I am nearly 70 years old, and I have been looking back on my life in activism and art for my new book, Reckoning. As I pored over my previously unpublished diaries, monologues, plays and poems, I realised that all my life I have been haunted by one woman – a woman I believe has the power to show us what we need to do now, in this time of unparalleled female bravery and vicious misogynistic backlash. So let’s go back to Eve, the first woman, Adam, serpent, apple, garden, God.
I have been obsessed with Eve my whole life. First of course, it was once my name, and for a six-year-old it seemed ridiculously impossible to be named Eve. She was responsible for not only the downfall of paradise, expulsion, sin, shame but death itself. Names, like myths, determine a lot, and this story was like a tectonic plate at the bedrock of my consciousness, engendering how I saw myself and how I behaved in the world.
I am only one part of a much bigger tale: her story has shaped a great deal of humanity’s story. How many of us feel as if we are fallen women/people out of the gate – that our inherent credibility or value is erased upon birth? How many of us are controlled by the debilitating terror that any form of disobedience or independence will lead to social exclusion and damnation? How many of us feel cursed for our curiosity, forbidden to know what we know, living amid a culture constantly manifesting a pathological and patronizing disdain for our instincts?
The myth of Eve has served as an eternal warning, an electric fence around our psyches zapping our impulses to revolt or question. I don’t know about you, but the serpent has figured highly in my life, in the form of lovers, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll. I think many of us have been constantly ingesting things that are stand-ins for apples but always with a sense of being wrong. Our life force or hunger to be, our erotic Reckoning impulses, have been distorted through this cellular shame and distrust.
So I would like to present you with another story about Eve. I believe Eve ate the apple because, like many of us, she was trying to remember the other story, the story before the trauma of brainwashing and massacres. The story before they shoved things into our sacred holes and cut the tips of our clitorises where divinity lives. Before they shaved our furry nests and choked the throat of our songs. Before they called us hysterical and intense and emotional, before they beat boys for crying and wanting to wear dresses. Before they stoned us for uttering the words of our mothers and drilled down into us to rob us of our moist and fertile secrets.
Before Eve was made to believe she was taken from a rib, before she was forced to be obedient. Before she stopped dancing, before she buried her powers to heal with touch and see the future and become one with earth. Before she knew how to pleasure herself over and over and over forever and men knew they were there to serve that pleasure because as she was pleasured they and the world were pleasured over and over forever. Before she was embarrassed by joy. Before she apologized for her heart and stopped respecting the size of its brain, before she disqualified her opinions and apologized for her insatiable curiosity. Before childbirth became punishment and love and service to a man became mandatory. Before she swallowed her rage and choked her voice. Before men established God the father at the top. Before there was a top. Before the earth was treated as the wretched wild. Before when it was life generating life in all directions.
Eve ate the apple to regain her powers, to know what she knew before she was held hostage in the wrong garden. The Bible tells us that God said to Adam and Eve: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Eve defied the Father and ate the apple, and came into her full independent erotic self and heart – then generously offered this transformation to Adam and immediately punishment, shame, guilt and oppression descended upon them. They were expelled and have been wandering inside us and outside us trying to remember ever since.
Eve was cast out as she opened the door to the deeper knowing – and we must all be OK outside our father’s garden, outside his house, outside the world of disembodied intelligence, we must all be visionary nomads, exiled from the hierarchy and ready to find one another and create the new world, which is really just remembering the world from which we came. Eve ate the apple to remember the time before our souls were militarized and straitjacketed by religions that rendered us defeated, guilty, sinful, waiting for someone or something usually a father god or consumer god coming to rescue us or redeem us or protect us when in fact there was never anything to be rescued from except those who in our name were committing wars and violence protecting us. Eve knew a true paradise was not constructed on hierarchy and competition and domination and greed but on connection and mutual cooperation.
Eve asked neither Adam nor God for permission. She knew what she had to do, and I believe she must have known at least instinctively what could follow. She knew she risked their disapproval and somewhere in her she must have known her legacy, legitimacy, and name could be ruined, and she could be expelled from the comforting mirage and garden of patriarchy. But this didn’t stop her. She was our whistleblower, knowing she was in the wrong garden. She ate the apple because her hunger for justice, ecstasy, connection, pleasure, equality and love was massively alive in her.
Eve is alive in us now. We are on the brink of the remembering. To do this, we must openly, unashamedly eat the apple. This involves ingesting all that catalyzes and provokes vision and imagination. It means educating ourselves and looking deeper into the stories and myths designed and sustained by the powers that be. We are Eve’s children. Daughter of our Black African mother, Eve. Revolutionary, Eve, who ate the apple that unearthed the first garden under the imposed and constructed garden. Eve who ate the apple as her hunger for truth was our actual path and now, we must fulfill her legacy. Eve, mother of our freedom, ate the apple to liberate us into this world, our world.
This is our time. Eat the fucking apple.
V (formerly Eve Ensler) is a playwright and author, most recently, of Reckoning (Bloomsbury).