FRIENDSHIP AND OPTIMISM

Eve Ensler just came over to visit me. I haven’t seen her in many months. Too many months, because being with Eve opens my heart and lifts my spirit. I have known Eve since the end of the 1990s when our mutual friend, Pat Mitchell, brought her to Ted’s flagship ranch in Montana where I was having a women’s weekend sleepover—7 or 8 women friends, most involved with CNN in some capacity. We all slept in a big tent, cooked out, did a sweat lodge (built by friends of mine from the Lakota tribe), threw ourselves into the cold river and talked late into the night. Eve and I bonded right away. It’s hard not to bond with Eve –unless you’re bothered by fearless energy and grand vision.

Eve, for those of you who don’t know it, is the author of the iconic play, “The Vagina Monologues,” among many others. She was incested for years as a young girl and, instead of being a victim, she became a warrior, writing about women and girls and their bodies, their sexuality and how to reclaim their power when it has been wrested from them. The non-profit organization which grew out of the play is called V-Day: Until the Violence Stops…(‘V’ for Valentine, Vagina, Victory.) The Vagina Monologues has been performed all over the world—literally—and the money raised from the productions supports local efforts to stop violence against women and girls—in Haiti, the Philippines, Croatia, Greece, Egypt, all over the U.S., Europe, you name it . This Valentines V-Day there will be 5000 productions in 2000 locations!

Working with women in East Congo who have been victims of rape and torture, V-Day has built The City of Joy—a place where 90 women can live, study, heal, learn skills, dance, sing, They live there for 6 months and then they return, in teams and with new skills and courage, to their villages to help heal others. They will soon buy a large farm near the City of Joy, big enough to build a factory, to farm fish, pigs, chicken, rice, and become self-sufficient. 90 new women and girls, the second “class,” have just come into the City of Joy. Everyone who has been there and witnessed the women’s transformation, come away with the renewed sense that deep change is possible, even in the worst, most violent of circumstances; that the City of Joy can become a template for change. I urge you to go onto the V-Day website (listed on my homepage) to see more of what they are doing.

Almost 2 years ago, Eve was diagnosed with fistulated ovarian cancer. She almost died. The night before she went into surgery, she said to me on the phone, they’re going to open me up and find the stories of all the women. She was right. The women in the Congo with whom she works suffer from fistula. Because of rape and torture the wall between the vagina and rectum is ruptured. We almost lost Eve. She suffered unbearably. She survived. She experienced all this with a courage and force that none of us had ever seen. She allowed the cancer to change her, to “burn away the dross,” as she put it. I didn’t think she could become a deeper, braver person but she did. And it taught us all—all of us who know and love her. She has written about her cancer. One article, “Congo Cancer,” was in the Huffington Post. Check it out.

But now she is traveling again. All over the world, delivering her message: “We must stop violence against women and girls and when we do, everything will change”. 1 billion women have been sexually violated so Eve has created a growing movement called “One Billion Rising.” Next year, Valentines Day 2013, a billion women will get up from their tables, their desks, their cars, and go into the streets and dance and sing—raise our voices, our spirits, our determination to make a difference and to feel our numbers.

So why am I writing this now? Well for the last few days I’ve been feeling sad. In a funk. Maybe some of it has something to do with Whitney, even though I didn’t really know her, just enough to feel the loss of someone who seemed ready and wanting to turn things around for herself.

My friend Eve shows up and I begin to appreciate all over again the importance of my female friends. The bonds that we share with each other are so important to our overall health and well being. With Eve, I am immediately reconnected with my essentially optimistic spirit. There is much to be optimistic about. We are optimistic because of the 10s of 1000s of small organizations—non-governmental organizations—all around the world that are making a difference and all the beautiful individuals who founded them and run them and so have given their lives greater meaning beyond themselves. The Occupy Wall Street movement is but one example. In the beginning, people said, “Oh but they have no leader. They have no strategy. Just a rag tag bunch of ner-do-wells.” Well they’re making a difference. They’ve changed the dialogue. And it’s not over. There are things happening all over the globe and I feel a change coming. Actually, according to the Mayan calendar (and other sources), 12/21/12, the next Winter Solstice (which happens to be the day I will turn 75) is the day there will be a global (cosmic?) paradigm shift. I choose to believe it will a shift away from ego dominance to a feminine paradigm.

Eve has gone now, leaving me reenergized and recommitted to do all I can to speed up this paradigm shift and ensure it tilts the right way. Some of us can do it in big ways and some in small ways but we can all make a difference.

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9 Comments
  1. So glad you have such great friends to get you over the rough spots. What a blessing!

