UB students work to end global violence against women through V-Day Campaign
Members of the V-Day Campaign are preparing for their biggest event, the Vagina Monologues. They hope their efforts help to stop violence against women. Courtesy of SBI Health Education
V is for vagina.
V is for voice.
V is for victory.
For Jasmine Gray, a sophomore English major, "V-Day," a global movement to end violence against women and girls, encompasses the various meanings of "V."
At UB, SBI Health Education and students like Gray work to raise awareness and combat violence against women with the annual V-Day campaign. V-Day is a way to challenge students to be part of the solution and end this violence as a community, Gray said. The event, which runs Feb. 14 to April 30, involves film showings, panel discussions and fundraising sales.
Rosalind Campbell, who is participating in the campaign alongside Gray, said she is passionate about V-Day because many abused women are forced to suffer in silence due to social stigmas and community retaliation.
On April 18 and 19, Gray and Campbell will perform with their fellow "vagina warriors" in UB's annual Vagina Monologues performance. The play, written by Eve Ensler, an American playwright and feminism activist, is one of the main events of this year's V-Day campaign.
"The play shows that women can move past abuse and violence and be comfortable with their sexuality and who they are as women," Gray said.
The first performance of the Vagina Monologues at UB was in 2008. Since then, it has become an annual tradition.
The sense of community that comes with the V-Day campaign is what keeps Gray coming back for more each year. Bonding with her cast members and learning about the background of the Vagina Monologues allowed her to embrace the "life-altering stories" that surround the play and the message of V-Day as a whole.
Each performance in the play is based on a true story. To write the play, Ensler conducted interviews with women and produced monologues based on their responses.
Gray attributes the Monologues' effectiveness to its style: one that channels and balances the force of upsetting content and powerful performances.
Jane Fischer, the director of SBI Health Education and producer of UB's V-Day campaign, said the purpose of the play, and other events during the two months, is to foster a "now what?" feeling. She said the play includes stories that can be "risquÃ© and funny" but also "very sad and heartbreaking."
"We're conditioned sometimes in our culture to not create waves and to just cool out," Fischer said. "But there are things that happen in our communities and in the world as a whole, which quite frankly piss people off."
The V-Day campaign is intended to strike passion in students and motivate them to take action.
But not everyone is inspired by the Monologues.
"During last year's performance, my friend came to the show and walked out before [it] was over, saying it was 'too dirty,'" Campbell said in an email. "Even though I explained the campaign ... she acted as if this was an overkill of information. I concluded that, for some people, dealing with reality is a bit too much."
Gray and Jaclyn Mathews - a library and information studies graduate student who has acted in the Vagina Monologues for three years and is currently directing the play - believe V-Day empowers women by emphasizing the power of the vagina.
"The 'V' stands for vagina," Gray said. "It is something only we [women] have, and I believe it's our main source of power."
Matthews added the 'V' also stands for being "victorious" in "accepting yourself and in trying to foster change."
After acting in the play, Gray learned more about herself. She went to one audition and didn't realize how much her perspective on life would change.
"My character is continually growing in the play and coming to accept herself, and I think she helped me to accept myself also," Gray said.
For Madeline Schlick, a senior fine arts major, the V-Day campaign has helped her become aware of the global injustices against women while giving her a voice in the struggle.
"There was a time in my life when I thought that staying silent was the only option, that more minor acts of assault or abuse didn't matter," Schlick said. "Being a part of V-Day helped me to see that violence and abuse - in any degree - aren't OK and need to be ended."
Fischer believes the campaign offers a platform in which every student's voice can be heard and any idea can be used as a method to fuel change.
The members of SBI who planned V-Day hope the events empower people to help make a difference, big or small. Members also hope to spark conversation about the violence that occurs all over the world to women and young girls, and ultimately contribute to a global solution.
Keren Baruch contributed reporting to this story.
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