V To The Tenth
By Eve Ensler
2008 is V-Day's ten-year anniversary -- V to the 10th-- the celebration, the call, the decision, the next step. Welcome to the next ten years where together we will raise the stakes, go further, go deeper, increase the power and CHANGE THE STORY OF WOMEN.
In the past ten years there have been so many victories: women speaking the word where it was never uttered, women standing up against local and national governments, religious forces, parents, husbands, friends, university administrators, college presidents, the voice inside them that judges and censors. College students across the world have made V-Day a radical annual event (it's been noted that there are two things on every college campus: a Starbucks and a V-Day), women reclaiming their bodies, telling the stories of their own violations, desires, victories, shame, adventures. Women finding their power, their voice, their leadership ability by becoming accidental activists, women finding each other, women standing up for women in other parts of the world, women releasing memories that have numbed their bodies and depleted their energy, women standing on stage, on edge, in reds and pinks, with New York accents, southern accents, African accents, Indian accents and British accents; speaking, screaming, whispering, laughing and moaning.
There are so many tales, so many images: a group of about 30 Comfort women between the ages of 70 and 90 chanting PUKE (vagina in Tagalog) with their fists raised (most had never said the word in their entire life), the President of Iceland declaring himself a Vagina Warrior, hundreds of girls in Kenya dancing in the African sun as the first V-Day safe house was opening and their clitoris would not be cut, a Catholic girls school in Cap Haitian overflowing with more than 500 people, packed with men screaming back to the performers, an armed sirened motorcade in Port au Prince, Haiti traveling through the streets, with Stop Violence Against Women signs on all our cars, nurses at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC reading The Vagina Monologues, performing Congolese orgasms on a roof top, women in Islamabad, Pakistan dressed in red Shalwar Kamiz and Saris, performing for their sisters who were there from Afghanistan-everyone laughing and weeping, thousands in the streets of Ciudad, Juarez coming from every direction, from all over the world, standing up at the V-Day march to stop the murders and mutilation of women, Mary Alice (brilliant New York actor) taking down the Apollo in Harlem with her moans at the first V-Day celebrating African American, Asian and Latina women and girls, a 14 hours bus ride to Himachal Pradesh in India to open a sanctuary for women, the mayor of Italy opening the Rome V-Day Summit, a walk through a 7 foot vagina in the lobby of the San Francisco V-Day, My Vagina was My Village, the monologue about a raped Bosnian woman being performed at the UN, at Madison Square Garden, in Bosnia by college students who were there during the war, at the Royal Albert Hall, in Johannesburg, Macedonia, Athens, a seven-language performance of the monologues in Brussels, during the V-Day European Summit, the word vagina standing out, the only English word in an Arabic article written in the Beirut Times, red feathers being handed out at the Indian Country production of the play in Sioux Falls or Rapid City, learning to sign clitoris in a performance by deaf women in Washington DC, vagina lollipops, buttons, puppets, quilts, panties, posters, votes attitudes and style.
So much has happened. So much has changed. We can point to places where violence has been reduced or has been stopped altogether or where the consciousness has most clearly shifted. We have had huge victories.
Then of course there is the opposite. The world is still profoundly unsafe for women. Violence escalates. War abounds.
In the last year, during V-Day's Spotlight on Women in Conflict Zones, I traveled to Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I visited women in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. I met with our V-Day sisters from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
In Haiti I found rape, a tool used in the war, now essentially normalized, now rampant--so much so that hundreds of women report rapes each and every month.
In the DRC, I heard the stories of atrocities towards women- sexual torture and raping of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, heinous and soul cracking.
Throughout North America and Europe, the story of women still raped in colleges, beaten in their homes, trafficked and sold in the streets.
In Iraq, the destruction of women's rights since the U.S. invasion, a rise in honor killings, rapes and murders of women.
In Afghanistan, war lords, former rapists and murderers in power, the Taliban coming back, girls afraid to go to school, women teachers murdered, outspoken women in parliament threatened and censored.
In Egypt and throughout Africa, still women are genitally cut-nearly 2 million a year.
We have broken through many barriers, we have changed the landscape of the dialogue, we have reclaimed our stories and our voice, but we have not yet unraveled or deconstructed the inherent cultural underpinnings and causes of violence. We have not penetrated the mindset that somewhere in every single culture gives permission to violence, expects violence, waits for violence, and instigates violence. We have not stopped teaching boys to deny being afraid, doubtful, needy, sorrowful, vulnerable, open, tender and compassionate.
