"One in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.
That's more than one billion women living on the planet today."
Joan Van Ark was a bit shaky as she read the opening words to the Spotlight Narration of The Vagina Monologues last Saturday night. Not that she had reason to be, except for maybe the lack of a music stand to put the script on, which was quickly remedied by another cast member.
At the after party, Sheena Metal, the extraordinary producer and director responsible for the three-day V-Day Atwater event, told me that the women performing the Spotlight Narration are always afraid they aren't up to the task, and every one of them, from Jorja Fox to Robin Riker to Joan Van Ark, knocks it so far out of the ballpark I'd need to find a bigger metaphor to describe it. She says these actresses find depth and strength and power that surprise even themselves when they begin not so much delivering Eve Ensler's words, but channeling them. Using them to build a sisterhood as the meaning begins to sink in with the audience and stir our anger and our fears and our hopes.
Of course, that wasn't happening for me. Sitting about six feet from Joan Van Ark, all I could think was, "My God, she's beautiful." Seriously, this woman was on an episode of The Mod Squad the year I was born and she looks like she could be my sister, who happens to be thinner and in better shape. Then I was suddenly afraid that I was missing the point of The Vagina Monologues by even thinking that, so I went back to focusing on the show. Joan now had her music stand, and was appropriately conducting a symphony of words and emotion about how one in three women will be beaten or raped in their lifetimes -- probably both, and probably not just once.
Holy crap, did I really just type that? One in three women, beaten and raped? Is that actually what I heard? Why is it taking so long for this to hit me? And how did I not know about V-Day until this weekend? Suddenly, I am questioning all my rah-rah-womanhood roots. What am I doing to make a difference? I'm not holding up a sign on Twitter, that's for sure.
#BringBackOurGirls angers me for many, many reasons. First, why did it take almost three weeks for this story to get any media coverage at all, and has anyone gotten fired for that? Second, why are we only talking about the 234 girls that were stolen from one school in one country, instead of the two million children exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade, according to UNICEF? Third, how many people holding those stupid signs vote for people and policies that will continue to do nothing to protect women and children who are kidnapped and brutalized worldwide every day?
What troubles me most were the vast military and government resources that went into searching for 239 people on a missing plane, dispatched immediately by world leaders and corporate titans who couldn't be bothered to turn those same resources towards stopping the sexual enslavement of teenage girls, committing no greater sin than trying to get an education. Don't these people have daughters? Does holding up a sign with a hashtag on it makes up for all that they have not done? Will they forget the whole incident once those girls are recovered? Or slaughtered? Or simply... out of the news cycle?
Which goes back to V-Day, Eve Ensler, Sheena Metal and all the women who are actually making a difference. V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls through benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. Ensler donates the use of her work to organizations and individuals who agree to donate 100% of the proceeds raised at the event, with 10% going to V-Day Spotlight Campaign and the remaining 90% to local organizations working to end violence against women and girls.
This was Sheena Metal's third time producing, directing and performing in the show, and at this point, it is a tour de force. Sixty-one actresses over the course of three nights, learning their blocking just hours (and sometimes minutes) before curtain, essentially cold-reading and bringing down the house. Metal takes the "Angry Vagina" narration for herself, and, after eight years perfecting her delivery, it is one of the highlights of the show. That said, very little in live theater -- or in life -- will ever come close to Diane Delano's stunning narration on reclaiming "See You Next Tuesday." And all of this was to benefit Protect.org, a bipartisan pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority at the national, state and local levels. Honestly, is there a more perfect merging of art, inspiration and politics than this?
I could go on and on about how amazing the night was, how we all cried and clapped and promised to be part of the One Billion Rising to end violence against women and girls, but that's not what this is about. It's not about one show on one night, it's about that fact that Sheena Metal did something. The 61 actresses who performed in V-Day Atwater did something. Eve Ensler did something. And it involved a hell of a lot more than making a sign with a hashtag.
V-Day has raised over $75 million and reached over 300 million people. That is something. So maybe, 50 years from now, when the next generation of female activists are sitting in a theater and they hear some beautiful-beyond-her-years actress deliver the line: "One in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime," it will just be ancient history.
Valerie Alexander is the author of Happiness as a Second Language, a #1 Seller on Amazon in both the Happiness and Self-Help categories, and she runs workshops and seminars for companies and organizations seeking to maximize their results by making happiness a priority. For more from Valerie, please follow Speak Happiness on Facebook and Twitter, and join the Speak Happiness mailing list. For more by Valerie on Huffington Post, click here.
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