this diagnosis was unfair to "my were you ever said, god, my god, why me?" you have helped women of the world. hase vagina monologues" empowered women. you are a lover of the highest
order. there is this notion of why bad things happen to good people. do you ever wallow in that? >> i have a few moments of that, but to be honest with you, i feel like has been so hard in so many ways, and i think you have stories that you tell yourself, like, ok, the first 15 years of my life, i got beat up and raped, and then the next 20 years happen, and those are hard, too. tavis: and then you get cancer. >> and then you get cancer. of cage. life is hard. i also have to say i have been spending so much time in the democratic republic of congo, where they do not have a diagnosis of cancer, because nobody even says the word. they just die. they have no cat scan machines, maybe one in all of congo. it is the privilege of being sick and having insurance. everybody in this country does
not have that privilege, which is a travesty, i would like to add, but to have a diagnosis and to have doctors, i just thought it would be immoral. i had my days in the middle of chemo, where i would be burning, or months of infections, a nine hour operation, but i did not dwell there a lot because i think i learned that if you dwell there, you die there. much love around me, whether it was the activists in the world, who were sending the cards and emails, or my family, the person who took care of me, my sister, all of the incredible people who showed up in my life at the exact moment. it would have been hard to feel sorry for myself. >> i want to talk about the polar opposites that you talked about right now, and let me you can taked then
it anywhere you want it, the fear part. what was the worst part of the cancel batter -- battle? >> i think chemotherapy. i got body parts rearranged, and i had months of infection. i lost 30 pounds, but the idea of pumping poison into my bloodstream, i just could not, and then there was this woman who had been my former therapist to showed up one day, just as a gift, and she said, "i am going to sit on your couch once a week as my gift to v-day," and i said, "you do not have to do that because i am not doing chemotherapy purple and then she gave me what i call a sue. she said, "look, this is not for you. this is for all of the projected that this, all of those things that happened to you. you are going to poison them, and they are never coming back.
see that tot frame, return your innocence and to return peace." i was, like, ok. tavis: what is turn name and number? i have got some stuff she can flip for may. obviously, she can flip chemo, she can do anything. >> i tell you something, it really warts, so any time i had the five hours of the poison going in to me, i pictured things that needed to be burned out of me -- it really works. i really do think how we frame things determines so much of our experience, and i have been talking to a lot of oncologist. why do we call them transformation suites, and call others guides, support people in
chemotherapy, to support them and burn away the things that need to be burned away. my word,u speculate, not yours, you speculate in this book in a humorous fashion and also somewhat seriously. it speculate in this book about what brought the cancer on. what is the value of doing that? >> i do not know if there is a value. you just try to make sense out of it. i have a list. fruit loops? >> bad reviews, good reviews, any reviews. but, you know, one of the things that got clear to me is that there is a connection between trauma and cancer and trauma and disease. it may not be hooked up yet in terms of all of the medical knowledge, but i know.
i know ensure as i know anything that what i went through as a child, listening to things for the last 15 years, it had a lot to do with what got into my cells. trauma lives and us. what happens if somebody throws against the wall or calls you a jackass or a bad name? we hold it in our body, and if we do not have a way to let that go and release that, it becomes sickness eventually. i really want to do work where we look at how many women are getting ovarian and breast and uterine cancers who have been raped, who have been violated, and begin to look at not only what causes it but how we treat it in a way where we are releasing the trauma and releasing what is going on in our bodies so we get well, because i think it is very interconnected. tavis: i promise you we will get to the love, but i want to
know if we can very quickly, what do you believe will be the reward of people like you? i am talking about well-known personalities, certainly in this environment. you are a well-known personality. angelina jolie is certainly a well-known personality. what is your sense of the benefit and the value, there is that word again, of such well- known personalities at least putting this conversation on the table and being, again, as a detailed as you have been, as miss jolie has been about her of an ordeal. >> a few things. and you know this more than anyone. we are in a state of being asleep at the wheel. neither being in this world or that, that denial, that this association or that disinvolvement -- this mbodiment -- disembodiment,
whether you know something is going on to your daughter, and you are not really paying attention to it, we have got to wake up. this book to me is a wake-up call. it is saying this cancer became an awareness, the cancer of cruelty, the cancer of carelessness, the cancer of greed. just looking at kong go, ok? where i spent a lot of my life, and i am so proud -- looking at kong go -- congo. those girls are rocking. we are looking at a country where the economic war, the pillaging of minerals by the superpowers, the corporate state, destroying people. destroying people. a million dead. hundreds of thousands of women's bodies tortured.
where are we in all of this? we get our cell phones, please stations, and we have got to wake up to ourselves, to our bodies -- are cell phones, playstations. you are not separate from the building collapsing in bangladesh. you are wearing clothing that those workers got paid nothing, you know, to go into a building that they knew was damaged. 1000 people are dead. we are the beneficiaries of that. corporate murder, which is what it is. what is really saying let's be really specific about what it is going to take to wake up. i do not think everybody has to get catastrophic cancer. this is not a do it at home manual. i am sharing this so other people do not have to go to these lengths. we do not have to destroy the environment that kicks people off of the earth. we can wake up before then. this is a time to wake up. it is a serious time.
