May 22

“The Apology”: Eve Ensler’s Abusive Father

I thought, maybe I need to write the apology I want to hear. I need to see what it looks like. And maybe it could be a blueprint for what a deep, true, authentic reckoning would look like. Eve Ensler, author of The Apology, to Melissa Jeltsen, HuffPost

In this triumph of artistry and empathy, Eve Ensler leaves us with a transformative question: what if the words we most long to hear from another can be located within ourselves? Naomi Klein

Eve Ensler’s book is for people like me who find apologies to be perfunctory and unsatisfying, even infuriating without a clear-eyed reckoning of why the hurt was done. Here is a guide for those who have not received the apology they deserve, and for those who know there is one they’ve yet to give. Kimberlé Crenshaw

“The apology” in question is an imagining of what Eve Ensler‘s abusive father might offer if he were alive and willing and capable of doing so. Erin Kodicek’s review of this new book (for Amazon) serves as a suitable introduction:

Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ This quote came to mind as I was reading Eve Ensler’s slim but profoundly powerful The Apology. Written as if it were a letter from Ensler’s father, it recounts the sexual, physical and psychological abuse he inflicted on her from the ages of five to 10, and acknowledges the reverberating effects on her life. Moreover, it does what the master gaslighter and coward couldn’t before he died: take accountability for his crimes and ask for absolution…

More about Ensler’s view of these types of apologies:

She believes apologies are for both the person who gives and the person who receives. Offering an apology isn’t a punishment for an abuser — it’s a liberation. Yet according to her book, apologies have strict guidelines: the perpetrator must say the crime out loud; acknowledge how his actions have impacted his victim; empathize with her; feel profound remorse; and do ‘extensive work’ to understand what made him commit the crime.

As Ensler told Eliana Dockterman, Time, regarding a segment of her audience:

Ensler tells me that it’s one of her ‘deep fantasies’ that abusers will use her book as a blueprint for an apology done right. She’s been disappointed by the self-pitying public statements released, particularly over the past year and a half, by men accused of abusing women. ‘I haven’t seen a single man reckon with what he’s done,’ she says. ‘Sixteen thousand years of patriarchy, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a real, public apology from a man.’

Ron Charles, Washington Post, on the potential benefits of Ensler’s type of process for all abuse survivors:

‘The Apology’ may be a very personal act of therapeutic recovery for the author, but Ensler also offers it as model for others. Most abused women, after all, will never hear an expression of sorrow from their tormentors. Ensler hopes victims can experience a degree of healing by writing the letter they need to hear. That process is already in use at City of Joy, a women’s center Ensler founded in Congo. ‘We can actually shift the way those predators live inside us,’ she says, ‘and move them inside us from a monster to an apologist.’

Want more about this book? Read an excerpt at Literary Hub.

In closing, author Anne Lamott‘s review: The Apology is profound and theatrical, literary and sometimes funny, as all of Eve Ensler’s work is, and it goes without saying, it’s courageous, transformative, and yes–healing.”