Victory and Valentines


The first performance of “The Vagina Monologues” was given by its author, Eve Ensler, almost thirteen years ago in the HERE Arts Center in New York City. At that time, the “Monologues” was just another play in just another theater. Since then, it has become a phenomenon, with performances given in over 120 countries worldwide.

However, Ensler didn’t start out with a plan to create such a wide-ranging movement.

Before writing the “Monologues,” Ensler interviewed over 200 women and listened to stories which spanned the spectrum of incredibly happy to incredibly violent.

“She didn’t write the play to create a movement; she wrote it to give a voice to women’s stories she’d been told,” said Cecilia Lipworth, managing director of campaigns and development for VDay, a movement dedicated to raising awareness about violence against women and children around the globe.

The “Monologues” has since become a cornerstone for VDay, which Ensler founded in 1998.

“(Ensler) had been performing the play around the world, and everywhere she went, women would come back to her dressing room after the show, but instead of telling her about great sex or beautiful things about their vaginas, they spoke about rape, incest, stories of violence against them,” Lipworth said. “She couldn’t take all the stories she was hearing, so she used the play to raise awareness about the issue and how prevalent violence was in the world.”

Every year, VDay focuses on one aspect of violence in an attempt to help raise awareness of the people who become victims. This year, the focus is on the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. Previous VDays have focused on women in conflict zones, Native American women and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year’s VDay focused on the displaced women of New Orleans. Their main event consisted of a complete transformation of the Super Dome.

“We took over for two days and we made the environment feel like a big, huge, warm vagina,” Lipworth said. “We had over 40,000 people attend . with over 1,200 women from the gulf who had left New Orleans through the horror of Katrina. Some had been in the Dome during Katrina, then they came back and we converted lounges into huge pamper stations, yoga, massage, aroma therapy, counseling, health testing, various things that we felt were needed to really make the women feel protected, supported, to feel healed. And many did.”

With a staff of 10, VDay is very much dependent on a grass roots campaign. Over the last 10 years, thousands of VDay events have been put on, which have raised and given away over $60 million to over 10,000 organizations, Lipworth said, adding that most of the events are productions of the “Monologues.”

“Each event is hosted locally and produced locally, by local women and men,” Lipworth said.

Northern has caught onto this local campaign, along with hundreds of other college campuses across the country. Senior secondary education major Ella Bartlett is co-director of the production of the “Monologues” taking place on campus, which will be donating all its proceeds to the Marquette women’s shelter. Last year’s production of the play netted $6 million.

“The proceeds from the play go to such good causes, the Marquette women’s center,” Bartlett said. “They go to programs that help fight violence against women and girls. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s still a big problem around the world.”

VDay runs from Feb. 1 through March 31. The “V” in VDay stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.