Ah, the joys of public broadcasting: Watching two lefty friends chatting about the patriarchy.
Christiane Amanpour and the former Eve Ensler, the playwright and activist of Vagina Monologues infamy, who now goes by the letter “V,” took turns cursing “the patriarchy” while seeing hope for “human rights” in the 2022 midterms on the interview show Amanpour & Co., which airs on PBS after a run on CNN International.
Fill-in host Sara Sidner clumsily transitioned from the Tyre Nichols killing in Memphis to the “V” interview, conducted previously by regular show host Amanpour:
Sidner: Turning now to someone whose life's work has focus on changing another ugly aspect of our culture, the patriarchy. V, formerly known as Eve Ensler shot to fame in the '90s with her blockbuster book and play The Vagina Monologues. The New York Times said it was probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade. Now, she's out with Reckoning, a memoir drawn from her journals about a life and activism and standing up for women...
“V” discussed her 2019 book The Apology about the sexual abuse she suffered from her father, then bragged about victories for “women, transwomen and non-binary people,” such as being able to say “vagina.” Then she lamented: “But in fact, we have not dismantled patriarchy. We have not ended violence. And what we're seeing now, and particularly since COVID, there is a piece in the book called, Disaster Patriarchy….”
“V” cited the nutty leftist Naomi Klein’s idea of “disaster capitalism” and “the push back against women” during the pandemic. Amanpour offered no challenge, only an invitation to expand: “So, I want to take you up on a couple of points. Because disaster patriarchy, you likened it to disaster capitalism by Naomi Klein. Just tell us what you mean by that…”
Amanpour casually conflated abortion with “women’s rights,” using lefty language like “male allies.”
AMANPOUR: Because I wanted to say, you know, women were bold and even their male allies in the United States during the midterms. Nobody thought, all the conventional wisdom was, oh, voters don't care about Roe vs. Wade, the pushback of women's rights. They don't care about democracy. But, oh, no, they do. And they went to the polls. That must be, for you, an optimistic building block. How can one build on the fact that actually there are people out there who will be bold?
Amanpour continued her praise for one of the COVID era’s most authoritarian and intolerant leaders, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, while suggesting Ardern was hated just because she was a woman, not for her draconian COVID policies that kept New Zealand an island prison for two years.
AMANPOUR: And on the other end of the spectrum, Jacinda Ardern, one of the most inspiring young female leaders in recent times, said that she just doesn't have any more in the tank, and after six years of elected politics, as leader, she has resigned. But we hear that part of that decision was because of the unbelievable abuse that she got, misogyny, sexism, online, and all the rest of it. I know those are two different questions, but they're -- it's about the same thing. How does one strengthen women to be able to survive these things?
A transcript is below, click “Expand” to read:
Amanpour & Co.
January 30, 2023
1:22:00 p.m. Eastern
V: I wrote a book in 2019 called "The Apology", which was a letter I wrote by my father to myself. Writing me the apology I've been waiting to hear for many, many years of my life. For apology for sexually abusing, for physically battering, and for essentially devastating me as a child. And that book was the profound experience. It really forced me to go into my father. To listen to my father. To try to understand, not justify what he had done to me, but to understand it so that I could really break out of his narrative which I've essentially been living in most of my life.
V: I mean, the truth of the matter is, if I look at -- this is a 25 anniversary of V Day, our global movement and violence against all women, transwomen and non-binary people. And we've had victories. Of course, we've had victories. We can say the word vagina now. We've changed laws, we've opened safehouses. We've made the world a place where women can tell their stories. we've made violence against women a front-page issue.
But in fact, we have not dismantled patriarchy. We have not ended violence. And what we're seeing now, and particularly since COVID, there is a piece in the book called, disaster patriarchy.
V: Looking at the parallel to Naomi Klein, a disaster capitalism because in COVID, the push back against women were so dramatic, right? I mean, we're just seeing horrible pushback. And then we look at the situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban is back and stronger than ever and unleashed in their power. We look at the situation in Iran where women are bravely and unbelievably rising in the face of incredible oppression. We look at everywhere in the world.
I mean, I have to say in terms of our one billion rising movement around the world, this year, we are seeing more risings all across the planet, across Africa or across Asia. You know, the situation for women until we dismantle this paradigm of patriarchy, we will be working on individual specific cases but the paradigm itself will keep pushing us under.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to take you up on a couple of points. Because disaster patriarchy, you likened it to disaster capitalism by Naomi Klein. Just tell us what you mean by that. And also, I read that you struggled over whether to use the word patriarchy.
V: I think people are so frightened by the word and wary of the word but I don't know a better description of a situation than patriarchy where essentially, the patriarchy, the father, the system is one where very, very few people have power over the many and dominate them and determine their lives and control their lives. And I think when I was discussing disaster patriarchy, I was looking at investigating during COVID what happened to women's rights around the world. And I interviewed women all over the world to say, what's going on with you? And in fact, the disaster of COVID, the pandemic, allowed all kinds of pushbacks to women's rights in various forms in shapes and different places.
I mean, for example, in places where people had made strides with anti- female genital mutilation work, right? Suddenly, girls were no longer going to school.
V: Able to go to school. And that became a push back because when girls were going to school, they could make money, they could take care of their families. So, people were willing to stop the practice of female genital mutilation. When girls couldn't go to school because of the shutdown in the economic situation, that all began to change.
