By Jaime Burnet
You’re gnawing on the last of the lemony paste-filled chocolates and February 14 has come and gone. Roses have wilted and that poor bear would like to take off his red sequined vest right now. Chew your cud of waxy chocolate, but Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about material crap. The “V” in Valentine’s Day has taken on a second meaning: Vagina.
Through the dedication of determined women, lead by YWCA Safe Haven counselors, Marsha Ellen Meidow and Jayde Farand, Valentine’s Day in Calgary has become an opportunity to see Eve Ensler’s renowned play, The Vagina Monologues and the opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause.
Proceeds benefit Safe Haven, a program offering support and a place to stay for Calgarian girls involved in or at risk of falling into a life of prostitution. There have been more than 2,000 benefits held and $25 million raised around the world through the V-Day movement. And contrary to some misconceptions, the play isn’t just about learning to say “vagina.”
“I think by the end, what we all have to realize is, yes, it’s great to be able to say the word ‘vagina’, but the play is about so much more than that,” says director Marsha Ellen.
These messages range from hilarious dilemmas of tampons and thong underwear to sickeningly tragic accounts of rape tactics in warfare and female genital mutilation. But don’t let their forthright nature keep you from experiencing this cultural phenomenon.
“There is definitely some shock value to the play,” Marsha admits. “It’s not about feeling comfortable or uncomfortable, it’s just about opening yourself up to the entire experience. This is just so relevant to all of us, like men and women, because pretty much every man has a mother or a sister or an aunt, so they should be concerned with it.”
Aside from focusing on the serious matters of women around the world, The Vagina Monologues is also about the good things in life. Amid the violence and oppression, there can be aspects of life as a woman that make it truly beautiful.
“This V-Day admission is also about celebrating relationships, and sexuality and love and empowerment, and all of those great things too,” explains co-director Jayde.
This multifaceted quality composes the lasting and widespread appeal of The Vagina Monologues. Combined with the admirable hope and charity of the V-Day movement, this is a worthy benefit you won’t want to miss and, in witnessing the passion of its advocates, it may elicit your support as well. February 14 is no longer just for Valentines, it is also for Vagina.
“They say that Valentine’s Day will be changed to V-Day when violence against women around the world has ended, for Victory Day,” Marsha Ellen divulges, with quiet faith. “I know that’s kind of a utopian idea, but that’s an idea that I keep inside of me and keep in my heart.”
“It’s worth striving for,” affirms Jayde, “one play at a time.”