Red ribbon encircled the Diag and decorated T-shirts fluttered
in the wind while a group of students staged the V-Day Rally on
Friday afternoon.

Mira Levitan
An ensemble cast performs a piece entitled “Wear and Say” at the annual V-Day performance of The Vagina Monologues last night. The cast performed at the Power Center. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

The rally was organized to kick off the global weekend
performances of the Vagina Monologues, a play written by Eve Ensler
about women reclaiming power over their own bodies.

LSA senior Jenny Abrams, a V-Day rally organizer, said the
purpose of the rally and the play was to inform the public about
violence against women.

“We’re not just trying to raise awareness about
domestic violence, but also trends of sexual violence and body
image violence, like eating disorders, that are prevalent in
today’s society,” Abrams said.

The event drew a crowd of about 30 students despite the
blistering cold temperatures.

“I thought the rally was incredible and fun as well as
informational,” RC sophomore Samuel Blake said. “It is
so important to empower women because rape and other forms of
violence are big problems that are usually not
discussed.”

The rally featured Timothy Johnson, chair of the Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Hospital, as the
keynote speaker. He spoke about the state of global health and
brutality toward women. In particular, he mentioned female genital
mutilation, a practice that is common in parts of Africa.

He said it is important to remember that violence against women
does not always occur at the hands of men. “There are a lot
of societies that involve women against women. Mothers,
grandmothers and daughters often can act aggressively towards their
relatives,” he said.

In addition to student poetry readings and cheers like
“Barbie” and “Gender Binary,” led by a
student group called the Radical Cheerleaders, the rally also
included presentations on each of the organizers’ personal
“vagina warriors.”

“Vagina warriors are women from all over the world who are
trying to change the system and who are not afraid to be
proactive,” Abrams said. She cited Martha Graham, a founder
of the modern dance movement, as her personal “vagina
warrior.”

Abrams said the word “vagina,” which represents
women, is used in the V-Day Campaign because it is a word that
typically makes people feel uncomfortable and because it prompts
thinking and understanding.

The Diag was set up with tables of organizations representing
women’s issues.

Ashwini Hardikar, chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s
Women’s Issues Commission, said the committee felt a need to
support the struggle for violence against women.

“In addition to bringing awareness to the resources that
are available for women and (lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender) students, we want to provide a link of unity between
different communities on campus,” said Hardikar, an RC
sophomore.

Decorated T-shirts strung across one side of the Diag also added
to the rally’s atmosphere. Abrams said survivors of sexual
and domestic violence had the chance to make the T-shirts
throughout the week.

“The T-shirts are (anonymous) but they are also a loud and
strong testament to the fact that these horrible things really do
happen,” she said.

Co-sponsored by the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention
and Awareness Center, the shirts will be donated to a national
organization called The Clothesline Project.

The Vagina Monologues was produced and performed in two shows
yesterday by a group of students involved in this year’s
V-Day Campaign. The show ran for the fourth year in a row at the
Power Center.

Ninety percent of the proceeds will go to SAFE House, a domestic
violence shelter in Ann Arbor, and the Battered Women’s
Clemency Project, a group that prepares and files clemency
petitions for women who have been imprisoned for killing their
abusers.

The remaining 10 percent of the profits will be donated to Casa
Amiga, an international organization chosen by Ensler that
investigates the deaths of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico, who
have disappeared and then been found murdered days later.

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