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The Carletonian

Vagina Monologues raise awareness of violence against women

<st week, Carleton College, along with the rest of the world, celebrated Valentine’s Day—and V-Day. Originally launched in 1994 by Eve Ensler, playwright of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day has since become a movement celebrated worldwide, with the goal of spreading awareness about violence towards women “until the violence stops,” as its slogan states.

“V-Day is a movement based around the Vagina Monologues that tries to raise awareness of violence against women and the various types of issues they face,” said Ruth Aufderheide, a junior at Carleton who has been involved in the Vagina Monologues both on stage and behind the scenes since her freshman year, adding, “but the Vagina Monologues is also really important because it opens up an opportunity and space for women to become more comfortable and talk about issues they face.”

Sexual violence takes many shapes. Juliet Dana, a senior at Carleton who directed The Vagina Monologues, defines sexual violence as “unwanted sexual actions or words with a person who does not or cannot give consent.”

According to the VDay Mission Statement, the movement is committed to stopping “Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery.” At Carleton, the money raised this year from the Vagina Monologues will be donated to two main causes: 10% will go towards stopping violence against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 90% will go to the HOPE Center in Faribault.

This year, Carleton raised $3,600 for V-Day. It has been celebrating V-Day for the past nine years, and has raised more than $13,000 for the HOPE Center over the course of those nine years. In fact, Carleton is one of the HOPE center’s main sources of revenue.

Carleton celebrated V-Day in a number of ways, including V-Night at the Cave, a Sex Toys presentation by sex educators in the Smitten Kitten in the Twin Cities, a discussion by the group 1-in-4 entitled “How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor: What Men Can Do,” and a discussion during Common Time called “Am I a Feminist if…?” These events took place the week preceding V-Day, culminating in a presentation of The Vagina Monologues at the Carleton Chapel on Friday, February 13th.

While forms of sexual violence like genital mutilation and sexual slavery seem worlds away from the Carleton campus, sexual violence is a very pressing problem for the Carleton community. According to the University of Santa Cruz, in a study of 6,000 students at 32 colleges in the United States, 1 in 4 women had been the victims of rape or attempted rape as of 1994. In 2000, a study of college women found that 13% had been forced to have sex in a dating situation. Of the substances used in facilitated rape, alcohol is used the most frequently.

“At Carleton, sexual violence more often comes from situations where consent was not made clear, from coercion or feelings of obligation to abide by social expectations, from communications or from wrong feelings of entitlement,” Dana said.

V-Day is directly aimed at women, but Aufderheide would like, in the future, to highlight the role that men play in this movement. “Men tend to think of the Vagina Monologues as a women’s event,” she said, “which I won’t deny that it is, but men need to realize the messages are not just for women.”

Nathan Yaffe, a sophomore who helped organize the events to raise awareness about the situation in the Congo, has taken this idea to heart. He had been interested in the situation in Congo since before V-Day, and used V-Day to raise awareness at Carleton about this matter. He, along with sophomore Hunter Knight and senior Sam Friedman, organized three events associated with V-Day: a movie screening of The Greatest Silence, a presentation about the history of the conflict, and a presentation about ways to help. Now, however, he is trying to raise awareness beyond V-Day.

“We are currently starting four separate projects working on raising awareness and money on a longer-term basis,” said Yaffe in an interview. “We had more than 30 people sign up at our interest meeting to work on these projects, so there’s definitely an increased level of concern and activity on campus about this topic.”

It is exactly this kind of involvement that people like Dana, Aufderheide and Yaffe hoped to inspire through V-Day. While the overarching goal for the Vagina Monologues was to raise money to stop violence against women, Dana said that, for her, “This year’s production will be a success if we see people interrupting old conversations about women’s bodies. It will be a success if people change the way they think about respect and consent. It will be a success if there was one woman in the audience who heard something on stage and understood that she is not alone. It will be a success when the violence stops.”

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