I hope you have been holding up during these difficult but radicalizing times. This pandemic has revealed the inequalities and injustices that have plagued the world for hundreds of years. We see how nurses, domestic workers, farmers, mothers, restaurant workers, janitors, transportation workers, etc. – mainly women of color, who are literally saving our lives every day, have been the least protected, honored, valued and respected. We have seen in America and across the world the most hideous murders of Black men and women by the police, especially trans women who are put at disproportionate risk, and an escalation of white supremacy. Most recently, we have witnessed the horrific murder of Breonna Taylor and the outrageous injustice that followed.
I have been doing deep reflection about our V-Day global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender and transgender), those who hold fluid identities, nonbinary people, girls and the planet – our past and our present and where I believe we need to go in the future.
I have been thinking about The Vagina Monologues and all the thousands and thousands of survivors, artists, activists, organizers and volunteers who have bravely brought the play to their communities, who have directed it, who have performed it. I have been thinking of the 140 countries where women have invited it in and the diversity of women who have performed these monologues. I could never have dreamed what this play, in the hands of dedicated activists and artists, has done to raise consciousness, raise funds ($120 million dollars for grassroots anti-violence groups, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters), raise women to love their bodies, raise activists, raise hell and controversy. I think of the women in Europe, the UK, Haiti, Philippines and Michigan who performed the play in parliaments and on the steps of state capitals to demand rights and new laws. I think of the brilliant artists in Pakistan who performed this play first in a covert production and then later, publicly. I think of women in Turkey and the Democratic Republic of Congo who were arrested for performing it and of those who have been inspired to write their own plays. I think of the daring students who performed The Vagina Monologues at Catholic universities and got shut down and moved the production to another place and kept going. I think of the Native American and First Nations women who toured it across the reservations, led by a kitchen cabinet of Native women leaders. I think of the women of color cast at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. I think of the trans women who did the first all trans women production over fifteen years ago and the determined women who have brought the play to prisons all over the world. I think of the moment I received the Braille script for the first time, and over the years since, of the many activists with disabilities who have done productions starring performers with disabilities. And I am forever moved thinking of the hundreds of women performers occupying Madison Square Garden and the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina.
I could never have dreamed of the places the play and V-Day have helped build and sustain through the grassroots, on the ground leadership of powerful Vagina Warriors: the Safe House in Narok, Kenya to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, the City of Knowledge in Kabul, the City of Joy in Congo. The thousands who marched in Juarez demanding justice for our disappeared sisters. I could never have imagined One Billion Rising, a global campaign that grew from this movement would now be in its ninth year and still growing and stronger than ever, led by a team of over 50 coordinators from across the world.
The play and what you have all done with it has taught me so much about so many things. The Vagina Monologues has inspired women all over the world and helped to raise collective consciousness about how violence and gender intersect.
I think we have all learned over these years how critical art is to the escalation and elevation of social movements, how necessary it is to break the silence and tell our most secretive stories, how deeply theater can build and support community, how we cannot address violence against women without looking at racism, capitalism, climate crises, workers’ rights, migrant rights. I will forever be grateful to all of you for the simply astounding work you have done with the play to build, expand, and deepen this movement, to make it local, while always standing in the deepest global solidarity.
But I believe something more is being called for now. I have been doing deep reflection about my life as a white woman playwright and activist. I am fully aware of the depth of my privilege, access to networks and resources that have helped to produce my work. I believe this is the moment we need to uplift and be in deepest solidarity with Black women: cis women, trans women, and non-binary people across the African Continent and African Diaspora. We need to share networks and resources that will bring their voices into the center of our movement. So, in that light, The Vagina Monologues will be taking its bow and exiting from the V-Day campaigns. It will of course remain a play, but it will no longer be done as part of V-Day. Instead, I am thrilled to announce that we will be beginning the VOICES campaign. In this inaugural year, there will be a new piece curated by the magnificent poet and organizer Aja Monet. She will be reaching out to Black women across the planet inviting submissions of poems, monologues, songs that will become a new V-Day piece. We anticipate it will be complete Fall 2021.
“As we struggle with one another for collective liberation, healing, and joy we need new vocabularies and to speak from our uncensored hearts. We have to heal and to affirm ourselves. We need to be united and connected through our differences. If we truly organize and come together, we can clear a path for ourselves and our sisters coming after us. We are dedicated to a radical feminist future born of international solidarity, resistance to racism, class bias, homophobia, and transphobia. This piece will ultimately be in service and for Black women all over the world, to speak to the complexities of our experiences as well as a collective vision for change, justice, compassion and solidarity. We seek to encourage and establish a world that fosters radical truth telling love.” – Aja Monet, Artistic Creative Director, V-Day Voices campaign
Over the next week, we will be letting you know more and more about the Voices Project. I can’t wait for you to meet Aja and know her as I do. She is an extraordinary writer, performer, organizer and truth teller. The perfect person to initiate this project.
