When people think of Valentine’s Day, it’s usually one of two extremes: either utter pain and disgust over a commercialized holiday or love for everything gooey and romantic especially those cute little chocolates. While I consider myself to be of both minds depending on the year, I feel like it is a mostly a day that can mean absolutely nothing or something incredible. It really just depends on your preference.
But something I feel very passionate is the sharing of a different kind of V-Day. For me, V-Day doesn’t just stand for Valentine’s Day. It stands for female empowerment, gender inclusiveness, and most importantly vagina.
V-Day is an organization that was started to promote the wellness and support of women, particularly those who have experienced rape or violence. It was founded by playwright Eve Ensler after she wrote her acclaimed play, "The Vagina Monologues." The play is a series of monologues that Ensler crafted based on real-life interviews she conducted with women asking them about their personal lives, sexuality, and of course vaginas.
The play has been very notable in being able to serve as a positive catharsis for women to express their feelings, particularly with sexuality. The monologues are often humorous or sad, but at heart vulnerable and needing to be heard.
The play was written and premiered in 1996 and as such, its content has now been criticized in how our definition of 'female' has expanded. Being female now doesn’t isn't classified or restrained to one who has a vagina. It is not meant to include those who do identify as transgender, non-gender binary, or do not label themselves to a gender at all.
As is the case, "The Vagina Monologues" has taken on new meaning over time. This idea has been implemented especially with college campuses as these productions are notable for being executed around the time of Valentine’s Day to mark their own V-Day. College productions around the nation now include personal monologues by students to reflect their own diverse experiences. This addition of new monologues as well as editing of monologues to be more gender inclusive makes the work reflective and accepting for everyone today.
Performances of "The Vagina Monologues" are also mounted along with charities or student organizations sponsoring and providing awareness to topics of sexual violence and awareness. Not only the content, but the supporting material and resources that go hand in hand are part of what makes this day (and work) so important.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you, the work speaks for itself. Still today in 2017, it has an air of timelessness. It is still able to provide a refuge for women of all sexual orientations, gender, and race to come together as one.
I was reminded of this when I attended my college’s production of "The Vagina Monologues" this past Friday. Seeing how the play questioned and pushed the societal issues that are always plaguing us like rape, mental illness, and repressed sexuality were important to witness. It provided an unloading of grief, pain, and fear.
But at the same time, it was also a space of celebration where everyone was allowed to feel empowerment from being however they wanted to. Nowadays especially with our political strife and as we are coming more into an age where it’s ridiculous that we’re still combatting gender inequality, it is important not to take a play like this and the organization that has sprung from it for granted.
We need to be advocating for more art and places for women to express both feelings of silliness and seriousness, but all accepted of validation. The more opportunities women have to tell and own their experiences is the least we can afford after continued years of oppression, violence, and injustice.
So during this time of year if you’re sad about not having a date this year or sick of commercialized holidays, sink your teeth into something more fruitful. Learn about the importance of V-Day, how to embody this spirit all year-round, and do your best to make femaleness something to be embraced like a valentine.
For more information about V-Day, go to http://www.vday.org/. And if a campus or local theater company is doing The Vagina Monologues, go support your badass female artists!