tavis: i do not think i can flip this as well as your therapist did, but i want to flip this to the theme of love that i said we would get to, and i'm sitting here thinking when you're talking about love, and i am a music lover, he and a song came into my head, he a great artist, me back,"ove brought and i thought about that song as you were talking, so tell me about how the love brought you back. >> it sure did. i think my whole life, i was looking for the big love, the ultimate love, the big sweep you off the field love, and i have not done well. tavis: one. buthat has not worked out, what happened to me in the middle of mike keenan, one day, i was just going through the despair and morning of the
relationships and heartbreak, and none of those people had shown up, none of those men showed up during those days, and i was getting one-line emails, and then it hit me that there were people that were making me soft boiled eggs in the morning, people should in my head with a big, big raiser. there were people coming by to bring a quinoa, and people coming to bring main cd's, coming to rub my feet -- to bring a -- me cd's. the love is all around us. it feels very patriarchal. the big thing that is quite to happen, but the real love. and another piece of this was caregivers. i fell in love with nurses. you know, all of the people we honor and worship in this country, the people who steal
our money, the people who are on the front lines every day in hospitals, nurses, people running clinics, the people are taking care of your children, those are the people who are the lubbers of the world, the good of the world, and i think for me, a nine-hour surgery, and i had tubes in every direction, and those nurses at the mayo clinic, i could cry for four days for the care and the intention. they never complained. the love. and look around lately, and i look at people, just people who are doing the good worked -- work. we have to become a nation where those are the people we honor, those are the people we make sure have health care, because those are the people that sustain the world and hold up the world, and i think there result in my own life, where i stop looking, reaching for the
big love, that changed everything that i get, well, it is odd here. paradise is here. >> you mentioned nurses, and my mind is working again. maybe this is a conversation for another show, but to my mind, at least one of the groups in this country that is the most progressive and the most courageous of pushing back on the wall street that you talked about is the association, roseanne, a wonderful leader. and they have been pushing this thing called the robin hood tax. i will explain it another night at another time, a tax that would be levied on these deals that are done, certain deals that are done on wall street that would raise billions if we put a rock and the tax on those deals and do what needs to be done. it is a wonderful idea, and they are starting to gain steam. there are a number of senators and house members who are
starting to sign onto this idea. who knows where it is going to go, but i love the creativity of this idea that it is the care givers that are the ones on the street, marching, on capitol hill, going to wall street and raising cain. it is not just what they do inside these facilities. they are engaging the body politic. >> absolutely. teachers, nurses. the people who are literally creating our futures and keeping us alive are among the most on unrespected and underpaid. i went back to the mayo clinic, and my surgeons and nurses and doctors were there, and it was such a glorious moment to give back the love. tavis: you did a book event at the clinic. how was it? >> it was amazing. the doctors from the mayo clinic came back to meet with comco, and it worked out a hospital,
and operated on the women. my surgeon operated on the women in the congo. tavis: i imagine that would happen, because when you're in a hospital, you were talking about the congo every day. "why do you not come with make?" you cannot talk to eve ensler without that coming up. >> you can come with me. amazing to talk to you, and i mean that, seriously. the passion about this work that you've been doing for so many years now. a five-in, cannot have minute conversation without that coming out of you. >> i feel like i got a second wind, and i kind of feel like i've died already. when somebody says you have staged the cancer, you are, "i am dead? " we can be dangerous now. i know we did this where we put
out a call to 1 billion women and men go on the planet to rise and dance on february 14. >> we had on that show tandy newton. she spent the whole show talking about it. think we got close to 1 billion people to rise, and if you look at the videos of people dancing around the world, it is so exciting. you have got women in bhutan, and women in somalia, on the first time on the streets of mogadishu. i danced with members of the european parliament in the parliament. we had a flash mob in the european parliament. at this point, i am just so grateful to be alive. it is ridiculous. i know that. now, we just have to go the distance.
tavis: it is one thing to be grateful to be alive, and when you walked on, i said i was grateful to see you, and i was grateful to see you. it is one thing to be alive, but it is another to be hopeful, and hopeful.ust as i asked myself sometimes after being with you how you are so hopeful. i end up getting a charge from you. >> the other side of it was that in february, we had 90 girls from 15 to 30, graduating. the girls arrived, and they had bullet wounds, missing body parts. taking care of those that are products of rape, who they have come to love. they are fierce, beautiful,
passionate, alive. and i just sit there and think, anything is possible. we are going to be disappointed if the world ends either way, right? i would rather have gone the distance with my whole heart, doing everything we can to turn this around. so joyful to be here in the presence of people who are fighting for transformation and revelation in change. tavis: there are people in do not have that revelation -- revelation until they have that moment, but you had it before the cancer. iten, the sleepwalk until happens to you, and then you wake up, and you are bled to be alive, and you want to save the world.
situation,near death how we wake up people that are asleep to the issues, social and otherwise, how do we dig them up without having these kinds of experiences? >> we have been sold a bill of goods that denial is protecting us. it is a lie. everything you deny is killing you on some level. you see something wrong with your body, it goes on and gets worse. tavis: so denial is death. >> denial really is death. and i want to say some degree of people think when you are connected with other people, it is more painful, but the opposite is true. you have to spare, but you also have flow, and when you are disconnected from the river, you are alone and stuck in one particular thing. when i am there and with the women, even if it is the worst moment, we are in a community of
transformation and gather, and that allows for any bad feeling to become another feeling fast, but i know when you are not in that, i know from the past, i was stuck in depression. if i was low and alone. people are so lonely in america. onrywhere i have travelled this book tour, people have said, "this is my story." what are you not telling each other your stories? why are we not talking to each other for real about the real details of our lives? not that, i have got my stuff together. people are sad. people are broke. people are worried about money. people are worried that they are not amounting to anything. everybody is presenting it is not true, and we need to break that. we need to come in and connect, and i think that is the way we turn the world around. tavis: i am glad be connected
once again. >> me, too. tavis: eve ensler's new book is called "in the body of the world," and she is, of course, the author of "the vagina monologues," and it is unlike still going on. eve, thanks for coming. >> thank you. tavis: join us on friday night as we celebrate tenures, and get this, our 2000ths show. until then, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with actor and writer ethan hawke about his new movie, "before midnight." that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate