February is a month that is often filled with reflection and celebration. In addition to being Black History Month, we celebrate MLK Day, President’s Day, and of course the Feast of St. Valentine. But for over 10 years, a new holiday, movement, event, has been taking its strong foothold in the American and International psyche. Students of Liberal Arts colleges, aficionados of the theatre, and those who are socially conscious might be familiar with the concept of V-Day. Began in 1998 by- or rather inspired by award winning playwright Eve Ensler, it is a monumental movement on a global scale intended to bring awareness to a global problem. The effort of V-Day is to help stop, prevent, and educate about violence towards women and girls the world over.
Ensler had already made a name for herself within the writing and theatrical worlds, always a voice and advocate for cultural change and social injustice. Hailed for her documentary works, and her famous plays The Vagina Monologues and The Treatment, she has never been one to shy away from the representation of the victim or the disenfranchised. In The Treatment, she gave voice to soldiers returning from war with PTSD and detailed the horrors that situation could entail. In her pivotal work, The Vagina Monologues, she gave voices to thousands of women across the world. Celebrating their femininity, being honest with the issues they faced, and providing a safe platform for gender discussions, it is the work that proved to be the seed of the V-Day movement.
After the opening of The Vagina Monologues, Ensler found herself bombarded by fans, male and female alike, praising her for her style, innovation, and contribution to the theatre. More important were the female audience members who approached her, having been inspired by her seminal work. They come from all corners prepared to tell their stories. Stories of hope, of pride, of love, of heartbreak, and unfortunately more often than not…stories of pain.
A UN study released this past November, stated that 1 in 3 women globally have been abused. That is not emotional abuse. That is physical trauma. And when you stop to ponder that there are an estimated 3.4 billion women in the world, it is a shocking and nauseating statistic to even consider. But since the late 90’s V-Day has acknowledged that this all important issue is not one that can be easily mended by dialogue on paper. Resolution has to be sought via dialogue between people, from effort, from opportunity, and from a change in mentality. People have to know that certain things are just not okay.
In 98 the movement began with a non-profit charity, utilizing performances of The Vagina Monologues to raise money for the benefit of female victims of violence and sexual abuse. In the years that have followed, V-Day has incorporated more voices, more mediums, and more artists. The documentary Until The Violence Stops, readings from the compilation A Memory, Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer, marches, and festivals, all of which served in furthering the mission and the audience that the charity could reach.
Starting in 2001, V-Day began it’s expansion on the international market. Leadership summits for women in Afghanistan, gatherings in Rome, the Karma program in the Middle East, and community briefings and searches for missing or murdered women in Juarez, Mexico, to only name a few. In 2004, the V-Day celebrations included the first all transgender version of The Vagina Monologues. By 2010 more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations world wide. As of January 2013, the V-Day movement has raised $80 million and educated innumerable amounts about not only the issues of violence against women but also efforts in which they can be involved to end it. They have opened shelters, re-opened shelters that had been closed, and funded over 12,000 community based anti-violence programs and safe houses in numerous countries including The United States, The United Kingdom, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Egypt, and Iraq.
There are so many misconceptions that exist regarding what this holiday, this event, this cause driven movement represent. Let’s be blunt for a moment. This is not about man hating. It’s not about men beating women, or lover’s spats, or any accusatory conversation. It’s about education, it’s about healing, it’s about identifying yourself and finding strength from it. It’s about trying to make one of the greatest wrongs on our planet right. The V in V-Day is often coined as standing for Vagina. Sometimes people think it’s Valentine. Both are accurate interpretations, but the more telling of explanations is the following, Victory. That’s what the V-Day advocates and practitioners are fighting for, victory over the mindset that says it’s alright to abuse a woman or girl. Victory over the mindset that denies roughly 3.4 billion people on this earth a voice. Victory over stereotypes, gender generalizations, and ignorance. That would be a victory for not only womankind, but also all of humanity.
I, for one, believe in their cause. And so do others.
This week, a group of local actors and artists in the Smyrna area will be joining in the effort. On Friday February 22nd, 2013, V-DAY SMYRNA will present a benefit reading of A MEMORY, A MONOLOGUE, A RANT AND A PRAYER: Writings To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls. The piece is a collection of monologues by famous authors, playwrights, and forward thinkers, edited by Eve Ensler and Mollie Doyle. Hosted at Rev Coffee off of Spring Road in Smyrna, Ga, the house opens at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8.
Admission is $10 and the proceeds go to the V-Day charity.
Make your voice heard by attending, show your support, spread the word. Every donation and every step forward count. Hopefully together, we can achieve that victory….