V: We look at workers' rights where the same thing was happening. We look at women, for example, who were on the front lines, right? Nurses, restaurant workers, and the pushback against their protections. Women nurses being forced to wear garbage bags and reuse masks, right? We look at school and the fact that girls have stopped going to school in so many places where those rights to education were moving women's rights very far forward.
AMANPOUR: Yes, so -- but you write about all those where these abuses are happening to one degree or another. But it's so interesting that in the "Reckoning" you say, we live with two incompatible ideas when it comes to women. That they are essential to every aspect of life and that they can easily be violated, sacrificed, and erased. To me, that is the unbelievable paradigm. That half the human race, as essential as it is, is still the most abused, the most discriminated group. And I'm just wondering, you know, you've talked just now about some of the positives. But how long is this going to go on? I mean, this is just endless.
V: I could not agree with you more. You know, two nights ago, I was at a beautiful event where women were reading stories about abortion and sexual abuse. And I have to say, I've been doing this work for 25 years. I was sitting in the room and my mouth was open. And all I wanted to do was wail and scream and say, is it impossible that women are being treated this way in 2023? Is it possible we are still here?
And I think part of it is we, as a world, have to understand -- and one of the reasons I believe in global solidarity and global organizing is that this is a global situation. There is no country in the world that I've been to, except perhaps Sweden, where women are not essentially second-class citizens. Where we are not respected, where we are not honored, and where we are not doing all the work of keeping that culture and that society together. And women around the world have to unite now, we have to rise up, we have to demand and we have to be bolder. And I think more outrages in our demands in the way we are demanding things.
AMANPOUR: Well --
V: Because the truth of the matter, you know, yes --
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead. The truth of the matter what? Because I wanted to say, you know, women were bold and even their male allies in the United States during the midterms. Nobody thought all the conventional wisdom was, oh, voters don't care about Roe V. Wade. The pushback women's rights. They don't care about democracy. But, oh, no, they do. And they went to the polls. That must be, for you, an optimistic building block. How can one build on the fact that actually there are people out there who will be bold?
V: 85 percent of people in America believe that abortion is a human right and should be a right. It is a fringe minority that is pushing this other agenda. And I think, indeed, the elections were a very positive sign of women knowing that their rights are -- were on the line and that they need and deserve those rates. I think what we have to do is go further and push the Congress to be bolder, to make this an essential priority issue, and not have it something that gets put in the back until all the issues get taken care of. Like you were talking about at the beginning of this program. Why aren't women's rights and transgender rights and non-binary peoples' rights, why aren't those rights the primary rights that we are thinking about?
We are the majority of people on this planet. A new program -- a new policy from the Economic Policy Institute, a piece came out this week saying abortion denial and the denial of abortion rights is economic subjugation. Most of the states where that was happening are states where women aren't even making or making a bare income. So, it will keep them from rising out of poverty.
AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you what you think of -- let's say you talked about Sweden. We know that the former Swedish foreign minister, a woman, Margot Wallstrom, famously called for a feminist foreign policy. In other words, pushing women's rights at the top of the G7 agenda in their discussions or everybody 's agenda in their discussions on, you know, in bilateral aid and all the rest of it. As long as women's rights are not met, we will not help you. Well, they tried that in Afghanistan and look where it got them.
AMANPOUR: And on the other end of the spectrum, Jacinda Ardern, one of the most inspiring young female leaders in recent times said that she just doesn't have any more in the tank. And after six years of elected politics, as leader, she has resigned. But we hear that part of that decision was because of the unbelievable abuse that she got, misogyny, sexism, online, and all the rest of it. I know those are two different questions, but they're -- it's about the same thing. How does one strengthen women to be able to survive these things?
V: It's such an important question, Christiane. I think -- look at what our congresswomen are going through in this country. The abuse, the attacks, the fact that they're all being threatened -- their lives are being threatened because of their policies. I think we have to figure out how we build more solidarity of protection. More support for women leadership. More ways that women can -- I don't know, be supported while they're in leadership to process what they're going through. To find ways to help them with the attacks that come at them.
But also, what -- there's so much that has become acceptable in social media, in the world of violence and violation of women, in the way we speak about women and the way we talk about women. And how do we begin to create cultural processes where we stop this and we begin to transform the way we are thinking about women? And I don't have all the answers. All I know is, like, when we are doing our work this year and I'm looking at, for example, Italy where they just put out an amazing video looking at how women are treated, for example, in sports. And I'm looking in the Philippines where people are rising for workers' rights and women's rights. I know that if we keep building the solidarity, we keep building movements of strength, we keep uniting in coalitions and bringing everybody into the story. Particularly grassroots women on the ground who are rising out of poverty and trying to find a way to have a life. And if we are indeed in solidarity with them, things will, I hope, begin to change, you know.
AMANPOUR: They will.
V: I never realized, when I was younger, how stubborn and intractable patriarchy is. And I think, you know, you and I have been both doing this a very long time. Whether it was being in Bosnia, where we watched the horrible rapes of women in camps. You know, it's still going on. The war in Congo is still going on, you know.
AMANPOUR: And in Ukraine, Eve -- V. And in Ukraine, yes.
V: And in Ukraine and in Syria, let's go down the list.
V: We are living in a war driven patriarchal world. And we need women who are powerful, who are united, who actually know that we have the power, we just have to step into it and finding the vehicles for that.
AMANPOUR: Well, you've been finding vehicles and telling the world about them. So, V, thank you so much. There you go, vehicle, V, that's another good word, vehicle.
V: That's right. Thank you, Christiane.