We are also unveiling the full activities for 2021 themes and campaigns including One Billion Rising and a new contest for college students globally.
All movements evolve. This is the next phase in this glorious, mysterious movement of ours. It will require listening, solidarity and love. I am blessed to be in it with you.
With my deepest love and solidarity,
V (formerly Eve Ensler)
V IS FOR VICTORY
V IS FOR VISIONARY
V IS FOR VOICES
At the beginning of each season when we sit down to write to you – the countless activists around the world who are the lifeblood of the V-Day movement – we take stock of the political and social realities playing out on local, regional, national and global levels and how they may be impacting you. As a team, we ask ourselves some difficult but important questions:
These are not questions we take lightly; rather they are deep and profound matters we ponder every year with time, care, introspection and unyielding love for this movement.
The Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on communities of color around the world and the uprising for racial justice in the United States and across the globe has shown that as a movement we must build on our years of work of amplifying the voices of marginalized communities and creating spaces for them to be seen and heard to do even more to center the voices of artists and activists who have for too long been pushed to the margins.
This is a moment of reckoning and it is clear to us that the voices of Black women artists need to take center stage in a sustained and focused way. For this reason, The Vagina Monologues will be taking its bow and exiting from the V-Day campaigns. It will of course remain a play, but it will no longer be done as part of V-Day. Instead, we are thrilled to announce the VOICES campaign.
In this inaugural year, VOICES will create a new piece curated by the magnificent poet and organizer Aja Monet, who will be reaching out to Black women across the planet, inviting submissions of poems, monologues, and songs that will be assembled into a V-Day performance piece in the coming year. We anticipate that the piece will be completed by Fall 2021, at which point we will share it with you.
Many of you may be wondering how you will raise consciousness and funds in the 2020/2021 season for the deserving beneficiaries you have supported in the past through V-Day productions of The Vagina Monologues.
We have curated a diverse and robust menu of offerings:
Voices is a new interdisciplinary performance arts project and campaign grounded in Black women’s stories by V-Day to unify the vision of ending violence against women: cis women, trans women, and non binary people across the African Continent and African Diaspora. Directed by poet/organizer Aja Monet, V-Day’s new Artistic Creative Director, Voices Campaign. Our goal is to use art to embody and inspire solidarity-making in our collective imagination.
A contest challenging college students, ages 22 and under, to envision how they might change the larger societal system of patriarchy to create an accepting society through visual art, music, essay, story, poetry, video or photography. Submissions can be in the form of essay, poetry, music, art, photography, film, and more. Read more and enter.
Create an artistic piece foregrounding the voices of your community and create an online or in person event. Invite local writers, activists and artists to participate. Utilize the power of online performance and create a new space for your art and activism and support of local groups led by and for survivors.
Rising Gardens is a defiant creative call for revival, restoration and transformation. Gardens as a compassionate call for justice – because one of the greatest injustices of our time has been the destruction and eradication of Mother Earth, parallel to the ongoing and escalating gender-based violence. Ready to RISE? Visit OneBillionRising.org
Screen the City of Joy documentary which tells the story of the first class of women at City of Joy, and chronicles the process by which such a transformational place came to be, from its origins with the women survivors themselves, to the opening of the center’s doors.
Watch the Film, Host a House Party or Screening & Spread the Word.
For over 22 years, V-Day has unleashed vast grassroots, anti-violence work on college campuses and in communities – visionary work that has been survivor-led and focused, all the while revealing the power of art and activism to change culture and systems. Beginning with and inspired by The Vagina Monologues, new artistic works, films and campaigns have emerged from this movement – from Afghanistan Is Everywhere, The V-Day Safe House for the Girls in Kenya, The Indian Country Project, The Missing and Murdered Women in Juárez campaign, and Any One of Us: Words From Prison, to Swimming Upstream, the City of Joy and V-World Farm in Congo, the documentary films Until The Violence Stops and City of Joy, Artistic Uprising events in NYC and on the US/Mexico border, the V20 series of short films, and more.
We have accomplished so much.
Now we must do more.
We are a movement that has always met the moment.
The moment is NOW.
V photo by Brigitte Lacombe