Valentine… violence… victory… vagina?

Jeff Christoff

Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, encourages women to be proud of their sexuality. The play will take place March 4 and 5 at 7

Cunt. Prostitute. Whore. What do these words have in common?Although they originally had meanings respectful to women, they now have derogatory meanings that degrade women.

V-Day is a national and international movement that Eve Ensler founded to end violence against women. Its primary goal is to increase awareness of violence against women both in the local community and around the world.

“It’s so easy, especially living here, to just ignore the really awful things that happen to women,” said V-Day secretary Sarah Leet. “We can’t allow men and women to continually ignore that.”

Ensler developed the monologues as she interviewed women of different ages, races, and economic backgrounds; the monologues are a compilation of some of these stories.

“If you are a woman, or if you know someone who is a woman, you will be interested to find out the different experiences women have had across the U.S. and the world,” Leet explained.

The show can cause the audience to respond emotionally. “Almost every woman who comes to the monologues will recognize a part of herself,” Leet said. “It’s a very hard but wonderful experience to have that light in your eyes.”

It can also be striking to find out just how prevalent violence against women is. During last year’s production, audience members were asked to stand if they had been abused or if they knew someone who had been abused. “Almost every audience member stood,” Leet recalled.

There have been a few changes to the script for this year’s performance. For one, there is a completely new monologue on violence against Native American women.

At the end of the show, there are two group monologues–one with the male actors and one with the female actors–that were written by the cast members. The male monologue is about what men can do to help the cause, while the women imagine what the world will be like when the violence has ended.

Last year, the Vagina Monologues performances raised over $3000, which V-Day donated to the Fox Cities Rape Crisis Center.

All of the money raised from ticket sales this year will be donated to three causes: the majority will go to the Crisis Center, with other portions going to Grassroots Movements to End Female Genital Mutilation and the fight to end violence among Native American women.

It is important to note that V-Day has a number of activities planned throughout the year in addition to the Monologues.

In the spring, they will conduct empowerment workshops for middle and high school age girls. Also, they will celebrate International Women’s Day by handing out flowers on campus. The group has done a lot of fundraising work as well.

The LU chapter of V-Day is just one of many at colleges across the United States. V-Day is also active as a grassroots organization in other countries, although Leet was quick to emphasize that it was, indeed, grassroots: “[In foreign countries], it’s not Americans doing it the American way. V-Day merely provides information and resources, and women and men work to create change from within the other cultures.”

Tickets for the Monologues are $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens, and they can be purchased at the Information Desk in the Memorial Union or by calling V-Day president Kass Kuehl (731-6402).

There will be a reception after each show with information on the charities receiving the money, an explanation of what V-Day is, and copies of Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and Fauziya Kassindja and Layli Miller Bashir’s Do They Hear You When You Cry available for purchase.

In anticipation of the Monologues performances, there will also be a rally today. The group will meet in the Ormsby lobby at 4 p.m., and then walk to the intersection of Richmond and College.

V-Day meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Main Hall 201.

To increase awareness and raise money, V-Day will present Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues on March 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.