Try to imagine a world without violence against women. Women’s shelters and rape crisis hotlines would no longer exist. The one out of four college women with devastating assault stories would have other stories. With such images in mind, playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler not only believes an end to violence against women is possible, but she works daily with her organization, V-Day, to achieve this goal.
“I can’t think of a place I would rather be on V-Day than here,” Ensler said to a packed crowd at the Chemistry Building Friday afternoon. “I’m in total awe of the women and vagina-loving men on this campus.”
The V in V-Day name stands for valentine, violence and vagina. Ensler’s speech at the University coincided not only with V-Day and the campus production of her play “The Vagina Monologues,” but also with the Midwest premiere of “Necessary Targets,” her most recent play, at Ann Arbor’s Performance Network.
“You’re part of a world-wide movement,” Ensler said. V-Day was celebrated Friday in 1,053 cities around the world last Friday and including more than 660 college campuses. This year’s V-Day spotlight is on Native American women – sexual violence against Native American women is three and a half times more prevalent than that against other American women, she added.
The purpose of Ensler’s organization is to stop rape, incest, sex slavery, genital mutilation and other forms of violence against women, as well as to raise awareness about such violence. At a young age, Ensler herself was repeatedly assaulted and molested by her father.
“My entire life was shaped by violence,” Ensler said. “I had never become anything other than a reaction to what had happened to me. My own relationship with my vagina was very dissociated.”
Ensler began the V-Day movement and wrote “The Vagina Monologues” to make women aware their vaginas belong to themselves. She also criticized current practices females use to enhance their looks, including liposuction and leg waxing.
“If every woman in this room were living in their full power, we’d be living in another world,” Ensler said. “Practices (of beauty) are so time-consuming, it’s clear why we’re not running the world.
Ensler calls her world of women and “vagina-loving men” V-World, a world that is “creative, sexy, delicious and fabulous.”
Ensler’s speech combined humor, sadness and practicality but her overwhelming message focused on the empowerment of women.
“V-Day only happens because women bring it to their inner communities. We do not impose,” Ensler said.
In addition to speaking about her own projects, Ensler spoke in opposition of President Bush’s campaign against Iraq.
“We’re on the verge of doing the most suicidal thing we can do, which is bomb Iraq,” Ensler said. “The most radical thing you can do is not be afraid of these testosterone-driven warriors.”
Megan Shuchman, University V-Day co-executive producer and RC sophomore, said she was excited about Ensler’s visit.
“She’s doing the epitome of what I want to be doing – worldwide feminist activism,” Shuchman said. “(Violence against women) is an issue that’s so large it seems like we won’t even tackle it. If you allow yourself to believe it could happen, it will.”