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Valentine’s Day is V-Day

February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day, a day of chocolate and sweet sentiments. A day to celebrate the unifying force in our world, love.

For many, however, Valentine’s Day is also V-Day, a day to speak out against violence against women and young girls, including: rape, abuse, denial of basic human rights and freedoms, and murder, as evidenced so recently here in Canada with the brutal murder of four women in the name of honour. It is especially poignant in BC as today, February 14th, is also the day that the Women’s Memorial March commemorates the many women who have disappeared or have been killed in BC, further troubling in the context of the BC Missing Women’s Inquiry that is currently underway.

Two theatre works, “The Vagina Monologues” and “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer” (“MMRP”), among others, are performed by college students and volunteers around the world with all benefits going to support education, advocacy and prevention of violence around the world. Students at the University of British Columbia through a UBC V-Day group have participated in V-Day for the past 12 or so years and, this year, a passionate group of UBC students will again be performing these two plays.

I spoke today with Winnie Sun, the director of MMRP. Fernanda Fukamati directs the Vagina Monologues, and together she and Winnie co-ordinate the two plays and other V-Day related events. Originally from Montreal, Winnie heard about the Vagina Monologues but discovered that even excerpted portions of the Monologues were too controversial for the college she was attending. So she was thrilled when she came to UBC and found out that they had been putting on the full play for many years.

A bit nervous but very excited because today is MMRP’s opening night, Winnie shared with me why V-Day is so important to her. A recent United Nations study disclosed that one out of three women has been abused in her lifetime.

Winnie says, “it is such a big issue but everything else always seems to be more important. Talking about the abuse of women is almost taboo.”

She refers to a documentary by Dr. Jackson Katz called “Miss Representation” where he says it is not just a women’s issue, violence affects everyone and it cannot be addressed just by educating women to protect themselves. Men and the justice system as well as other infrastructure must be educated about the problem and together we must all find the solution.

Winnie says the Vagina Monologues is well-known for being provocative and funny and it is always well attended. But MMRP has a deep message that resonates with everyone who views it. “Even if you hear only one monologue,” she say, “you will be really drawn to it.” MMRP is a collection of stories told from the perspective of men, women and children from around the world: a young girl who wants to look like one of her screen idols, and a victim of the war in Rwanda as examples. All linked by the same strand, MMRP enables you to see the issue of violence through different people’s eyes and the message travels with you long after the play is over.

“There is something in the characters that is so real,” Winnie says. “It was life-changing for me when I saw it for the first time and for the actors and actresses it leaves a long legacy. It has taught me a lot.”

Her enthusiasm for the project is irresistible. If you can, purchase a ticket or better yet purchase two. If you buy a ticket for one play it will cost you $15, a bargain. If you buy a ticket for both plays, you will pay only $20, that’s a steal. MMRP plays tonight and Thursday at 7 pm and Saturday at 2 pm. The Vagina Monologues plays Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets or at the door. Performances are at Frederick Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Road, UBC.

In eleven years V-Day has raised over $85 million for its cause and was named a ‘Top-Rated’ charity by GreatNonProfits.

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