Vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina. Are you uncomfortable yet?
As women across the world perform The Vagina Monologues throughout February and March, they're refusing to let the v-word make them uncomfortable and reclaiming the body part they're socialized to hate, fear, giggle at and deny. The V-Day Project, as it's fondly been named, has raised over $30 million since it began in 1998 when playwright Eve Ensler first used her play, The Vagina Monologues, to raise money for womens' charities and to show some love for a much-neglected body part.
"We forget the vagina--all of us," says Vagina Monologues' Calgary director Marsh Ellen Meidow. "What else could explain our lack of reverence for it? How can we have such a hatred even for the word vagina? That's where we all came from--men and women both--that's where it all began."
This year marks the fourth time Ellen Meidow will direct The Vagina Monologues. Within the play's mixture of sometimes serious content and laughter-inducing humour, Ellen Meidow has found a natural progression for her feminist activism, which also includes organizing the Montreal Massacre Memorial and Take Back the Night Marches, as well as writing for feminist publications.
"For me [activism] is really, really important," she says. "People can talk a lot without a lot of action. It gives you a lot of strength and hope. The more we act, the more we can see things come to fruition."
True to her passion for activism, Ellen Meidow works for YWCA Safe Haven, a program providing housing and counseling to Calgary women between 14 and 19 years of age involved in prostitution, or at risk of becoming involved. All proceeds of The Vagina Monologues' Calgary performances will go to support this charity, which is dear to Ellen Meidow's heart.
"This is something very heartfelt for me--it makes it more personal," explains Ellen Meidow of her motivation to keep coming back to the play. "I've survived addiction and I've survived abuse and I know what it's like. I went through some hard times and I've dedicated the rest of my life to ending violence against girls and women."
Ellen Meidow hopes the play's vaginal subject matter won't deter men from making up a good part of the audience.
"A lot of people think men aren't even allowed," says Ellen Meidow with a laugh. "I'm most touched by the men who come up to me afterwards. This one man came up to me afterwards teary-eyed. He just said 'Thank you, I didn't know there was that much violence against women. I have daughters.'"
Daughters, fathers, mothers, sons, sisters and brothers can learn a little more about vaginas and help to end violence against women when The Vagina Monologues returns to Calgary as part of the V-Day project.