Happy Vagina Day
ABC News – by Jackie Cooperman – February 12th 1998
Stars raise funds to stop violence against women
The lights will rise on a New York stage this Valentine's Day, and Winona Ryder, Glenn Close, Calista Flockhart, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rosie Perez will talk about vaginas.
The actresses are joining other famous Hollywood women in a fund-raising performance of The Vagina Monologues, an Obie Award-winning play based on interviews with hundreds of women discussing their bodies.
"It's long overdue because Hollywood has been using women's bodies nude, endangered, stabbed—since time immemorial, but it's been the men behind the screen who have controlled those bodies," said feminist Gloria Steinem, who is also participating in the performance. "So it's great to see women in that business saying, 'I'm going to control the imagery and celebrate my own body.'"
All proceeds will go to organizations combating violence against women, and the effort is filling a desperate need, said the playwright, Eve Ensler. "We're doing this project because after traveling for three years with The Vagina Monologues, it became increasingly apparent to me the ways women were being abused," Ensler said, taking a rare break from rehearsals. "It seemed catastrophic and epidemic. It's out of control and it occurred to me there might be a way to use the monologues and to help people without being didactic ... and I thought V-Day [Vagina Day] could really celebrate women and end violence."
The event is a hot ticket in New York, with seats for the evening at the Hammerstein Ballroom Theater selling for $100 to $1000.
Women Use Web for Help
The organizations receiving the money include: Casa, Equality Now, the Los Angeles Commission on Assault Against Women, Sanctuary, and Feminist.com, a two-year-old Web site that provides resources for women who have been abused. Feminist.com founder Marianne Schnall said that her site receives hundreds of e-mail messages from women reaching out for help.
"It has been one year, four months, and four days since I learned that life is not all that it is to be, that you cannot trust and cannot take for granted that you are always protected because you are not always protected," a woman named Missy wrote in a harrowing e-mail message to Schnall's site.
"My assault took place at a friend's home, a friend that I trusted very much. Her boyfriend and his friend thought it would be a great idea to put something into our drinks, and so they did. I was paralyzed as they one at a time assaulted me. I could not cry or scream or move," Missy said, adding, "I just received a call from yet another friend who simply told me it was all set up. My friend knew that they were going to do this, and now I am back at the beginning again."
V-Day Reaches the Millennium
That kind of trauma is all too familiar, said Ensler, who was herself sexually abused as a child.
"It took me years to survive it. One of the reasons I'm doing this work is because I don't think women should be spending our lives getting over terrible things, recovering and surviving," Ensler said. "We should spend our lives thriving and creating and moving on and producing — talking and working and having great sex."
In that exuberant spirit, Ensler and her star-studded cast say they will expand V-Day, working to make it an international event. "In the year 2000, we're going to have V-Day 2000, and we want there to be V-Days all over the world to end rape, to end incest, to end battery, and to end genital mutilation," Ensler said. "V-Day is here until the violence ends."
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