This Saturday is V Day. Previously a day celebrating romantic love, Valentines day has been reframed as V-Day, the day that focuses on shining the light on sexual violence against women. Zenith Virago spoke with The Echo about the event that asks women to come together in a show of global solidarity.
What is the significance of V Day?
Vaginas. It’s all about vaginas for a change. An empowering exploration and owning of the most sacred part of our women’s bodies.
The Vagina Monologues is a collection of interviews with women about their vaginas, created by Eve Ensler, an American feminist.
These performances have been performed all over the world for more than 20 years, raising awareness of violence to women, and raising funds for women’s causes.
In 2011, Eve created a movement, V Day 1 Billion Rising, asking women to come onto the streets to dance and rise for justice for women. This is the third year and of course V Day is on 14 February.
What do you see as the major challenges in awareness raising when it comes to violence against women?
I believe we are living in a world where misogyny is rampant, where women and girls are disrespected, exploited, degraded, sold, violated, beaten, raped, and murdered every day in breathtaking numbers every day.
This is never okay, but we are almost numb to it as it happens around all us. We read about it, see it on the news, but we have learnt to live with it.
It has almost become the norm, but if it were happening in reverse, with women assaulting or killing men, there would be some action.
Why is it important that women come to the event? Does it change anything?
Every action has a reaction. V Day is a reaction to the violence perpetrated on women. It is a very empowering experience to be in a gathering of women who are standing up against injustice, standing for respect and non-violence.
As part of what happens here in Byron I am encouraging women to find their voices, to be free and comfortable to shout in a safe situation, so if they find themselves in a threatening situation, they know they can use their voice to shout, protest, defend, save themselves.
V day has changed how we protest in Byron. The women (and men) who attend, stand and dance are changed, and in their change they automatically change everything.
What is planned for the day?
As usual, we are gathering at Main Beach at 6.30am wearing red. At 6.45am there will be an aerial photo, so great if everyone is there promptly as we may only get one go, and at 7am there will be a few words, and then we will do the Break the Chain dance – choreography on the web – usually twice, and then we all swim!
Can men come? How can they show their support?
Men can come, and they can show their support in suitably appropriate ways, and by confronting abuse, violence, sexism and misogyny whenever they encounter it.
Why do you think events are still necessary?
Because one in three girls under 18 experience sexual violence, one in five over 18; that makes something like 51,000 in Australia each year, and because everyone has the right to choose what they do with their own body and not to live in fear.
What do women need to do to get involved?
The shocking situation that we all find ourselves in is only deepening with the increase in pornography on the web. Women need to empower themselves so that they can live fully, not in fear, not in situations of violence or sexual violence.
If you care about yourselves, and the women in your lives, if you want to see a healthier, equal humanity, then ending violence against women is a great place to begin.
We have to stand in the fullness of who we are. Can we even imagine how much so many generations of women have experienced?
And we are still resilient, capable, raising children, achieving, succeeding. Imagine what we could do if we didn’t have to worry about, experience or recover from violence! Women are already amazing; just imagine it…
So be at Main Beach, Byron Bay, on Saturday from 6.30am. Dress in red.