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bell hooks


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April Book Review: The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks

An absolutely compelling read, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks (she does not capitalize her name) urges us to reclaim feminism for men as the result of patriarchy maintaining its power over their lives. I have to admit that this reading left me in awe. I had not thought of the implications of patriarchy in regards to men this extensively, and I could not stop reading this book! The author addresses the damage patriarchy causes to men – the inability to be in touch with their emotions, to love wholly (themselves and others), and to truly know themselves.  Her writing is courageous and visionary.

bell’s book begins with a chapter defining patriarchy, and she states,” Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation.”  She explains how boys are indoctrinated detrimentally, the role media, society, and women play in harming men, and male sexual relationships and sexual violence.  hooks also examines the roles men play at work and in their relationships with women, other men, and their children. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love explains how the men’s movement against feminism is critical of women but makes no effort to address the damage patriarchy incurs on men. The book concludes with a denunciation of patriarchy without apology. It suggests how to heal the male spirit, how to love men properly, and how men can reclaim their integrity, wholeness, and authenticity. She also urges feminists to fight for men as victims of patriarchy. In hooks’ words, “We have yet to create a world that asks us to stand by a man when he is seeking healing, when he is seeking recovery, when he is working to be a creator.”

I highly recommend The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks to anyone who is interested in feminist theory, women’s studies, patriarchy, male and female relationships, male violence towards women, gender studies, misogyny or sociology. It is truly intriguing and a well-balance argument.

A bit about the author, bell hooks:

bell hooks

bell hooks is an acclaimed intellectual, feminist theorist, cultural critic, artist, and writer. hooks has authored over three dozen books and has published works that span several genres, including cultural criticism, personal memoirs, poetry collections, and children’s books. She covers gender, race, class, spirituality, teaching, and the significance of media in contemporary culture.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, bell hooks adopted the pen name of her maternal great-grandmother, a woman known for speaking her mind. hooks received her B.A. from Stanford University, her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, some of her books include Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, Where We Stand: Class Matters, and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.

To learn more about bell hooks or to purchase The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, visit her website, bellhooksinstitute.com, or Indiebound and Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

 


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I’m One of the Lucky Ones; Me Too, but…

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I’ve never been raped. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Violence from men towards women is at an alarming, disturbing high. It is extreme because we allow it. We dismiss, trivialize, ignore, and ridicule what happens to women. We laugh when woman talk about it.  We silence their voices. We do not hear their cries, and we don’t care. We traumatize women further. By “we” I mean men especially. I mean society. I mean the select groups of women – women who have bought into the abhorrent misogyny covertly embedded within patriarchy (a subject for another blog).  Bottom line: women are treated like they are expendable commodities. Feminists call this rape culture, and it must end.

I consider myself lucky – lucky that my virginity was not taken at sixteen when I was almost raped in high school by a stranger who should not have been on the track field, lucky that I was not left on the bottom of the Hudson river in New York City when I was almost raped when I was twenty-three; lucky that I was not raped on a date to dinner and a movie in Los Angeles when I was twenty.

I’m the Lucky One

I will tell you why I am so lucky:

Because the hired construction worker, who was a friend of the family, touched my tiny nipples right after I had hit puberty at age eleven. But, I wasn’t raped.

Because my mother fired the gardener when she caught him eyeing me from head to toe several times instead of pruning the roses. I was twelve. She did not tell my father. I wasn’t raped.

Because I was visiting Tijuana, Mexico, with my family one summer, and walking down the street, a stranger touched my butt. I was nine or ten.

Because I lost count how many times men have told me to smile throughout my lifetime, as if I exist just to please them.

Because I lost count of how many times men “accidentally” get too close and their hands end up feeling my ass on a crowded bus, subway or street.

Because the jerk at the bar did not leave me alone after I told him I was not interested (Or, is it “jerks?”)

The many times when I outright lied: “I have a boyfriend.”

Because I’ve lost count of how many men from all over this world EXPECTED me to pay attention to them no matter what I was doing.

Because of the cruel and grotesque comments from men on my social media because I was standing up for myself or standing up for oppression (of any sort).

Because I lost count of the whistles, howls, obscene comments and gestures uttered as I walked down the street minding my own business.