    As I was skiing (on the most glorious day of the season) at Beaver Creek today, two things went through my mind. 1) Should I tell anyone that I left the teen kids home, walked away from a huge pile of work and just hit the slopes? And 2) Haven’t heard a peep from Jane since her post about Whitney’s death. She must be deeply affected by this. I felt the funk, too, and my kids have noticed. Boy says “How come you’ve never mentioned Whitney Houston until after she died?” So here’s the deal. Whitney transformed a whole genre of music, inspired an entire generation of Grammy winning divas behind her, was the first Black covergirl for Seventeen, and had a whole bunch of really upbeat songs that were fun to sing and dance (and a few others that moved us to tears). Her struggles were hard to watch. We pitied her, we were angry with her, but we kept pulling for her. As such, when she lost her battle, we lost ours, and are left wondering how drugs have taken yet another treasure from us. The best part (if there is one) is that we’ve seen all of her best work this past week and have rekindled the connection we had to her music. The amazing thing about death is that we get to choose the memories to hold onto, as well as those to let go. I hope a new generation will discover her music, much like Michael Jackson’s and Elvis. Every time The Wizard of Oz comes on, we get another chance to love Judy Garland. The Bodyguard wasn’t THAT great of a film, but it’s music is indelible. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s OK to sulk a little. Just don’t have a bad hair day. We’re all counting on you- xo.

  2. Dear JaneFonda;
    I am very touched by your article. But how can we stop the abuse, violence if the system does not help us. It happened to me in USA. I was told by DA office American woman are victimized in this country and should get used to it and since I was born in overseas I should adjust the abuse easier. The legal department constantly told me there is nothing I can do. They let my husband walk away from the jail and dismissed my case without my approval. This is happening in United State. How can we set a good example to other countries like East Congo as an Amercian women and how can we help them if we have the problems right here? Our legal system is so corrupted in NC and would not believe what is happening in the North Carolina court system.
    Loved your article and shared it with my friends in facebook. With Respect and Love

    • That’s why I work with organizations like V-Day: Until The Violence Stops.

  3. Wow! Both of you are amazing women. I believe each and everyone of us has a “super power”, a special power, strength, that we can use for the good of all. Unfortunately, not everyone discovers their “super power”, or they make poor choices of how to use their power. Jane and Eve, you have chosen to channel your superpowers to helping others, as have those who have formed the many groups out there that stand up for the rights of those who haven’t found their voice. I try to teach my students that they each have their own super powers too, and can use it for the good of all.

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  5. You Jane Fonda are redeemed; forever future, forever present, forever past.

    • Explain, Doralee. You’ve been pretty hard on me so why the change (though it makes me happy.)

  6. Wow! Can I just say THANK YOU! Thank you for being such a fearless, open, and strong female role model for women. I feel as though you are timeless and will be forever “relevant” to women’s issues. That’s why as a 28 year old female, I’m embarrassed to admit that I knew little about the impact you have had on generations of women, until I recently read your biography. I am now forever a fan. Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom while not being afraid to admit your faults and insecurities. You will always be one of the world’s most beautiful women inside and out, yet it’s amazing how difficult it is for us humans to see ourselves the way others see us. I can relate to many of the private struggles you have been willing to make public, and it’s been inspirational to see such a successful example of a woman who is willing to face public scrutiny in order to share perspectives that can only come from living such an amazing life. Your story helps me find strength and purpose in my mistakes and flaws, and courage and self-worth in the face of judgement. It’s amazing how EVERYONE chooses to “act” in their daily lives. I am someone who has remained guarded and therefore closed off to long term relationships and friendships. I’ve always felt that in order to be the strong, independent woman I want people to see me as, I could not be vulnerable and let people close enough to see my faults and insecurities. I convinced myself that only showing one side of myself to the world was a strength, when in reality it’s a coward’s game… Thank you for showing me that not only is it possible to embody strength AND honest vulnerability, but NECESSARY for self-love and acceptance. Your honesty and openness with the world made me realize that only by sharing your strengths AND vulnerabilities could people identify with you and love you all the more! I admire your ability to maintain such strong female friendships, and I believe anyone would be blessed to call you a friend! I certainly would. 😉

  7. Dear Ms. Fonda,
    I watched you on the Sunday morning show and you look absolutly fabulous. Jane friens to me are so much closer then my family. They never let a week go without checking in on me. I have traveled to many places and always came back to my friends. Being from Philadelphia I find myself wanting to return to my family and friends after so many years living in San Diego. The only problem is from traveling I have friends all over. What to do? Ms. Fonda I reaLly remember one of my dear friends who has passed on now. But for one of my teen birthdays she bought me one of your first exercise books. Boy, did I loose weight and found myself so motivated. After all these years I will never forget that friend. Hats off to so many of us that have great friends. Take care and it is So nice to writting to you. Mary

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