Ask a random stranger what “V-Day” is. You might get some interesting answers. Some will probably confuse it with VE-Day or VJ-Day, the days marking the end of World War II in Europe and Japan. Perhaps some will think it’s simply an abbreviation of Valentine’s Day. However, no incorrect guesses could possibly be as interesting, or as shocking, as the truth. V-Day stands for “Vagina Day” and takes place the same day as the more traditional Valentine’s Day.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of 17 universities in North Carolina hosting “The Vagina Monologues” on or around Valentine’s Day this year. Nationally, “Vagina Warriors” at over 1000 universities will participate in the unusual festivities.
Unfortunately, V-Day’s outrageous tactics make a mockery of serious issues facing women around the world. With the knowledge that “sex sells” in mind, V-Day raises money, but not respect, for women’s issues.
V-Day’s mission is laudable. It demands, “Violence against women must end.” It proclaims Valentine’s Day as V-Day until the violence stops. When all women live in safety, no longer fearing violence or the threat of violence, then V-Day will be known as Victory Over Violence Day. But, instead of action, the V-Day campaign concentrates on awareness. And instead of educating audiences about serious threats to safety, V-Day and “The Vagina Monologues” call attention to female sexuality, shun traditional values, and promote alternative lifestyles and promiscuity.
“The Vagina Monologues,” V-Day’s signature event, increases publicity, but decreases the seriousness with which we should all treat the issues of rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery. “The Vagina Monologues” is not about the cause to which it is tied; in fact, it’s exactly what the title implies: women waxing philosophical about their private parts to a paying audience. Feminists should be horrified over this sexual objectification of women, instead of embracing the play as “emancipating.”
The Vagina Monologues, written by feminist Eve Ensler, is a compendium of women’s stories of “intimacy, vulnerability, and sexual self-discovery.” Women (who represent vaginas) speak out from the stage about their experiences and preferences. The stories explore sexual fantasies, fears and experimentation. Of all the sexual encounters described in Ensler’s book and on the stage, only two involve intimacy with men. One grateful actress concludes, “I’ll never need to rely on a man.”
The tagline used for tryouts at UNC-Chapel Hill, “Want YOUR Vagina in the spotlight?” makes the point better than any of the play’s critics. The play strips away any modesty, mystery, or dignity from sexual acts, just as it severs the connection between emotional and physical love. “The Vagina Monologues” represents sexual objectification – of women, by women.
The event is sponsored by the UNC GLBTSA (the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender – Straight Alliance). The goal of the UNC GLBTSA is to “advocate and educate on issues affecting LGBTQ-identified people in the Southeastern United States and to . . . . create a community of LGBTQ folks and their allies that supports and affirms all aspects of their identities.” Perhaps they realize that “The Vagina Monologues” is better suited to their goals than to end violence against women. The play pretends to be about women’s rights; in fact it is a celebration of lesbianism.
Feminist student groups and women’s centers are sponsoring the event at 16 other universities across North Carolina. At Eastern Carolina, the event is sponsored by the Office of Victim Services and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. At UNC-Asheville, the Feminist Collective, a group dedicated to building a new feminist-friendly society, welcoming “womin and men” on campus, is producing the play. At UNC-Greensboro, the sponsor is the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, a group dedicated to applying the overworked race-class-gender lens to all types of academic study. In most cases, commitment to a feminist agenda is the common thread among the sponsors.
Those truly interested in ending violence against women have other, more serious options if they want to volunteer for the cause. Amnesty International sponsors the March Against Domestic Violence. Its efforts help victims of domestic violence in 16 countries across the globe. The National Organization for Women (NOW) sponsors annual “Take Back the Night” marches in cities and towns nationwide. The organization advocates for important new state laws — outlawing stalking, making it easier to get restraining orders and providing the funds for hotlines and shelters. These organizations, and others devoted to women’s issues, focus on the problem of violence against women and on solutions they can offer. V-Day alienates and ridicules where it should inform.
“V-Day” should treat violence against women with the gravity that it deserves. In order to end violence, rape and other crimes against women worldwide, groups should educate and act rather than entertain. UNC women who are serious about ending violence should support that cause in some other way.