When it comes to celebrating Valentine’s Day, we seek to spend it with those we love and shower them with all the accoutrements a Hallmark Valentine’s can bestow. What about spending Valentine’s Day in a non-commercial way? What if you could honor the women in your life by participating in something that seeks to support and empower them? What if you spent this Valentine’s Day learning how to appreciate yourself?
VDay.org’s world presentation of Eve Ensler’s, The Vagina Monologues, offers that type of selfless holiday.
While most of us have heard of this play and while 52% of us actually have a vagina, the reality is that most people consider the performance to be “not for them.” I was bereft to find that some of my fellow females were not comfortable with supporting a play they considered “feminist” with uncouth subject matter, and that my male colleagues feared that it would be a hostile environment for their sex, another bitch session just for women.
After participating in a production in the East Bay, the play’s morbid stereotypes couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I decided to ask the play’s volunteers, “Why The Vagina Monologues (TVM)?” It turns out that these women represent ALL types of women and shared commonalities similar to the ones who said “no thanks” to the play. And true to the play, these are their reasons for participating in their own words:
Why did you decided to be a part of TVM?
“To promote healthy dialogue about women, our bodies, and what’s happening to FAR TOO MANY of us!” (Candace, 32, Occupation: Workers’ Compensation Claims Examiner)
“[As a director] I was eager to open up the opportunity to other women. I was eager to learn more about my community…” (Jamie, 23, Occupation: Program Director for Non-Profit)
“I wanted to stretch myself…and be involved in something that was woman-focused and community-building.” (Theresa, 42, Occupation: Program Manager, Volunteer Center of the East Bay and mom to 3 wonderful kids)
“At UC Berkeley’s TVM play, we had “cunt communities” where we discussed issues like sexual violence, assault, female genital mutilation, and body issues. It was during a talk on sexual assault and its legal definitions that I realized a bad sexual encounter I had the year before was actually rape. This realization tore me apart. But since so many strong and supportive women surrounded me, I was able to go on with my life and become a stronger person. TVM helps prevent sexual violence. Because I am a survivor of sexual assault, this production is a great fit for me. It’s a creative outlet, but most importantly it attracts women like me, who have also been sexually assaulted and need a supportive community of other women.” (Christine, 23, Occupation: Social Media Blogger & Editor)
“…because sexuality is such a complex issue. The monologues address this: one third is about sexuality, another third is anatomical or physiological, and the last third is dedicated to victims of sexual assault.” (Anna: 32, Occupation: Entrepreneur, Artist, Writer, Bartender)
Who would you encourage to see TVM?
“I encourage men to see the show too, but women – this is your moment. This is your time to feel some sisterhood, to share in the spirit, to feel turned on and off by other women – to empower yourself with your sexuality, your femininity and your voice.” (Jamie, 23, Occupation: Program Director for Non-Profit)
“It takes a special man to be with a woman who is sexually secure and confident with her body. This is the perfect place for a man to gain unique perspectives into women’s sexuality.” (Anna: 32, Occupation: Entrepreneur, Artist, Writer, Bartender)
What do you want people to take away after seeing TVM?
“A woman’s vagina plays such a large, diverse role in her life – a role that is often forgotten and maligned – yet it can be a source of power and love.” (Theresa, 42, Occupation: Program Manager, Volunteer Center of the East Bay and mom to 3 wonderful kids)
“I want people to feel more comfortable with discussing women’s sexuality, to no longer see “vagina” as a dirty word. I want people to be angry. Angry that many women have to put up with this crap, angry that women make up a large majority of sexual assault victims. I want them to be motivated to make a change in their own lives and make a change in the world.” (Christine, 23, Occupation: Social Media Blogger & Editor)
“I have known several men who are victims of sexual assault. One refused to stand up at the end of TVM to acknowledge knowing/being a victim of sexual assault. The complexities involved in the sexual assault of men is a tough subject, but I’d encourage any man who has ever felt sexually violated or been victimized to stand up during the encore.” (Anna: 32, Occupation: Entrepreneur, Artist, Writer, Bartender)
“I want them to leave confused, inspired, tickled, turned on, intrigued, impassioned… because I leave that way after working with these women every night.” (Jamie, 23, Occupation: Program Director for Non-Profit)
Why is TVM important?
“..to learn that our bodies are not shameful! We should not feel the need to whisper behind closed doors about things that are universal. We are the givers of life, the bearers of the next generation. We should be treated, and treat each other, with respect and dignity.” (Candace, 32, Occupation: Workers’ Compensation Claims Examiner)
“Comfort in discussing sexuality is not only possible, but imperative to the progression of women.” (Anna: 32, Occupation: Entrepreneur, Artist, Writer, Bartender)
How does TVM benefit the community?
“Vaginas are a topic that is not often discussed, even among women, and needs to see the light of day. I would encourage anyone to see TVM, men and women, older and younger people. It opens up discussion about how women are treated in general in our society.” (Theresa, 42, Occupation: Program Manager, Volunteer Center of the East Bay and mom to 3 wonderful kids)
What have you learned from participating in VM?
“It’s a learning experience for everyone involved, whether you learn more about yourself or about what else is out there.” (Christine, 23, Occupation: Social Media Blogger & Editor)
This Valentine’s Day, come to a TVM performance to show the people in your life and your community that you care about issues that are larger then yourself and need addressing. Come to communicate that you are willing to hear their concerns and give power to their words. Attend to give strength to those who need it, find some for yourself and stand by those who already have it. With 100% of the proceeds going towards preventing violence against women and educating people on the beauty of women’s bodies, this will be a Valentine’s Day never to be forgotten. This play will share our humorous and tearful stories, our courageous and insecure moments, and our painful and wonderful journeys as women. By attending the The Vagina Monologues you will realize this performance doesn’t just benefit women, but everyone.
To find out more and get involved with VDay.org by volunteering for or setting up your own production of The Vagina Monologues, go to VDay.org for more details. V-Day is a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. To attend a local production of TVM, click here.