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The Struggle Is the Change

Tue, 06/14/2005

Dear V-activists,

Due to your efforts, energy and commitment, there were 1120 V-Days around the world, 2300 productions of The Vagina Monologues over the course of three months. There were major events from Indiana to Iceland. Millions of dollars were raised. Safe houses, battered shelters and hot lines were kept open. Thousands of women came forward to tell their experiences and break the silence. Hundreds of mothers and daughters shared their own stories with each other for the first time. Many women had their first orgasms. Vagina Warriors in communities all over the world were recognized for their courage, devotion and wisdom in working to stop violence against women. Members of Parliament, Mayors, rock stars and professional sportswomen participated in events. The first Vagina Friendly president hosted a V-Day and was publicly recognized in Iceland. Laws were changed. V-Days all over the world raised money for their sisters in Iraq to open the first Free Radio Station for Women. Women performed in red boas, fishnets, Saris, scarves, gowns, and salwar kameez. Men everywhere had dialogues with their girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and mothers that they had never had before. Transwomen were included and visible in communities where they had not spoken or felt safe before. The first men’s college, Wabash Community College had a V-Day and sold white chocolate macadamia nut cookies at their bake sale. Catholic Universities engaged in open dialogue about the issues of sexuality and violence. The movement was born in the following countries, Uganda, Ecuador, Taiwan, Uzbekistan. With the support of the European parliament, women organizers from across Europe joined forces in Brussels to organize V-Day Europe where representatives from eighteen countries (including Lithuania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy, Monaco and Serbia) took part in a 2 day workshop and attended the multi-lingual performance of The Vagina Monologues. The V-Day Secretariat opened in Cairo to move V-Day throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Clearly this was our greatest year yet. As the energy, message, and power of this V-Day revolution reaches and grows, so of course does the resistance to it. This is the indicator of its success and impact. In Uganda, the V-Day event inspired two weeks of non-stop heated dialogue in the press, the cabinet and the culture. Ultimately, the government shut down the play, but the controversy and brilliant writing, thinking and strategizing of the organizers had as much if not more impact than a full production of the show. Again, the Cardinal Newman Society attempted to ban productions, which inspired college Presidents of Catholic Universities to come forward with public letters of support. Right wing anti-feminist Christine Hoff Summers toured her attack on the movement and play only to be met with well-informed arguments and audiences filled with supporters of the movement. Our brave girl Carrie Rethlefsen wore her I [heart] my Vagina Button to her high school and got suspended in Minnesota. This story was picked up wildly in the press and became a huge tool for education, rallying support from all over the country. She organized a follow up protest event, getting students, boys and girls to wear I Heart My Vagina t-shirts to school on the same day. These actions generated much attention and discussion about the issues.

In Brussels, after the screening of our film, a woman asked if V-Day could name measurable results. She wanted to know how we determine if we are actually ending violence against women. Of course there are concrete example of change. Rapes during a major holiday festival in Iceland dropped dramatically. Sexually violent traditions in the gypsy community of Macedonia have changed. Thousands of men were involved in the production of local V-Day events around the World. We have helped open safe houses in Kenya, Egypt, The United States, and Iraq. Laws changing in the Philippines. Violence against women becoming a central issue.

And of course there is still an insane amount of violence towards women-the trafficking of young girls worldwide is epidemic, women in Iraq are barely leaving their houses due to the danger of abductions, rapes, honor killings and attacks, rape is escalating in Afghanistan and the Sudan. In Tokyo women have to ride in separate cars on the train because there is so much groping on the crowded subways, young women are still not safe at night on college campuses all over America. The list goes on and on. We have our work cut out for us.

Do not underestimate the invisible immeasurable results of our efforts. This movement has grown wildly in less than 8 years. It has spread to 76 countries, raised 30 million dollars. It has happened woman-to-woman, community-to-community. The message has been passed through laughter, tears, music, marches, mourning and moaning. It is a deep and layered energy, unfolding quickly in some places, gradually in others. As more women come into their power and voice and invite more women and men into their power and voice, that energy will be released and increased. It is waiting there. Live with the suffering in the center of your heart. Focus on the victories. The struggle is the change. - Eve Ensler, Founder/Artistic Director, V-Day