This week all across community theatres, universities, women’s collectives, and professional theatres is the 17th anniversary of the Vagina Monologues—a piece of art, empowerment, food for thought, remembrance and unity among feminists everywhere. Though the show is controversial in many spheres, that has not been my experience as a cast member in the 2013 monologues at American University in Washington, DC.
In the show there are monologues about everything vagina related from sex to sex work, pleasure, anatomy and childbirth. There are personal narratives taken from stories of the 200 that were interviewed by monologue writer Eve Ensler.
Though there are many humorous pieces about sexual experiences, there are factual pieces about female genital mutilation, sexual violence and mass rape used as a systematic instrument of war. These pieces serve as a reminder to all of the atrocities that are happening in our world every minute and every second. These stories are memoirs of the women who are beaten, tortured, killed and raped. All across the world everyday 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men are raped, not to mention the rapes and abuses of trans men and women that go unrecorded day after day.
Despite the many negative critiques and controversial debates that occur over the heteronormative and cis gendered framework of the Vagina Monologues, being a part of the 39-member cast of this years show has been an incredible experience. The sense of community, advocacy, support and friendship is unimaginable and something that I wish for all female identified persons across the globe. The new addition to the show this year is a piece to jumpstart the One Billion Rising movement to end violence against women and girls together in solidarity called “Rising”. This piece along with the strong, powerful and inspiring cast moved me to write and share why I am rising.
I am rising for women everywhere.
I am rising for the one in three who will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
I am rising for those that I love and care about who have been assaulted, those that have been raped, or abused, those that have not given consent.
I am rising for those who were coerced into a sexual act by someone familiar.
I am rising for the one in six men who are raped.
I am rising for the child who has seen their mother beaten
I am rising for the war on women, for the mass rape that occurs all around the world, not only in underdeveloped nations.
I am rising for the Ianfu Comfort Women—the women of the “Say It” monologue.
I am rising for the women who are silent and have never told a soul about the day or the night that changed their lives forever.
I am rising for my friends, family members, past teammates and cast members.
I am rising for you. I am rising for me.
I am rising for women everywhere and I will not be silent.
I am rising for the women who cannot kiss their girlfriends in public for fear of being discriminated, abandoned or shamed.
I am rising for the trans community and those that do not fit a gender binary.
I am rising for the allies.
I am rising for the children, for the young people and for the elderly in nursing homes.
I am rising for the able bodied and for the disabled.
I am rising for the sex workers and those who are trafficked into the sex trade.
I am rising for you and you and YOU.
I am strong and I am rising to stop this violence, hatred and tragedy.
I am rising and will continue rising.
Why are YOU rising?
Written by Maria Schneider