Because of the two high school boys behind me who yelled, “Let’s get her!” when as a middle-schooler, I was walking my bike home up the steep hill (I dropped my bike and started running towards home like a bat out of hell; they then yelled, “We were kidding – it’s okay!” Fuck them.).

Because at cross country practice in high school when I was running with my teammates, an overweight man drives by and yells, “Go on a diet!” (NONE of us were fat, not that THAT should matter).

Because my ex-husband expected sex whenever he wanted it. Didn’t matter how I felt.

Because of the nonstop, intrusive chat messages sent on social media AFTER you tell men you are not looking for a relationship, a hookup, a boyfriend, a husband, or to even shoot the breeze.

Because women are called cunts, bitches, sluts, whores, you name it, and “just a woman” (as I was once told by a man from Iran).

Because of the many times I was thankful to be out with a boyfriend because I knew other men would then leave me alone.

Because I was sexually harassed by a male boss at a former job.

Because of the many times I was expected to play stupid so I did not embarrass (or anger) a man.

Because I was followed to the bathroom at an outdoor concert by a stoned, long-haired, sixties-freak hippie who would not leave me alone.

Because everything I mentioned above happens everywhere.

Because I can go on for pages and pages for myself and for every women. I am the lucky one.

Rape. Date rape. Spousal rape. Partner rape. Gang rape. Serial Rape. Friend rape. College-campus rape. Child rape. Prison rape.  Transgender rape. Rape just because. (Did I miss any? By the way, I know men get raped, but guess what? Most rapists are MEN).

Rape culture.

I have never been raped. I am one of the lucky ones.

Me, Too, but…

But, I have gained so much by what I experienced! I have learned to forgive, to release it, to NOT give it any more power. I am no longer a victim. You read that correctly: I AM NO LONGER A VICTIM.

But, I have learned to accept myself as I am, with or without makeup, with or without sexy clothes, with or without high heels and perfect hair.

But, I have learned that I don’t need to smile if I don’t want to.

But, I have learned it is okay to tell the truth: “Thank you, but I am not interested.”

But, I have discovered it is okay to not respond; it doesn’t mean I am a bitch or a cunt.

But, I have discovered I don’t have to have the perfect body for a man to love me.

But, I have learned it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to be me. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to be smart.

But, I have learned that I am a human being first, then a woman. I breathe. I am a human being!

But, I have learned I don’t exist for MAN. I live for ME.

I have found my voice.

I am.

#metoo

I’m one of the lucky ones

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days empowering a new paradigm where women are treated like human beings, like human beings, like human beings, like human beings…

I am one of the lucky ones who will spend the rest of her breathing days standing up for equal rights for women.

I am one of the lucky ones who will teach the younger generations of women that they are just as deserving in every aspect of their lives as men.

I am one of the lucky ones who will help to end the abuse and misogyny of women worldwide.

I am the lucky one who thanks the world over that there are men out there who treat me like a human being and not like a woman. Because they are the real men.

I am a survivor.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com


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November Book Review:  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, spoken in 2014 in Oslo, Norway, as the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai, a Pashtun Pakistani, is a courageous, compassionate, exemplary and determined young woman on a mission to bring education to every girl and boy in every town, province, city, and country in the world.  Her memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, is a rich, beautifully-written, compassionate and inspiring story that explains her past, her passion, and her life mission.

i-am-malala

Yousafzai begins her memoir with anecdotes about growing up in Mingora, in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, a lush, mountain region full of breathtaking rivers, waterfalls and gorgeous valleys. She describes life as a Sunni Muslim, her love of Allah, and the customs in Mingora. Her book explains the poverty she and her family endured – no running water, no stove, no heat, very little food at times, for example. She explains how poverty and tradition in the midst of paradise kept most girls from attending school. Her own mother could not read or write, for example. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, her hero and inspiration, is a fierce advocate for girls’ education, and after political opposition and financial problems, founded an all-girls school in Mingora where Malala attended.

