GalleyCat sent Amanda ReCupido (that’s her flashing the V sign with Eve Ensler in the photo above) to the 37th anniversary party for the Feminist Press, held Monday night at Tavern on the Green. The press, based at the City University of New York, is a nonprofit literary and educational publisher founded in an activist spirit whose history has been closely linked to the women’s movement and the development of Women’s Studies as an academic discipline. At last night’s dinner, Ensler and Cyndi Lauper (lower left) were among the recipients of the Crossing Borders Award for their continued dedication and service to the advancement of women in the U.S. and the world.
“This is V-Day’s 10th year, or, V to the 10th power,” Ensler beamed to ReCupido, referring to the worldwide campaign of benefit performances of The Vagina Monologue through which Ensler has raised more than $50 million to combat violence against women, creating “one of the largest women’s gatherings.” in the process. Ensler discussed the parallels of Hurricane Katrina and the current situation in the Congo and their impact on women. “The violence and abandonment, the economic hardship… these problems are symptomatic of America. Women are constantly on the front lines, and we need to rise up and respond.” She has founded the Katrina Warriors, a group of women who helped raise awareness and funds after the hurricane struck, and next year’s V-Day will culminate in a New Orleans performance of the play that brings together hip-hop poets, song artists, speakers, and actresses such as Jane Fonda and Selma Hayek. (Ensler is also writing a new play called The Katrina Monologues to premiere that same weekend in April 2008.)
When asked what it means to be a feminist, Ensler replied, simply: Everything. “Feminism is both empowerment and balance on our planet. It’s honoring the Earth so that we have the possibility of surviving.” When asked if she thought our society would achieve gender equality within our lifetimes, she said, “I’m banking on it.”
Cyndi Lauper, who headlined the True Colors Tour earlier this summer, calling attention to discrimination against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, showed her true feminist colors at the gala, stating that she once burned her training bra and had “been a feminist ever since.” She even discussed how Gloria Steinem once told her that it was probably better that Lauper never fully mastered the English language because then we would never have had her poetry. She cited the night’s event as a “wonderful way to bring awareness to the feminist cause” and to showcase the “many literate women out there who are otherwise unrecognized.”
Also receiving the Crossing Borders Award were Philip A. Berry, the driving force behind Colgate Women’s Network; Linda S. Sandford, Senior Vice President of Enterprise on Demand Transformation & Information Technology at IBM; and Billie I. Williamson, the Americas Director of Flexibility and Gender Equity Strategy at Ernst & Young LLP. Other guests included Feminist Press Board of Directors member Dorothy O. Helly, the recipient of the Femmy Award for invaluable services to the press, nine female college presidents who were honored for their dedication and service to the City University of New York, and actress Kathleen Chalfant, who presented a dramatic reading of a work by Grace Paley, the writer and activist who passed away earlier this year.