In 1996, we learned that, (a), a book had been published under the title The Vagina Monologues, (b), said book began with the question “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?”, and (c), what followed were the documented, serious answers from women who sat down and actually thought about what their vagina would wear if it were getting dressed. At the time it seemed like a bad feminist joke.
Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
What started as a book of monologues about women’s experiences, or more correctly, the experience of being a woman, has transformed into V-Day, a global movement committed to the eradication of violence against women and girls. V-Day intends to achieve this goal through productions of The Vagina Monologues, as well as other activities, that raise awareness and funds for worthy organizations.
The importance of addressing the issue of violence against women cannot be underestimated. Statistically, every two and a half minutes a woman is sexually assaulted, with almost 60% of all assaults going unreported. Even more disturbing, 73% of assaults are committed by non-strangers, and younger women, ages 14–24, are the most likely to be assaulted.
Two productions of The Vagina Monologues will take place during the 2007 Toronto V-Day celebrations. Tanisha Taitt, producer of V-Day Toronto and director of this year’s Vagina Monologues, gives a glimpse of what to expect.
“This year’s production of The Vagina Monologues is all about the text. There have been productions in the past that have tried to incorporate some sort of “gimmick” with the set, costuming of the cast, etc. I made it my goal to focus entirely on the script. We have a wonderful pool of talent in the show, from professional actors to women taking the stage for the first time.”
The first will be on Saturday, March 3 at the Workman Theatre (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1001 Queen Street West). This all-ages show will be hosted by Olivia Chow, M.P., and those between 14–18 are encouraged to attend. Tickets are $19.50 and the show starts at 5 p.m. (doors at 4:15 p.m.).
The second performance will be on Sunday, March 4 at The Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne Street). Hosted by Dr. Maria Shapiro, this show is 19+ and seems like the more scandalous of the two. The Toronto V-Day site states that “ID will be checked and admission denied to those under age of 19.” Tickets are $36.50 and the show starts at 5 p.m. (doors at 4:15 p.m.).
Performers include MuchMoreMusic host Traci Melchor, Rockstar: INXS finalist Tara Slone, Degrassi: The Next Generation actor Lauren Collins, local indie music darlings Simon Wilcox, Wendy Lands and Mia Sheard, and Stargate: SG1 star Amanda Tapping.
Taitt is also putting a new spin on V-Day by holding a benefit concert called Strike a Chord…Not a Woman, which features exclusively male performers in support of the eradication of violence against women.
“Unfortunately, when we hear about violence against women, we hear about men as the perpetrators. But there is never attention paid to the fact that they are also the dads, husbands, boyfriends, brothers and best friends who would do anything to protect the women in their lives,” Taitt explains.
“I wanted to celebrate the amazing men that are out there who believe that violence against women is not only unacceptable but abhorrent. I’ve organized several benefit concerts in the past and find it a wonderful way to educate while entertaining people. We’re much more responsive to messages shared in song, or in between songs, than we are to being lectured.
“There are still guys out there who, unbelievably, think that hitting their girlfriends or wives is OK and asserts their manhood. But the exact opposite is true. All it does is display a terribly underdeveloped set of coping skills, a lack of empathy, humanity and a dreadful lack of self-respect. No one who truly has respect for himself reduces himself to savage behaviour.”
Strike a Chord…Not a Woman will take place Saturday, March 10 at the Workman Theatre and features Kevin Fox, Brian MacMillan, Jory Nash, Jonathan Seet, Royal Wood, and Matt York. Tickets cost $18.50 and the show starts at 7 p.m.
This year’s proceeds will go to the Anduhyaun Residence, a shelter for abused Native women and their children, with 10% going to the 2007 V-Day Spotlight, Women in Conflict Zones, which are several organizations assisting women victimized by violence in the Sudan, Iraq and the Congo.
Tickets for all events can be purchased at the door or on TicketWeb. To find out more about V-Day Toronto check out their website and for more statistics on violence against women click here.
Photos of Eve Ensler (left) and Tanisha Taitt (right).