Eve Ensler dazzled a nearly all female audience with her quit wit, dry humor, and convincing call to arms to end violence against women at the Commonwealth Club of California's sold-out program in downtown San Francisco Monday night. The event, which was held at the Commonwealth Club's Market Street offices, began with a wine and cheese reception where a friendly crowd of guests mingled and chatted in lively anticipation of Ensler's appearance.
While the crowd was, not surprisingly, an almost exclusively female gathering, the attendees represented a diverse sample of San Francisco's most progressive and artistically-minded set. Surveying the room, it was easy to spot mother-daughter couples, college students, feminist activists, V-day volunteers, Commonwealth Club board members, hip twenty-somethings, corporate suits, and seniors. A Ms. Ludwick and her husband (one of the few men in attendance) explained they'd become even more jazzed about Ensler's talk after Susan Dominus's New York Times Magazine article, "Eve Ensler Wants to Save the World," appeared on Sunday (2/10/02). A woman that worked in the city courts in San Francisco told me she'd been so excited to attend all day, but had been apprehensive about mentioning her evening plans to colleagues. It seems she was worried some of the stuffier legal set might take offense to the word vagina so often announced in the same sentence as Eve Ensler. On the way to my seat, another of the few male attendees saw my consternation as I searched the packed room for an open seat. He echoed the spirit of the evening when he barked at me, "don't frown! Smile and be bold!"
Tiffany Schlain, Commonwealth Club board member and founder of the coveted Webby Awards, brought the meeting to order and introduced Ensler to a crowd of adoring fans and feminist sympathizers. Speaking under the umbrella topic, "Afghanistan is Everywhere," Ensler captivated listeners with her tales of women's struggles both in the USA and in countries in all corners of the globe. Peppering her political speak with frank accounts of her own life and the lives of the women she's had the privilege of meeting in her travels and interviews, Ensler's pledge to end violence against women by the year 2005 had women nodding vigorously in agreement. Commonwealth Club Board President Connie Shapiro moderated a question and answer session for audience questions. Ensler's poised responses only added to her already powerful presentation's impact. Ensler finished the program to a standing ovation, urging all attendees to, "be as passionate and revolutionary as you are and don't let anybody stop you."
As the bodies filtered from the room, the information tables promoting Ensler's V-day campaign to end violence against women had no want for visitors; nor, for that matter, did the Commonwealth Club's new member registration area. I left shortly thereafter, lost in thought, feeling more energized by a speaker than I have in years.
Lorraine Sanders is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.