Watch out, New Orleans: “Vagina Warriors” are headed your way. This weekend V-Day will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a two-day festival in New Orleans, or “the vagina of America,” as V-Day board member and actress Rosario Dawson called it at the luncheon announcing the festivities. Why New Orleans? V-Day’s website says, “We need to celebrate New Orleans, cherish it, protect it, just as we do our vaginas, and make sure it goes on and on.”
Celebrities, including mega-stars Katie Holmes and Oprah Winfrey, have signed on in droves to attend the vagina festival, but one wonders if they know what they are really supporting. V-Day’s mission is to end violence against women, surely a noble cause. But when you look at the activities done in the name of V-Day, it’s clear that this about more than just ending violence. On campus, V-Day groups sell vagina-shaped lollipops, chocolates, and t-shirts with slogans like “I love Vagina” and “A vagina by any other name would smell just as sweet.” They parade around campus in vagina costumes, or in the case of the George Washington University, have a four-foot-tall “living vagina” named Joan on display. If ending violence is really the aim, V-Day’s organizers have some bizarre tactics.
The New Orleans celebration is of a similar nature. The Superdome will transform into SUPERLOVE, “a place to heal, gather, celebrate and activate to change the story of women.” During the event, V-Day organizers say they will “reclaim the dome, transforming it into a place of empowerment and action.” Activities will include everything from slam poetry (a staple at leftist events), a parade, storytelling, and art to free massages, yoga, meditation, and makeovers. If you favor more blatantly political activities, you can celebrate “everyday activists doing extraordinary things” which will feature liberal political activists like CODE PINK co-founder Jodie Evans, or take in a panel on race and gender issues in post-Katrina Gulf South or discuss “the connections and parallels between our treatment of the earth and our treatment of women’s bodies.” And for those attendees who just like to boogie, Gabriella Roth will lead an “ecstatic dancing experience for all attendees.”
Of course, the event will end with a performance of The Vagina Monologues, including a new monologue to be performed by Oprah Winfrey. The Monologues have always been the centerpiece of the V-Day movement, so it’s worth taking a closer look at the play’s content. Some people are taken aback by the often vulgar nature of the play (shouting “c*nt” on stage over and over, for example), but the material is just as disturbing.
For starters, the play is extremely anti-male. Nearly all of the men featured in the play are despicable characters. The only “positive” male character is “Bob,” who enjoys staring at vaginas. It’s difficult to see how that is a redeeming quality, but in the context of the play he stands out as the most worthy male.
You might not be surprised that men are stereotyped, but women are too as they are constantly treated as sex objects. The plays message, after all, is that women’s path to empowerment is “embracing” their vaginas. They should aim to “be” their vaginas and discover themselves through sexual acts. The Monologues blatantly promote promiscuous behavior—a message that could be easily construed as socially irresponsible in an age where sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among young people and women are especially vulnerable to STDs.
The women of New Orleans have certainly had a rough time recently with the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. It’s hard to see how a vagina parade or slam poetry session will help them recover, let alone stop violence against women (there are after all, other ways to hold a fundraiser). The women of New Orleans—women everywhere actually—deserve a positive message about women and relationships. And if V-Day’s past behavior is any guide, they are not capable of providing that message.