February is known for Valentine’s Day, where people across the globe proclaim their love with flowers and chocolate. Even before the Feb. 14, there is another V-Day that many celebrate — it’s a day dedicated to vaginas.
V-Day is a “global activist movement” to end violence against women of all ages, according to their website. By promoting creative events, V-Day is increasing awareness and promoting anti-violence organizations that fight to stop rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery.
Through V-Day campaigns, college students around the world produce and dramatically perform readings called the Vagina Monologues. Written by playwright and activist Eve Ensler in 1994, the Vagina Monologues is a compilation of dozens of interviews conducted by Ensler. Through her play, a new conversation has been started with women of all types about their bodies, their rights and their survival.
“Eve Ensler interviewed women about their bodies, their vaginas and their own sexual experiences,” said Reem Barakat, co-director of this year’s event. “She got women to start talking about the issues that worried them and this was the beginning of a global movement to end the violence.”
This year’s Vagina Monologues cast consists of 16 women who have volunteered their time to put on the performances. The event is presented by the UT Counseling Center, the Sexual Assault Education & Prevention Program and UT Feminist Alliance.
“This play brings awareness to issues that are still considered taboo,” said Lily Ostrander, co-director of this year’s Vagina Monologues. “However, the issues presented in the play won’t go away by themselves. They have to be discussed and brought to the public’s awareness. To the V-day cast, if bringing awareness means yelling vagina at the top of our lungs, we are not afraid to do what it takes.”
Ostrander, a second-year pharmacy major with a minor in women’s and gender studies, believes people gain inspiration and motivation from the performance to help spread awareness.
“I think people realize that the play has funny moments, sad moments, is easy to relate to and is all around an important reminder that there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong about the female body,” Ostrander said.
The Vagina Monologues brings the realities of violence and social stigmas about race to light, said Barakat, a fourth-year majoring in the visual arts.
“This community event not only serves as an educational piece on the issues women face, but aims to create a sense of solidarity amongst our campus and community and to encourage a sense of empowerment,” Barakat said. “We want the audience to take away an understanding of the importance of talking about the difficult things, because once we begin to talk we can begin to change.”
Proceeds from this year’s performances will be donated to Northwest Ohio’s YWCA Hope Rape Crisis Center. Tickets must be purchased at the door. Prices are $5 for students and $10 for general admission. The first performance will be on Friday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. and the Saturday, Feb. 13 show will begin at noon.
An hour before the performances, a resource fair will be held by organizations that empower women in the Toledo area, including Khroma Magazine, UT Feminist Alliance, Spectrum UT and Women of Toledo.
Former Vagina Monologues director and UT alum Alcy Barakat will be representing Women of the Toledo in the resource fair before the performance.
“The monologues are so important to me because of the voice they give to women experiencing different joys, sorrows, frustrations and atrocities,” Alcy Barakat said. “So many people around me have been affected by sexual violence and I am keenly aware of the fact that it could happen to anyone.”
Alcy Barakat said she’s always been passionate about the monologues and they feel like a part of her. She believes in the importance of bringing the show to the UT community.
“Everyone should attend because they are either a woman who was touched by any of the subject matter, or they have a woman in their life that they can support through their attendance as an act of solidarity,” Alcy Barakat said.
“It’s a beautiful experience that I enjoy being a part of year after year, even as I venture out as an alum and community member.”