Guest blog by Sarajane Rodgers.
Until my freshman year of college, I had only thought of the month of February as the month of Valentine’s Day. I would buy cute Valentine’s cards from the Dollar Tree for my friends and I would enjoy the days of pink and red. However, when February rolled around and I was in my first year at Bryn Mawr, a women’s college near Philadelphia, my roommate asked me to go with her to the school’s production of the Vagina Monologues. I was a bit confused as I had never heard of the play and after a few other students around me insisted that I go, I became a bit nervous. Being new to the school, I was still a few months away from yelling about the patriarchy and I was not quite sure if I wanted to go to a production that was entitled the Vagina Monologues. However, all of the upperclasswomen made me promise that I would attend.
I went to the show and I realized how I had gotten distracted by the title of the production. Though it seems silly, in effect I had forgotten that the monologues would actually tell stories. However, it wasn’t until the next year when I was actually in the Vagina Monologues that I really grasped the significance of the production. I was in the ensemble, meaning that I had several short monologues/introductions as well as several group readings. One of the group readings that we performed was about survivors of FGM in the Congo. Another group that I performed in talked about someone who was transgender. While performing, I looked out into the audience and felt an overwhelming sense of sisterhood. I did not know the romantic lives of these students, nor did I know about their sexual experiences. But that did not matter. We were somehow all knit together and could relate to one or many of the monologues performed. The words that we were giving life to were spoken by women who actually lived these experiences. Being an audience of women, no matter what we had been through and no matter what we still would go through, many of the themes rang true to each of us: feelings of oppression, pressures to fit into a certain mold, heartache, joy, trials, forgiveness, and love.
So what is the initiative behind the Vagina Monologues? The Vagina Monologues were compiled and written by Eve Ensler, an activist, a performer, a Tony Award winning playwright, one of the Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women” and one of Newsweeks’s “150 Women Who Changed the World.” After performing the Vagina Monologues, Ensler was inspired to create V-day, an international movement designated towards stopping violence against women and girls. One of the main ways that the money and awareness is raised in regards to this issue is the production of the Vagina Monologues, the play that I took part in at Bryn Mawr College. Though that is probably the most commonly thought of V-Day event, there are many other ways to celebrate and honor V-Day. Screenings of the 2004 documentary “Until the Violence Stops,” readings of “A Memory, Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer,” marches, community briefings, leadership summits, and media campaigns have become very popular in the last few years.
In addition to touching on overarching themes of violence against women, V-Day also highlights a particular group of women each year. The idea behind this featuring is to raise awareness of a particular group of women that experiences an especially brutal/unfair type of violence. Furthermore, much of the money raised on V-Day is donated towards ending violence against the highlighted group. In 2007, the spotlight campaign was “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to the Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Another great thing that the V-Day initiative does is that it collaborates with local activists to provide safe houses for women and children who are at risk of being affected by violence. These safe houses not only provide protection, but they are also created to help transform the lives of the girls and women so that they can move beyond the violence that they have faced. In Kenya there are two safe houses – one in Narok and one in Sakutiek. These two safe houses specialize in helping girls who have run away from home so as to avoid FGM. The girls are provided with schooling while their parents and community members are informed of the harms of early child marriage and FGM along with the benefits of girls’ education. Other safe houses specialize in taking care of women and girls who have been victims of other sorts of violence, depending on the area’s specific needs. These safe houses can be found in several countries across the globe, protecting the victims and educating the general public.
What will you do this V-Day? I will be attending a production of the Vagina Monologues at Georgetown University where my younger sister will be performing. For her and for me, the month of February now means a lot more. What about you?
Sarajane Rodgers completed her undergraduate education at Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college, where she became aware of many injustices that girls and women suffer from around the globe. Since then she received her MSc in Psychological Science from the University of Limerick.
28 Too Many researches FGM and campaigns to end the practice in the 28 African countries where it is practised and across the global diaspora. You can support our work by donating to fund our research and keep up to date with our progress by liking our page on Facebook and following us on Twitter.
About Eve. 2012 http://www.eveensler.org/about-eve/
The Campaign. Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource. http://www.stoprapeindrc.org/index_21.html
V-Day Safe Houses. VDAY. 2014. http://www.vday.org/our-work/awards-assistance/safe-houses.html#.VN2MKXQo7qB