When I heard about the auditions for The Vagina Monologues that would be produced in my Upper West Side neighborhood, I thought, “How convenient!” Then I learned that one monologue was about a Bosnian woman who was raped during the civil war. In my little actress mind, I thought I’m a great “cast” for that part. This was in 2010. I hadn’t read the play or seen it but I was already judging it by its name. Just like many others, I was thinking how irrelevant it is to be talking about our vaginas.
During the audition, there was a group of women, explaining that this is more than theater, or acting, this project is about raising awareness about violence against women and girls while raising money for groups which serve survivors. Then the leaders started talking about making cupcakes and selling raffle tickets… I was lost. I didn’t know how to make cupcakes! I still don’t, but now I know a thing or two about raising awareness and money for women’s issues.
I met Eve during my second year working with 4thU V-Day. By then, I had witnessed the strength of her work and the power of community theater. But still I was expecting to see a self-centered person, considering that she is a global heroine. On the contrary she was normal–a nice, direct and encouraging person and yes, of course, a global heroine. “What a smart woman!” I remember thinking.
Here I am, in my sixth year working as an “artivist” with 4thU V-Day of the Upper West Side of New York. I co-directed The Vagina Monologues for three years in a row and performed several different parts as an actress.
This year for our 2015 production I am curating/directing a compilation of different female playwrights’ works titled “Women’s Voices” * , which will open at the end of this month. This will be the opening act on another evening of fundraising and consciousness expanding embodied in Eve Ensler’s musical, “Emotional Creature.” (For details & tickets: http://www.4thu.org/v-day-2015/ )
This year, the growing number of victims of violence in my home country, Turkey, highly alarmed me. I wanted to do more to combat this trend. By now I was becoming familiar with turning to Eve for guidance so I went to interview her. The resulting conversation was inspiring and appeared in one of the biggest newspapers in Turkey (Click to read the interview in Turkish). Here I would like to share some of this inspiration from Eve’s vision that created V-Day and One Billion Rising, with her own words.
I am personally fascinated by the idea of doing something positive to create the change that you want, instead of solely complaining about things. I asked Eve what she thinks about the power of arts in creating social change. Here’s what she said;
“Art allows us to get out of the duality that keeps us separated. Brings us to a whole new level of consciousness where we connect with our hearts in our spirits. Dancing allows women to release their trauma and claim public space. I think when we move our bodies it creates an energy that shifts consciousness. And I think drumming is so powerful, symbolizes the rhythm of revolution, it’s the heart beat of life; it connects us all.”
Many people may think that violence is such an overwhelming problem. “What difference would it make if I create something in my little world?” I wondered what would be Eve’s answer to those questions.
“Any individual who does shift consciousness and stands up against oppression, changes the world. And I think we have to really believe that we are that powerful and what we do is that important. This capitalist bubble, this patriarchal structure that we are under makes us believe that we don’t matter, our beliefs and actions don’t matter but I actually think the opposite is true. When you do anything, whether it’s in your home, your village, church, synagog, or in our place of work, it begins to shift consciousness. And we saw that. First year there were men who rose with us, the next year there were many men, this year there are a lot of men. That’s change. And I think it begins with one person, it begins with you.”
V-Day’s spotlight campaigns for the last 17 years were all around the world; Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, Haiti… And Eve has been traveling the globe to coordinate and connect those communities of resistance, strength and hope. Based on her vast experience, I wondered if she was able to see a pattern that invites violence against women.
“As long as patriarchy is the basis of human existence and consciousness, violence will always be used to sustain it. It’s the methodology that sustains patriarchy.”
Violence has many faces, sometimes it’s physical, sometimes verbal and sometimes it’s behavioral and very subtle. We face it everywhere. In some cultures we get used to it which, I think leads to the worst consequences–raising the new generations who finds violence against women “normal”. I am devastated whenever I see a new product that prevents a woman from getting raped such as Undercover Colors, Anti-Molestation Jacket, Anti-Rape buckles and bras ( http://www.oddee.com/item_98705.aspx ). We are living in an age that everything is a finger tap away but we still need to buckle to prevent ourselves from being raped??As much as I do not want to believe it, these are real life stories that keeps happening all around the world. So what do we do?
“What we have to do is to keep reconstructing patriarchy. That means, giving boys and men a chance to re-perceive masculinity and manhood, women standing for their rights and speaking up the truth, breaking the silence, and all of us rising to say that there is another way of behaving on this earth which isn’t about domination and occupation and violation.”
I believe there certainly is another way to share this world without trying to dominate, occupy or violate. To me this is not just feminism, this is about humanism.
*“Women’s Voices” curated & directed by Ege Maltepe
Featuring plays & playwrights;
“Infestation” by Mia McCullough
“Life Refused” by Maia Brami“Continental Us” by Brenda K. White
“Natural Novice” by Siobhan O’Loughlin“Yes I Touch Myself” by Poppy Liu
“TITS by Prof G” by Ege Maltepe
“A Change of Heart, So To Speak” by Kitty Chen
“To The Woman Who Screamed at Her Child” by Sarah Diamond Burroway
“Ultimate Girls Getaway” by Hillary King
* Special thanks to Eve Ensler, V-Day team, the team of 4thU V-Day, and Milliyet Newspaper.