In the second half of this memoir, Malala explains the fundamentalist beliefs of the Taliban and the extreme damage and fear they exhibited in her country. She writes stories about beheadings and public lynchings, suicide bombers, the bombing and destruction of hundreds of schools, general politics in Pakistan, the horrific damage and tyranny and eventual ruin of Mingora caused by the Taliban, and more.  As outspoken advocates of education for girls (which the Taliban was against), Malala and her father eventually became targets. Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban and survived. Her recovery is nothing less than remarkable. Her story has garnered worldwide attention, which has caused a nonstop collaboration of many individuals and countries for the fight of education for all girls everywhere.

I highly recommend I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai to anyone who is curious about Pakistani life and customs, about Islam, or about the Taliban and the damage they have inflicted in Pakistan. I especially recommend this memoir to human and women’s rights activists. It is an incredible story that left me speechless, in awe, and at times, in tears!

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Opening Malala Yousafzai’s All-Girls School near the Syrian border in 2015.

A bit about the author, Malala Yousafzai:

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.

Malala has received many awards. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured Malala as one of “the 100 most influential people in the world“. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. In 2014, she was nominated for the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, and in May of the same year, Malala was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Later in 2014, Malala was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.  Today, Malala is founder of the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates at the local, national and international levels for resources and policy changes needed to ensure all girls, worldwide, have the right to twelve years of schooling.

To learn more about Malala Yousafzai and her work, visit: Malala.org.

To purchase I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, visit: Amazon.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com. Musings and Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being 

 

 

Gloria Allred


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October Book Review: Fight Back and Win: My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice-And How You Can Win Your Own Battles by Gloria Allred

“I start every day with the knowledge that helping people and fighting for justice is my duty, and that nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice, self-discipline, and courage.” – Gloria Allred

Fight Back and WinOne of my latest finds is Fight Back and Win: My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice and How You Can Win Your Own Battles by champion of civil and women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred. An easy to read and very informative memoir, Allred’s book is a compilation of her most meaningful and remarkable cases (most of which she won) followed by short “empowerment lessons” at the end of each chapter. As a women’s and human rights proponent myself, I found Ms. Allred’s book nothing less than inspirational and motivational.

Fight Back and Win: My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice and How You Can Win Your Own Battles by Gloria Allred demonstrates how Ms. Allred won very difficult cases despite the imperfect justice system in the United States. Allred has been involved with famous, “high profile” cases such as those of OJ Simpson, Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson, for example, as well as taking on the toughest of the toughest cases and setting precedents as a result. In this memoir, these cases are explained in detail. Gloria Allred is well known for her pioneering work for women’s rights and her tenacity to never quit no matter how bleak things look. She is nothing less than a warrior who has and still does stand up, speaks out and fights for her clients and for the rights of the oppressed. It was a pleasure to read her book!

As of the writing of this blog, Ms. Allred is representing Judy Huth (and perhaps more women) in the case against Bill Crosby, who is accused of sexual battery.

A bit about the author, Gloria Allred:Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred is the most prominent women’s rights attorney in the United States and is one of the most recognized attorneys in the world. Over the course of her thirty-seven-year legal career, Gloria Allred has won countless honors for her pioneering legal work on behalf of women’s rights and rights for minorities. She has been a television commentator on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Court TV, and is a three-time Emmy nominee for her television commentary on KABC Television Eye Witness News in Los Angeles.

Born an only child in a working-class home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gloria Allred earned her B.A. with honors in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her M.A. from New York University and her J.D. cum laude from Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles. She was also awarded an Honorary J.D. from the University Of West Los Angeles School Of Law. As one of the founding partners of the law firm of  Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (AM&G), Gloria and her colleagues handle more women’s rights cases than any other private firm in the nation and have won hundreds of millions of dollars for victims. Allred, Maroko & Goldberg represents victims who have been discriminated against on account of their sex, race, age, physical handicap or sexual orientation. Her firm also represents victims of AIDS discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

To learn more about this incredible woman and her work, visit: GloriaAllred.com.

To purchase a copy of Fight Back and Win: My Thirty-Year Fight Against Injustice and How You Can Win Your Own Battles by Gloria Allred, visit Amazon.com.

© 2015, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.comInspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being


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September Book Review: The War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back by Gloria Feldt

I am an advocate for women’s rights. I want what I deserve as a woman: the right to choose how I live my life; the right to control my sexual and reproductive health, the right to live with dignity, the right to choose to reproduce or not, and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Taking away my choice to decide what I do with my own body, and thus my own life, is nothing less than tyranny.

