By Maggie Pool
Trigger warning: mentions of sexual abuse.
In 2006, New York Times writer Charles Isherwood proclaimed The Vagina Monologues to be “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” What are these monologues you ask? The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler based off a interviews she did with two hundred women about their experiences involving sex, relationships, and the violence they may have experienced during those interactions.
Eve Ensler was born in New York City in 1953 to a Jewish father and Christian mother and is the middle child out of two brothers. From the time she was five to ten, Ensler’s father physically and sexually abused her. Ensler reflected back on how she felt in this time of her life: “very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn’t fit anywhere.” Ensler attended Mitterbury College in Vermont, and her experiences forged her loyalty to feminist ideals, but her encounters with gender-based violence continued. She graduated and unfortunately was abused in several different relationships, which led to dependency on drugs and alcohol. Ensler eventually went to rehab and no doubt was inspired by all these previous events to create her most known work, The Vagina Monologues.
When the play premiered in 1996, many women would linger after each showing to unload the weight of their own experiences that had been choking them into silence for years. As if struck by lightning, Ensler realized what she created wasn’t just a play of entertainment, but a movement that masses of mistreated women felt deep in their hearts, something that rang a bell and called for action.
The V-Day movement was born on Valentine’s Day in 1998, when Ensler held the first V-Day event: a benefit concert that raised $250,000 in one evening. And that was just the beginning. The official V-Day website puts it well: “What began as one event in New York City in 1998 today includes over 5,800 V-Day events annually.” What is the overall mission of the V-Day movement that people are so inspired to be a part of? It’s a simple one. It’s a demand that violence against women must end. V-Day tackles gender-based violence by having groups around the world put on a performance of The Vagina Monologues (and other V-Day related works). These performances work to raise awareness, and all the proceeds collected during the event are donated to projects or programs that also have the goal of ending violence against women and girls.
The Vagina Monologues has won over twenty different awards and recognitions, but, of course, it is more than just an award-winning play. It is a movement that will undeniably continue to spread like wildfire as the world becomes more aware of gender-based violence. Women and girls, every year, walk an Earth in which they are taught to fear their gender. The lessons of V-Day inspire others to free these innocent women from the abuse of gender-based violence. Hopefully, one day, we can all exist in harmony and respect everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they identify.