In 1999, a small group of women began a project called the V-Day College Initiative: Until the Violence Stops. Their goal was to eradicate violence against women by shedding light on the issue. They also hoped to raise money to benefit grassroots organizations working to stop violence or help women recover from it. To begin the project the women invited colleges and universities around the world to perform “The Vagina Monologues” on or around Valentine’s Day.

“The Vagina Monologues,” which began as an Off-Broadway play written and performed by Eve Ensler, tells the many stories of various women she interviewed regarding their experiences with their sexualities, specifically their vaginas. The monologues include women from a variety of religions, sexualities, backgrounds, countries, regions and races.

The V-Day Campaign centers around “The Vagina Monologues” not only to raise awareness, but also to remove some of the stigma surrounding female sexuality. This year, Ms. Magazine wrote “Eve Ensler made vagina a household word,” and that alone should be reason to celebrate.

But the V-Day Campaign is so much more than just “The Vagina Monologues.” Over the years, the campaign has raised millions of dollars toward ending violence against women, as well as providing countless women with something they have never had before – hope. This year “The Vagina Monologues” will be performed in 27 different countries as part of the V-Day College Initiative and will be performed here at UR on 8 Friday, March 3 at 8 p.m. in Strong Auditorium.

Ninety percent of all proceeds from the performances go to local organizations chosen by the performing group, while the remaining 10 percent goes towards a group or goal the V-Day Initiative chose.

This year, the V-Day Campaign Spotlight is on “Comfort Women,” a group of women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government during World War II. After waiting 61 years, these women are demanding that the Japanese government apologize.

However, despite the success the V-Day College Initiative has already had, college administrations around the country are banning “The Vagina Monologues.” This year, the University of Notre Dame and Providence College have forbidden production of “The Vagina Monologues,” citing references of rape, orgasms and homosexuality as inappropriate material that should not be discussed.

The discussion of these topics is very important in dissolving violence against women. Similar to the V-Day mission statement, awareness is the first step toward the elimination of violence against women.

The stories told in “The Vagina Monologues” are real, and it is never acceptable to censor the truth about violence and oppression. Rape, being one of the ultimate forms of violence against women, deserves discussion. This situation will never improve if the problem is censored.

Although not a source of violence, another topic that needs to be addressed is that pertaining to female orgasms because of their correlation with gender equality. Why is it that men are allowed to have them but not women? Both sexual partners have the right to enjoy sex. Maybe portraying orgasms on stage will place women closer to the level of sexual freedom that men already enjoy.

And yes, the play includes monologues of lesbians and their sexual experiences, too. Does this mean that – provided they do not orgasm and actually enjoy it – heterosexual women are allowed to talk about their sex lives, but not lesbians? This is clearly discrimination and should not be tolerated on any college campus.

But along with censoring orgasms and homosexuality, the colleges that have banned “The Vagina Monologues” have banned the V-Day College Initiative, silencing the cry for an apology made by the “Comfort Women.” They are prohibiting an opportunity to make students, as well as community members, aware of the ongoing violence women are confronted with, as well as a chance to raise money toward eliminating the problem completely.

With last month’s publication of an American Association of University Women poll which showed that 62 percent of college students admit they have been sexually harassed at college, colleges should be joining together to stop violence against women, not ending movements dedicated to terminating it.

This and many other forms of violence against women could someday end if women across the world were allowed to join together, and the V-Day College Initiative is a great beginning.

Let’s keep the movement going, “until the violence stops.”

Nigro can be reached atjnigro@campustimes.org.



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