War on Choice

I am not going to highlight the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood in this country in this blog. I will say, however, that the fight for freedom is far from over. I am writing to encourage you (especially if you are female) to read Gloria Feldt’s, The War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back. Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and founder and president of Take The Lead, has compiled an easy-to-read argument for the right-wing fundamentalist attack on women and their reproductive rights. She argues for and very convincingly proves that the fundamentalist right’s agenda is not only to outlaw abortion, but that it goes far beyond that: it is to control women’s full reproductive and sexual rights. Feldt gives countless evidence in her book showing how a minority of right-wing, misogynists are trying to control women (not just outlaw abortions) for political purposes. They do not care about the life of the unborn, and they surely do not care about women! They care about controlling women by controlling their reproductive rights. Let me be frank: they want to control women because they are afraid of women.

Although The War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back by Gloria Feldt was published in 2004, it is still relevant because the fight is not over, and only the tactics have changed (as evident by the recent faked videos to discredit Planned Parenthood, as one example). Gloria Feldt, in her book, illustrates how those opposed to women’s rights have fabricated lies and manipulated the public to believe nonsense. It clearly shows how propaganda and very strategic campaigns have deceived people. I recommend this book to anyone seeking information on the subject of women’s rights. I especially recommend this book to young women because it is vital that you understand how your basic rights are being systematically removed.

In case you did not get my point above, let me be crystal clear: the fight for a women’s right to choose is not a gray area. It is black and white. It is no one else’s choice but mine whether I want to reproduce or not. And, if you are a woman reading this blog, it is also yours. It is not a politician’s right; it is not your husband or boyfriend’s right; it is not your mother’s, and it is not your doctor’s. It is yours and yours alone. I do not get to choose what you do with your body. If you are against abortion for religious reasons, then by all means, don’t have one. But, do not impose your religious beliefs on all women in the United States or abroad.

The following is a list taken from The War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back:

Imagine a country where:

  • The government promotes the myth that a safe medical procedure causes a deadly disease
  • Laws require physicians to give false, ideologically-based information to trusting patients
  • The government’s largest and best-known public health organization censors its own publications under pressure from the administration.
  • Appointees to scientific advisory committees claim condoms are ineffective and can cause promiscuity and disease.
  • Leaders ban promising scientific research into a range of diseases because of fundamentalist religious beliefs
  • Government “experts” are appointed to health committees because of their right-wing ideology, not their knowledge

Now guess what country this is? You got it: The United States of America!

A bit about the author, Gloria Feldt:

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is co-founder and president of Take The Lead, the new women’s leadership movement to prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. The bestselling author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, Gloria is an acclaimed expert on women, power and authentic leadership, and an inspiring keynote speaker who motivates with heart and humor as a practical activist. She is former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. To learn more about Gloria, visit: GloraFeldt.com.

To obtain a copy of The War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back by Gloria Feldt, go to Amazon.com.

© 2015, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.comInspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings from One Creative Being


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July Book Review: Woe to the Women the Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality & the Law by Annie Laurie Gaylor

“It is the contempt that the [biblical] canon and civil law alike express for women that has multiplied their hardships and intensified for man’s desire to hold them in subjection.”  – Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Woe to the Woman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Vilma Reynoso

I never really considered myself a feminist: a person who advocates or supports the rights and equality of women, until the moment I heard my father tell my mother in a demeaning tone that I would never graduate from college. The belief that my father held bothered me for decades and influenced my (sometimes disastrous) decisions I made as a woman. Over the years, I have realized that he was wrong, not only about me, but about women in general. I have come to believe that I am capable and have the right, as a woman and a human being, to live my life as I choose. I chose to graduate from college; not only did I graduate, but I graduated summa cum laude. Now, as a writer and as a somewhat prolific reader, here is a short summary of my latest read:

Woe to the Women the Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality & The Law by Annie Laurie Gaylor is a compilation of the many biblical references and stories portraying women, as the author states, “as either superfluous or as diabolical.” In the bible, women are deemed the “cause of all sin that entered the world” and are instruments and instigators of evil. Gaylor argues that the bible is a handbook for the subjugation of women. The first part of this book summarizes the different areas of oppression of women in the bible, and the second part is a thorough compilation of biblical scriptures to support her assertions that the bible denigrates and subjects women to men.

