The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, is a popular conversation topic in February.It is a production that has sparked a larger movement: Vday. Every year, February 14 is V-Day, a day marked to end violence against women, and thousands of productions take place across the world. All proceeds benefit local sexual assault services and community organizations.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Eve Ensler has had her share of controversy and fame. She is a well-known playwright who focuses on human rights and feminism on the global stage. The Vagina Monologues, the biggest boom in her canon, catapulted her and V-day into the global spotlight as she coaxed hundreds of women to talk about their Vaginas and then turned it into a play based off of their testimony. As one can imagine, the play is not just about the anatomical gift of Vaginas, but about sexuality, relationships, violence, Self, and wonder. The VMs also intermittingly spotlights an area of the world where Ensler eyes a particularly troubling trend of violence toward womyn. Past spotlights have been on Juarez, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Ten years have past since the first VM production and thousands of performances and millions of donated dollars later, it still raises as many eyebrows and questions as it does money.
The Filipina Women's Network is producing a Filipina version of the Vagina Monologues in New York City in April. The show is intended to channel attention to the Filipina community which suffers from domestic and sexual violence through marriages (according to the Philippine government census, 9 out of 10 women who are battered also experience marital rape), relationships, global sex trafficking, and the perpetuating of the docile, sex toy image that is seemingly branded to the term 'filipina.' (More about challenging this image in future posts.)
While there is so much empowerment surrounding this particular movement, it's also interesting to note its criticisms and concerns. Every year, this time of year, I think of the VMs and contemplate its power, imperfections, and purpose. I have participated in the Vagina Monologues twice; once to perform, the second as a director. However, with more time and more Vdays to observe, I am once again brought to that unavoidable question that every activist, every feminist, every anti-violence human being must ask: What must be done to transform a rape culture to end violence against women?
I'm not just talking about Filipinas. I'm talking about everyBODY. I'm talking about the New York womyn, to transfolks in Cambodia, to little girls in Argentina, to the womyn of New Orleans. I'm talking everyBODY. What needs to happen? My answer comes from one of the questions that Eve Ensler asked every women interviewed for the Vagina Monologues, "If your vagina could speak, what would it say?"
Mine would say, "Considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes come from men assaulting womyn, considering that womyn can do everything to in the name of prevention, education, and defense, considering that despite all these efforts to not live in fear and our resolve to live in a mentality of freedom...considering all these things, still today, nothing will stop my sisters from being raped except the men who rape them and the culture that feeds them."
My largest criticism of the Vagina Monologues, in regard to its efforts to end violence against women, is it fails to ask the bleeding question of how MEN will stop the violence against womyn. (While I do want to acknowledge same sex violence and assault, the primary assaults are men violating womyn.) Why is it ALWAYS the Vagina Monologues and not the Vagina and Penis Dialogues Against Violence?
I remain convinced that this global culture does more than permit the rape of womyn, it blankets the cries of incest and sexual violence in every corner of every country with its own politics, corruption, and silence. Cue: Eve Ensler and Vday come marching in the door to trumpet its resolve to END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN VIA VDAY! Solidarity with womyn in other countries have led to media profiling international activists as saviors instead of recognizing local antidotes.
The truth is that no one can walk through the doors of Juarez and transform its community except the womyn and men and children of Juarez. No one will effectively teach any community from the outside of what needs to heal on the inside. Every community needs resources, models, and hope, but as activists, we must, MUST, end the notion that solidarity across the globe for womyn alone will heal this epidemic. (Prepare yourself for the following.) We need - gasp - men! We need everyone if we are to truly rid ourselves of this disease that we routinely baste ourselves in when we forge alliances across oceans but stamp a V on our foreheads and then holler at the stars when only a handful of men join the movement.
Violence against women must (m)en/d.
And so I ask, "What would your vagina or penis say if it could talk?"