Today the non-profit women’s rights organization called V-Day turns 15 years old. This movement, founded by the 60-year old American playwright, feminist and actress Eve Ensler, aims at raising awareness on violence against women. Its projects are funded through benefit productions of Ensler’s award-winning play “The Vagina Monologues”, which she first staged in 1996 in New York. The monologues recount both funny and horrifying stories about vaginas, based on conversations Ensler had with many women about their sexuality.
“We have had enormous victories in these years. We have broken taboos, spoken the word ‘vagina’ in 50 languages in 140 countries, called up stories and truths about violence against women”, says Ensler in an interview in The Guardian. “But we have not fulfilled our mission to end violence against women and girls”, the activist goes on.
“If you take into account the statistic that one out of three women will experience violence in her lifetime, you are left with the staggering statistic that over one billion women on this planet will be impacted by violence. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders”, declares a press release of V-Day.
This is why V-Day is launching the “One Billion Rising” campaign on February 14th 2013 by inviting women around the world to dance against gender violence. There even is a prepared choreography anyone can learn to dance on the streets today.
Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” and campaigns such as “One Billion Rising” have as many critics as fans. Some feminists, such as Wendy McElroy or Camille Paglia, argue that Ensler, who was abused by her father when she was a child, embodies an anti-men stance and promotes victimization. In her interview in The Guardian Ensler claims that the “One Billion Rising” campaign is necessary to “break through the patriarchal wall of oppression and denial, to transform the mindset that has normalized this violence” against women. Further criticism says that Ensler has a colonialist view on “third world” women.
Still, Ensler’s V-Day has been able to collect as much as 90 million dollars to date, which are invested in projects to prevent gender violence and to protect abused women. City of Joy, a new community for women survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or community briefings on the missing and murdered women of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, are just two of hundreds of successful projects.
Will the “One Billion Rising” dance end violence against women? That would surely be a miracle, considering that gender-based violence has so many forms – e. g. economical, educational, political discrimination or sexual and psychological abuse – that it would just be too simple to solve all this with a dance. Anyway, the media attention this campaign has caught makes it possible to keep gender-based violence on the public agendas. It is also a way of showing society that we all – especially by uniting – have the power to change the status quo. So – let’s dance!
Author: Josephine Landertinger Forero