Earlier this year, author Nancy Redd was asked to give her 2007 body-positive book 'Body Drama' to 250 teenage Hurricane Katrina survivors at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the 'Vagina Monologues'. "I've harbored a major crush on Eve Ensler for over nine years," Nancy says. "Growing up with normal teenage angst and inadequate health education, I hated my vulva and I never referred to "down there" as anything other than a "hoo-ha". The Monologues were my introduction to feminism; nothing was more empowering to 18-year-old me than having a legit reason to scream "MY SHORT SKIRT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!" and "IT'S SUPPOSED TO SMELL LIKE PUSSY!" to the world." Below, Nancy fills us in on everything that went down in the (very fertile) Crescent City over the weekend, where 18,000 participants raised awareness of violence towards women by giving love to vaginas and the amazing women who own them.
Eve Ensler considers New Orleans to be the vagina of America. In fact, in her tribute monologue to New Orleans, Welcome to the Wetlands, she makes some pretty awesome comparisons to the vag, like:
"We call her sultry and sexy when we crave her, but after when we want to demean her and dismiss her, we call her swampy and soiled."
"We brag about her music, the way she moves, we beg to get inside her, but disown her later when she has needs."
That pretty much sums up the ex-boyfriend we've all had and hated, right?
This year, Eve decided to concentrate the power of her tenth anniversary on the community who needs it the most: the women of New Orleans, who, as Ensler explains, have "survived the fallout of global warming, failure of public structures, racism, economic hardship, and domestic abuse." (She calls them "Katrina Warriors".)
As soon as we walked into the Superdome, we were overwhelmed by the Biggest. Vagina. Ever. Very hypnotizing, and reminiscent of Gene Simmons' tongue!
Right after I arrived at the arena on Friday, author Gabrielle Roth had everyone come to the front of the stage for a fifteen minute "ecstatic dance" designed to release grievances and to allow positive energy to flow. The crowd was LOVING it, and I wanted Gabrielle to crowd surf so badly, because we would have caught her and it would have been awesome.
Afterwards, I checked out the art that decorated the Superdome, created by activists from around the world. Pieces included the biggest bra ball ever...
...an activist comic titled "Fuck, I'm a Victim," and V-Day memorabilia from the past ten years. One really cool installment was the Intentions Hut, where people could go inside and write their dreams and goals and place them in a box aptly titled 'Intentions.' This is where I found out that nearly everyone working the event — from Rosario Dawson's assistant for the day to the translator for Congolese doctor Dr. Denis Mukwege — was a volunteer, and many were college students or retirees. (The volunteer manning the Intentions Hut told me that her husband took Eve Ensler to his prom!)
A large part of the decision to hold the anniversary event at the Superdome was to transform horrible memories for Katrina survivors into positive ones. To do this, V-Day created three healing stations for local women (with some services and samples open to everyone) on the upper levels. To get to the stations, which was also where the food was, everyone had to pass through a giant glowing vulva. Perhaps for rebirth?
Once upstairs, there were massage sessions, yoga classes taught by Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman, and free haircuts and makeup application for Katrina survivors, who were truly enjoying all of the pampering.
There was also a jam-packed activism room full of creative and inspiring groups and organizations, like the women from SAFER, who displayed edgy t-shirts...
...and Rha Goddess, who offered her new book We Got Issues.
There were so many younger kids swarming around and it was heartwarming seeing them studying the artwork and questioning the activists about what they do.
One of the best stage presentations included a girl who looked to be about ten and who proudly exclaimed that in her life from now on, she was "going to ignore stupidity and claim self control." She is now my new role model.
There were quite a few guys (a.k.a. "V-Men") around, too, both as participants and spectators. Authors and activists Jimmie Briggs, who brought his proud mom and aunt (aw!), and John Prendergast chatted with Tara from CosmoGIRL! and myself in between adoring fans (of which there were many).
On Saturday morning, Asia Rainey, local activist and the force behind the Daughters of Hope Rites of Passage, gave us our cues and got us all charged up, and Eve Ensler came in to say hi to the giddy teens, who were nervous and thrilled about being onstage in front of so many people, where they recited skills they'd learned in mentoring classes.
A lot of the girls were super-amped about the fact that they were going to meet Kerry Washington afterwards, worrying that their cell phones wouldn't get good enough pictures. As I was lining up to go onstage to give my presentation — during which I gave a motivational speech and presented my book — I bumped into Dr. Mukwege, an amazing Congolese doctor who is at the forefront of next year's V-Day focus on stopping violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even though I let loose with an embarrassing scream of glee and a big hug he was incredibly gracious, just chilling in the waiting room wearing a sparkly red feather boa around his neck. I was hoping he would keep it on for the whole evening but alas, he took it off before his Q&A with Eve.
Next up was a Hollywood panel with Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, Amber Tamblyn, and Ali Larter; it was a huge hit, and the ladies really opened up about a lot of the sexism and weight concerns that they deal with in the industry.
Women are actually lambasted for crazy things like their ARM size, y'all! When asked about racial stereotypes of females in the media, Kerry expressed her frustration about the few roles for black women that aren't maids or prostitutes, and said that when she had to play one of those roles she tried hard to make the character a real person and not just the stereotype. There were girls who started CRYING in the audience when the celebs came out, and a few teens were brave enough to sneak backstage to get hugs and pictures, and everyone was really cool and gracious about it.
For that evening's star-studded performance of the Vagina Monologues, the Superdome was packed and full of energy.
Eve's adopted son Dylan McDermott was sitting right in front of me next to one of his daughters.
For me, the Vagina Monologues are like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and other movie classics...even though I've seen 'em a million times and I have most of the lines memorized I still love watching from beginning to end. Seeing Eve perform live injected new life into the decade-old words, and I loved her vulva pantsuit.
The celebrities added an interesting flavor and there were some new monologues that had been introduced since the last time I did the show. After watching the touching monologue "They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy" in homage of the transgender experience, I had to Google one of the performers, Calpernia Addams, and I have found my new favorite time-killing video channel.
Towards the end of the performances, Jennifer Beals stole the entire show with her rendition of the crowd favorite "The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy", aka "The Moaner".
Her and her backup moaners' renditions of the Irish Catholic orgasm moan "Oh, Oh, Oh PLEASE forgive me!" and the African-American moan "Oh SHIT! Oooooh SHIT! SHIT SHIT SHIT!" were absolutely hilarious.
At the afterparty at the W, I finally got a good look at Rosario Dawson's shoes and they were as I suspected - the infamous backward heels!
What's really funny is that earlier that evening, while we were both backstage, she seriously questioned whether or not my gold wedge heels were comfy. Anyway, she said her shoes felt fine but I wished I had asked her where she got them because my Google-fu is failing me and I NEED THOSE SHOES!
There was tons of food at the party, including made-to-order FREAKING chicken and waffles, y'all! (Eve and her people know how to throw a party.) Everyone was into the music and the atmosphere and the people and it was just a room full of hot, happy vaginas and their guy friends...a perfect end to an amazing weekend. Hope to see everyone in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009!
The V Day Event Of The Decade: V To The Tenth [V10.VDay.org]
"Here At The Hospital, We Have Seen Women Who Have Stopped Living"
New York Interviewer Accuses Vagina Book Author Of An "Anti-Waxing Slant"
Badass, Self-Described Feminist Jane Fonda Drops the C-Word On Today
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