It's also Women's History Month, a cause even nearer and dearer to my heart than poetry. This year, V-Day is the tenth anniversary of the first performance of Eve Ensler's ground-breaking "The Vagina Monologues," which is now performed all over the world as a fundraiser for local anti-violence groups, crisis centers, shelters and more. Here are a couple of sobering reasons why, from Feminist.com:
- In the National Violence Against Women Survey, approximately 25% of women and 8% of men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetimes. The survey estimates that more than 300,000 intimate partner rapes occur each year against women 18 and older.
- One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. (Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998)
- Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% - one out of twenty - of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. (Probability statistics based on US Department of Justice Statistics)
I've been lucky, but many of my friends have not. One was raped in childhood, another gang-raped in college (and still suffers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from it), a third was date-raped as adult and another as a college student, another was abused by her live-in boyfriend and had to flee with nothing but the clothes on her back, another fought off her attacker when she was traveling abroad by herself. My mother was sexually abused by one of her own brothers. That's seven women already, just in a group of, oh, maybe 30 friends. Not everyone tells and not everyone reports it to the authorities, so I wouldn't be surprised if this were merely the tip of the iceberg among my wide circle of friends. Saddened, but not surprised.
If you've been or are being abused, sexually or physically or emotionally, tell someone. Tell a co-worker, tell your boss, tell the HR person at work, tell a cop, tell your best friend, tell your health-care provider, tell your minister or pastor or priest or the person who sings next to you in the choir. If none of those work for you, call here, for free:
24 Hour Confidential Rape Hotline.
Operating 8:30AM-5:30PM EST, the NVC hotline helps locate assistance in your community
if you have been the victim of a violent crime.
You have nothing to be ashamed of. Your abuser does.
When the Democratic campaign first turned into a race between Obama and Clinton, I remarked to a friend that we're likely to have a black president before we'll have a woman president. Knowing what a feminist I am, she seemed shocked. But in this country, where 19 out of 20 rapists go free—in part from underreporting, in part from lack of convictions and outrageous sentences—it's still okay to yell "iron my shirts!" to the woman, but not to the male descendant of slaves. We are half the population of this world, and nowhere, not even in the U.S., are woman truly valued for anything but their cunts or protected equally under the law. We are still taught to be ashamed of our bodies, taught that our sexuality is shameful, taught that we are never good enough the way we are. Or, as NOW's Women's Rights Manifesto puts it:
Because woman's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we're the first to get fired and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it's our fault and if we get beaten we must have provoked it and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we're nymphos and if we don't we're frigid and if we love women it's because we can't get a "real" man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we're neurotic and/or pushy and if we expect childcare we're selfish and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and "unfeminine" and if we don't we're typical weak females and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man and if we don't we're unnatural and because we still can't get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can't cope or don't want a pregnancy we're made to feel guilty about abortion and...for lots and lots of other reasons . . .
We are part of the women's liberation movement.
This is why V-Day is so important and Women's History Month is so important. Speaking out together gives other women courage and strength and makes us realize we're not alone. Support your sisters. There have already been several performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in the city this year. If you missed them, Baruch College is holding a benefit performance on March 26 at 7 PM here:
55 Lexington Ave (@25th street)
New York New York 10010
Enter the main college building and ask for the Engelman Recital Hall, which will be to your right, 2 flights down by elevator. Doors open at 6:45PM. You must purchase tickets ahead of time.
Go here to find a performance near you. Take your daughter, your mother, your sister. More importantly, take your husband, your son, your brother, your father, and start a dialogue. It might help stop future violence against women.