We have not yet elected or become leaders who refuse violence as a possible intervention, who make ending violence the center of everything rather than amassing more weapons and proving how macho and unbending they can be. As Paul Hawken has noted in Blessed Unrest, his brilliant and inspiring new book: "Our largest export after food is weaponry, sent to governments with repressive regimes. Governments who destroy indigenous cultures to pay debts incurred by weapons purchase. Violence, the manufacturing of violence is at the core of u.s. economy, core of our soul." We have not elected or become leaders who understand that you cannot say you believe in protecting women and children and than support bombing Iraq. Exactly whose children do you believe in protecting? We have not yet elected or become leaders who understand that the same mechanisms of occupation, domination and invasion on a international level influence and role model what happens in the home, on a domestic level. We have not elected or become leaders who are brave enough to make ending violence against women the central issue of our campaign or office.
If we are going to end violence against women, the whole story has to change. We have to look at shame and humiliation and poverty and racism and what building an empire on the back of the world does to the people who are bent over. We have to say what happens to women matters to everyone and it matters A LOT.
Even raising money to stop violence against women can make it some thing other, something separate from the human condition, from every moment of our daily lives. It creates a strange fragmentation and an even more bizarre fiction. We concretize what is abstract and integral because we need to raise money and people feel better writing checks. And so we have constructed an anti-violence movement that has built shelters and hot lines and places for women to run to be safe. And although these places are crucial, they keep the focus on things or places rather than the issue, on rescue rather than transformation. It is the culture that has to change--the beliefs, the underlying story and behavior of the culture.
I have said from the beginning that ending violence against women cannot be the thing we get to later. Yet we are still, all these years later fighting for crumbs--morally, politically, financially. V-Day now raises more money than any group in the world to stop violence against women. This is not good news. In one year we raise 4 to 6 million dollars. That is the cost of 10 minutes of the war in Iraq. One out of three women on the planet will be beaten or raped. You do the math.
Ending violence against women is actually about being willing to struggle to be a different kind of human being. It means not accepting force as a method of coercion and oppression. Ending violence against women means opening to the great power of women, the mystery of women, the heart of women, the wild unending sexuality and creativity of women, and not being afraid.
On April 12, 2008, V-Day will stage a once in a lifetime event - V TO THE TENTH - featuring international performances of The Vagina Monologues, musical guests, V-Day activists from across the globe, including Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eastern Europe, men standing up for women and much more.
Calpernia Addams, Glenn Close, Rosario Dawson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Hudson, Julia Stiles, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, Oprah Winfrey and musicians Peter Buffett, Eve, Toni Childs, Common, Charmaine Neville, and Joss Stone have already signed on.
The evening will open minds and hearts and raise much needed attention and funds for groups working to end violence against women and girls around the world, and in New Orleans and the Gulf South.
In addition, over the weekend, Friday - Saturday, April 11 -12, the Superdome will be transformed into SUPERLOVE. Activities will strengthen the V-Day model of empowerment by linking art and activism; building bridges across class, nationality and racial divides; and providing a center of caring, learning and healing for the local community. During the two days V-Day will reclaim the dome, transforming it into a place of empowerment and action.
Special wellness programs are being planned for the women of the Gulf South free of charge throughout the two days. The space will feature events and programming - OPEN TO ALL - with international and local speakers (Carole Bebelle Rosario Dawson, Jane Fonda, Dr. Denis Mukwege, Suze Orman, NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn, Rha Goddess, Kerry Washington and more), spoken word and performances, art installations, and more. V-Day activists from around the world can meet at the Superdome to network and connect with each other, and the women of the Gulf South.
What happened in New Orleans and the Gulf South after the flood and storm represents the challenges that women face worldwide- violence, global warming, racism, lack of healthcare and education, financial insecurity, and the failure of local and national governments. All these are pieces of the story of violence that continues to impact women in the United States and around the world.
V to the Tenth is a celebration, it is the call, the decision, the next step. Join Us!
For more on V-Day and V to the Tenth visit www.vday.org.***
Related links: From Superdome to SUPERLOVE—V-Day at 10 by Marianne Schnall
Other V-Day Features at Feminist.com:Action Alert: This Just In from Kenya Action Alert: End Sexual Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo V-Day/Feminist.com Anti-Violence Resource Guide
Other Eve Ensler writings at Feminist.com: Interview with Eve EnslerExcerpt from Insecure at LastExcerpt from The Good Body The Real Meaning of Security
About V-Day: V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play The Vagina Monologues. In 2007, more than 3000 V-Day events took place in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $50 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 5000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. http://www.vday.org