Eve Ensler and the V-Day Story

When Eve Ensler first conceived of The Vagina Monologues, she had no idea it would evolve into a worldwide movement. Her original 1997 script was written because she was "worried about vaginas" – worried about how they were neglected, taunted, misunderstood, abused, demonized, mutilated, scorned, and called names, a panoply of names ranging from indistinct genteelisms to the pointedly degrading.

Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues based on hundreds of interviews she conducted, first in New York and later around the world. While only a few of the monologues address sexual abuse and exploitation, these are the ones that elicited the strongest response, making women seek Ensler after her performance to thank her for voicing their experience and bringing attention to the larger issue of violence against women. Ensler quickly realized that for all those who came forward, there were more who did not and still more whose voices were gone forever. The weight of that knowledge and knowing that she was in a unique position to effect change was overwhelming. Instead of retreating from the enormity of the situation, she broadened the mantle. In 1998 she joined forces with Feminist.com, another organization concerned with violence against women, and launched the V-Day Committee. The committee produced the first fundraising performance of The Vagina Monologues, featuring Jane Fonda, Rosie Perez, and Glenn Close, among others. The event was an enormous success. In 1999, the committee launched the V-Day College Initiative to encourage performances on college campuses. Soon, performances were occurring beyond campuses, some with professional actresses, most with enthusiastic amateurs. Funds raised at these local performances are recycled to area organizations working to end violence against women. This year's performance of Los Monólogos de la Vagina will support Arte Sana (Art Heals) and SafePlace, which offers shelter and support services for battered and abused women, children, and men.

In fewer than 10 years, The Vagina Monologues has became the organizing force behind the V-Day movement Ñ the "V" standing for vagina, victory, Valentine's Day, and this year, evoking the two-fingered gesture for peace. Today, in addition to providing guidance on how to mount local productions of The Vagina Monologues, the V-Day organization supports initiatives that work to end exploitation and violence against women and children in all corners of the world. This year's V-Day productions – performed every February on or around Valentine's Day – have reclaiming peace as their banner statement. Because rape and other forms of sexual exploitation intensify during wartime, this year's imperative is especially urgent.

For more info on the history of V-Day and its worldwide initiatives, visit www.vday.org.

  • More of the Story

  • Warrior Voices

    With a Spanish-language production of The Vagina Monologues, Austin Latinas are making themselves heard

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