While some students were exchanging flowers or unwrapping chocolate candies last Friday afternoon, passionate activists stood at the UC Irvine flagpoles for a different kind of Valentine’s Day celebration. Anteaters and community members gathered at this time for V-Day UCI’s annual event, “Flag Your Justice.”
Every year on V-Day, women in countries across the world gather in protest against gender-based violence to raise, support and empower women everywhere. For the past two years, the campaign revolved around One Billion Rising — a subset of V-Day that quantifies the 1 in 3 women that will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. The One Billion who rose last year asked this year, what does justice look like to you?
Everyone’s experiences with gender-based violence are unique, yet they are interconnected. By coming together and “flagging” their experiences, participants wove a thread of common injustice between these all-too common experiences of sexual and gender-based violence. Through educational speeches, powerful chants advocating for peace, and an overall feeling of solidarity, participants and organizers alike spread awareness of critical issues near and dear to their hearts.
Members from organizations such as the International Justice Mission, A Positive Space for Women, Right to KNOW Peer Educators, Active Minds, Image Management Awareness Growth and Education (I.M.A.G.E), Radikewl Queers, Therapists for Equality, Uncultivated Rabbits and V-Day UCI were just a few of the participants who came out to show their support last week.
The V-Day organization was first created by Eve Ensler, an activist working toward ending violence against women. In addition to creating V-Day, she wrote the Vagina Monologues, a compilation of monologues where women speak about different aspects of the feminine experience such as love, sex, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation and much more.
The Vagina Monologues first came to UCI in 2003 and has raised over $110,000 since then for causes that support and empower women. Funds from the show and other V-Day fundraises have consistently gone to support the UCI Campus Assault Resource and Education (CARE) office and other organizations such as Women Helping Women.
In preparation for the 2014 Vagina Monologues, auditions were held at the end of fall quarter and all selected participants have been rehearsing since then. With hours of preparation and several rehearsals behind them, the cast has high hopes for an impactful event.
To fulfill the roles of the monologues, the all-female cast grew to learn their roles through rehearsals. Rehearsals consisted of 1-on-1 practices with their directors, rehearsing in front of all of the other participants and getting feedback from the directors and expanding their current knowledge through education hour. The main purpose of the education hour was to expand the knowledge of the passionate participants.
This year, education hour consisted of watching informational documentaries and listening to inspirational guest speakers.
“Through education hour, I have been able to learn about genital mutilation, domestic violence and ‘taboo’ topics,” Cicely Hong, a second-year sociology major, said.
The preparation for this event has allowed participants to bond with the other participants and express themselves.
“The Vagina Monologues is an open space where all the participants are able to be themselves and share their opinion with no judgment,” Tammy Vu, a second-year biological sciences major and women’s studies minor, said.
Vu says that after these past six weeks, she is open to talking to the other cast members because she can count on them, and it seems clear that they are more than just people she sees each week.
Hong has also gotten to know her fellow cast members on a deeper level as well. One of her favorite moments was practicing her monologue with a few of the other participants.
While trying to get into character, she says that “it’s kind of hard to get into the seriousness of the piece. We practiced it in five different accents and went up to random people to tell students about the show in those accents.”
Some of the participants from previous years are still supporting the Vagina Monologues by participating again or sharing their experience.
Vu is participating in the Vagina Monologues for her second time. Because of the impactful and great experience she had last year, Vu believes that the Vagina Monologues will “empower all people to love themselves as well as educate people about gender-based violence” through each monologue.
Even two years after her performance in the Vagina Monologues, Ashleigh Richardson, a fourth-year environmental science and urban planning double major, still supports the event and cause.
“I didn’t even know how much she cared about violence against women until I preformed,” Richardson said.
She hopes that more female students come out to watch the event or even audition next year because she had a great experience when she was a participant.
UCI is full of advocates because each voice matters. The motto of V-day is “unique and united.” You have a voice, and UCI can be your center stage.
The Vagina Monologues will have three performances this year — Thur., February 20 in HSLH 100; Fri., February 21 in PSLH 100 and Sat., February 22 in Crystal Cove. All shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at vdayuci.com or at the door.
Students – $10 ($15 at door)
General Admission – $15