Woe to the Women the Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality & the Law examines biblical teachings about women’s “nature,” prostitution, sexual assault and incest, so-called “uncleanliness,” motherhood, divorce, adultery, grooming, abortion and more. Annie Laurie Gaylor makes apparent the biblical stories of women who are bought and sold, used as commodities, made to become wives with no rights, who are raped, mutilated, stoned to death, and makes apparent the story of a woman who was later chopped into pieces after she had died from enduring a gang-rape all night long. (Yes, this is all in the bible.)

As a product of a religious Catholic and Christian upbringing, this book was rather shocking for me to read. I had never been thoroughly exposed to the undeniable violence towards women in the bible, and to the contemptuous belief that women are instruments of evil whose very existence is to be subject to men, until I was exposed to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s book. There is no possible way to misinterpret the atrocities that are explicit in the bible as shown by Gaylor that deny human dignity to women. My conclusion is that the only way to do so would be to deny what is explicit in scripture, and I cannot do that. My view of the bible, therefore, has forever changed.

A bit about the author, Annie Laurie Gaylor:

Annie Laurie Gaylor

Annie Laurie Gaylor, along with her mother, is founder of Freedom from Religion Foundation, the largest national association of free-thinkers working to protect the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. She is editor of Freethought Today, the foundation’s newspaper, and has a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Gaylor is also the recipient of the 2010 Humanist Heroine award by the American Humanist Association. To learn more about Annie Laurie Gaylor, please visit Freedom from Religion Foundation.

To purchase a copy of Woe to the Women the Bible Tells Me So: The Bible, Female Sexuality& the Law by Annie Laurie Gaylor, visit: Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.com, Inspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2014, Vilma Reynoso


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February Book Review: In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler

February Featured Book, In the Body of the World

As a lifetime lover and student of literature and as an author myself, there are no words to describe Eve Ensler’s absolutely stunning, courageous and profound book, In the Body of the World It is nothing less than a 21st century original masterpiece! Ensler’s prose is so poignant, original and raw; it will ignite the passion and fire in your own body and emotions. Her metaphors left me speechless, her story left me breathless, and her courage is incredible. This is by far the best-written memoir I have ever read! There are no words to explain the magnificence of this book!

In the Body of the World is a story about the author, Eve Ensler’s, battle and healing from very advanced uterine cancer. Using rich and original metaphors that leave you wanting more, Ensler combines her experience of being sexually abused as a child by her father, growing up with a distant, non-protective mother, her fight with cancer, her love and commitment to the ending of the genocide and brutal rape of millions of women in the Congo, and her disconnection to mother Earth to produce a very inspiring memoir. She brilliantly describes her dissociation from her emotions due to her tumultuous childhood and reconnects with her body, mind, emotions and soul as she heals from cancer. She writes, “Because I did not, could not, inhabit my body or the earth, I could not feel or know their pain.” The metaphorical weaving of this text is nothing less than first rate!

A bit about the author, Eve Ensler:

Eve Ensler is a visionary. She is an international bestselling author and an award-winning playwright. Her theatrical works include but are not limited to: The Vagina Monologues, Necessary Targets and The Good Bodies. She is author of Insecure at Last, a political memoir, and I am an Emotional Creature, a New York Times best-seller, which she has adapted for the stage as Emotional Creature.

Ensler is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls that occurs in various cities worldwide every Feb 14th, and which has raised over $90 million for local groups and activists and inspired the global action, “One Billion Rising.” Eve Ensler has won numerous awards for her plays and has been given two honorary doctorates.  Eve’s mission is to end all violence towards women and girls worldwide. To join Eve in her mission or to learn more about this incredible woman, visit her website, EveEnsler.org, or join her on V-Day, Feb 14th, every year, until all violence ends.

In the Body of the World is her latest book. To purchase a copy, visit her website: EveEnsler.org.

Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.com. Inspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.

Copyright, 2014, Vilma Reynoso