No vagina left behind

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By Andrea Solis

By Andrea Solis

If you were circling the Lovekin complex for parking between 9:30-10:30 a.m. on Feb. 21, it is likely that you witnessed a woman in a large pink and purple vagina costume, trimmed with white fur, holding a sign that said, “Honk if you love vaginas.”

This provocative occurrence helped to kick off the five-day festival of V-Day activities designed to bring awareness to the issues of global violence against women.

What were motorists’ reactions to the giant vagina in their parking lot?

“Some honked and had fun -or looked away. Instead of controversy or rude comments people tend to ignore us,” said Jami Brown, faculty adviser of Feminists Unite – a club that focuses on issues of gender equality.

Brown indicated that there has never been any resistance to V-Week from students or administration in its history at RCC.

“Dr. Castro has been extremely supportive. He signed a declaration stating that this is a rape-free campus,” Brown said.

V-Week culminated in a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” produced by RCC student Sarah Warren, who was also part of the cast. Warren has been involved with this production for two of the three years it has appeared at RCC and hopes that it will “bring awareness about the degree of violence going on (against women) on this campus and worldwide.”

Additional activities during V-Week included a vagina coloring contest with prizes donated by The Coffee Depot of Riverside, a contest in which you insert the word vagina into your favorite movie title, the Clothesline Project which displayed T shirts with messages written by survivors of sexual assault or their loved ones and the creation and display of a poster with men’s hands traced on it entitled “These hands don’t hurt women.”

Volunteers also conducted a social experiment called “The Gauntlet” in which women lined both sides of a walkway in the Lovekin complex and cat called the unsuspecting men who wandered through. The men were debriefed once they reached the other side and questioned about how it felt to be on the receiving end of demeaning sexual epithets.

A candlelight vigil honoring the survivors of violence against women served as a respectful transition to the “The Vagina Monologues.”

There were a total of four performances in the Digital Library Auditorium between opening night Feb. 23 and the Feb. 26 matinee.

The cast comprised mostly of RCC students included two faculty members and two people from the local community.

The softly lit, multicultural, female cast ranged in age from young to mature and wore all black clothing peppered with doses of red accessories ostensibly intended to dramatize certain parts of the monologues. Their bare feet conveyed a sense of comfortableness with themselves and the audience as well as setting a mood of intimacy and sensuality.

The unassuming stage design was comprised of a few lustrous plants and a piano with some flowers and pictures of women atop it – all symbols of life, beauty, refinement and a place we think of as home; the same adjectives which can be used to describe womanhood itself.

The second night’s audience, which was constituted of about 40 percent men, received the performance with reverence, enthusiasm and raucous laughter. Audience members remarked that they enjoyed the performance feeling enlightened.

“(It was) funny and brought up issues that we don’t hear about in the mainstream media. It’s important the information gets out there so we can have a dialogue about it,” said Tezozomoc.

Brown hoped audience members would gain from this experience.

“Stopping violence against women is their responsibility; even if they are not perpetrators themselves…it is up to all men,” she said. “(Women should know) that they are not alone and there are women who care with common experiences – they don’t have to be quiet if they have been victimized.”

Brown said that due to the awareness V-Week has brought over the years many women have approached her on campus to confess that they had been victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives but had been afraid to come forward. She said this has inspired her and a student to want to start a survivor’s peer support group on campus in the near future.

This year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” cleared over $4,000. Eighty percent of the proceeds will go to benefit the Riverside County Rape Crisis Center, a non-profit organization. The remaining 20 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the V-Day fund to aid the surviving “comfort women,” victims of sexual enslavement, who are appealing to the Japanese government for reparations and official recognition of their exploitation and torture by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII.

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