The Vagina Monologues: Addressing an Epidemic of Gender Violence

Last week, I wrote the first in a series of blogs that would be related to The Vagina Monologues as we approach the production dates at OSU next month (Feb. 13-15). I talked about the history of the play and its association with the V-Day movement, which seeks to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

VDAY2015logo.enToday, I’d like to talk about what I consider an epidemic of gender violence which includes symptoms like domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape, and cultural practices, such as femicide and female genital mutilation. I refer to gender violence as an epidemic because it is causing a global health crisis, one which causes people to harm or kill others simply based on gender.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are probably the most familiar symptoms of this epidemic in the U.S. Sexual assault is a hot-button issue on college campuses right now. The Department of Education recently began an investigation into more than 85 universities because of how they have handled sexual assault cases. In case you weren’t aware, OSU is one of them.

1is2many Logo 3Sexual assault, dating violence (which is similar to domestic violence), and stalking are usually associated with adolescents and college students. The mandatory 1 is 2 Many training at OSU addresses these issues, and heavily emphasizes the sexual assault side. Addressing these issues seems like common sense, but surprisingly, prevention and education programs are met with resistance from both institutions and individuals.

Here are some statistics that demonstrate how big of a health crisis sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking is on college campuses (from the OSU: 1 is 2 Many site):

  • About one in five (20 percent) college women and one in one in sixteen (6 percent) college men will experience completed or attempted sexual assault during their college career.
  • Nine out of 10 sexual assault perpetrators are known by the victims.
  • Rape victims are thirteen (13) times more likely to commit suicide versus non-crime victims.
  • Only 2 to 13 percent of sexual assaults are reported to authorities, making sexual assault one of the most under reported crimes in America.
  • One in 6 women (16 percent) and 1 in 19 men (5 percent) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

Speaking from personal experience, these incidents happen more often than you’d think and even to people who “know better”. Sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking can affect anyone, but many times, people don’t know where or who to turn for help. Unfortunately, what seems to be more common these days is that people may not even realize it’s a problem (aka rape culture).

0d5tumblr_inline_mjttxa4NzR1qawfnhThe Steubenville rape controversy brought to light that many of the high school students involved had been desensitized to sexual assault and didn’t think that their actions were harmful. In fact, many of them made jokes about the “dead girl” who was sexually assaulted while she was passed out from drinking too much during a night of partying.

Domestic violence is also a major problem that most countries like the U.S. condemn, but tend not to want to talk about when the situation actually arises. The Ray Rice domestic violence situation was met with confusion and missteps as the NFL struggled to come up with an appropriate response to handle one of its star players after he knocked out his fiancee (now wife) in an elevator last year. It brought the issue of domestic violence into the national spotlight, however, due to the media firestorm around the incident, it also became a polarizing issue.

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Hitting a little closer to home, OSU football player Tyreek Hill was recently arrested for hitting his girlfriend, who just so happened to also be pregnant. Sadly, I heard and read many OSU fans more concerned with how his dismissal from the team would affect OSU’s bowl performance rather than be concerned that a college football player was hitting his girlfriend. Notice a trend with all the cases I’ve mentioned so far?

Before we can begin to change the statistics for sexual assault and domestic violence, we have to rethink how we approach talking about gender violence so we can change the attitudes behind it. The Vagina Monologues offers one way that makes it OK to talk about to start talking about gender and sexuality issues that society discourages us to talk about.

One of the girls who is participating in the play this year said that when she told her female friends she was going to be in The Vagina Monologues, many of them felt uncomfortable and disgusted that she would even say the word ‘vagina’. They asked her to quit saying the word.

“How can that be weird to talk about?” she asked them. “You have one!”

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The Vagina Monologues at OSU

Next month (Feb. 13-15), the Women’s Programming Advisory Council will be sponsoring three performances of The Vagina Monologues. I know the word “VAGINA” may make some people uncomfortable. I’ve even noticed that our fliers promoting auditions get taken down around buildings all over campus. For this reason, I want to educate readers of this blog on the purpose of The Vagina Monologues. Once you know more about the play, it may change your mind on what you think of the word vagina.

Vagina_Monologues_PosterThe Vagina Monologues were started by Tony award-winning playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler. In 1998, Ensler and others launched the V-Day campaign, a global activist movement to end violence against women. Over the past 16 years, V-Day activists from more than 140 countries have worked tirelessly on a grassroots level to demand an end to all forms of violence against women and girls. V-Day’s work is grounded in four core beliefs:VDAY2015logo.en

  • Art has the power to transform thinking and inspire people to act
  • Lasting social and cultural change is spread by ordinary people doing extraordinary things
    • Local women best know what their communities need and can become unstoppable leaders
    • One must look at the intersection of race, class, and gender to understand violence against women.

Through productions of the award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues, and other works, V-Day has raised more than $100 million in urgently needed funds for groups doing the essential work of ending violence and serving survivors and their families. V-Day organizers have saved lives, raised consciousness, changed laws to protect women and girls, funded rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters.

V-Day has received numerous acknowledgements and awards and is one of the top-rated organizations on both Charity Navigator and Guidestar. Visit the website www.vday.org for more information. Follow the movement on Twitter @VDay and on Facebook. To stay informed about events, actions, and opportunities for participation, sign up for V-Mail, the movement’s online newsletter, at www.vday.org/vmail.


WPAC will be hosting auditions for The Vagina Monologues today from 12-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. in CLB 303. Anyone is welcome to help out with the productions, but only female-identifying individuals (trans* included) who are 18 years or older and are affiliated with OSU can be in the performance cast. Email WPAC.okstate@gmail.com to learn how to become involved.


I will be posting more information about the productions in the upcoming weeks, so be on the lookout. All proceeds of the 2015 The Vagina Monologues productions will be going to Wings of Hope, Stillwater’s family crisis services center. I hope this information about The Vagina Monologues makes it a little less awkward to talk it about knowing that the play helps raise money and awareness to end violence against women and girls worldwide. Once we all can start participating in the discussion, we can all start working toward a solution.

Body Image: The Pursuit of “Perfection”

We are in the thick of the one of the busiest times for the fitness and weight loss industries. People are buying gym memberships and weight-loss products in the hopes of achieving smaller waists and the elusive thigh gap this year. In 2014, “weight loss” was number one on the list of the most common New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure the ranking hasn’t changed for 2015.

If you look at the numbers associated with the fitness and weight loss industry, they are staggering.Body%20Image%20flier What causes society to invest so much time, money, and concern into how we externally present ourselves to one another? A large reason is the messages in media and advertising that affect how society feels it should appear.

This Thursday at 5 p.m. in Classroom Building 114, the Women’s Programming Advisory Council will discuss the topic of body image and the media at the first general meeting of the semester.

Throughout history, women have been the primary targets of advertisers and corporations to sell them the idea of what they should and need to look like, and increasingly men are suffering the effects of body image in the media. For the purposes of this blog, however, I’m mainly going to look at how women’s body images are affected by the media, especially with eating disorders still being a very misunderstood and relevant issue.

In 2014, Victoria’s Secret released the controversial ad campaign titled, “The Perfect Body”. Many of the critiques stemmed from Victoria’s Secret implications that in order to be “perfect” on the outside, you have to look like their models. The controversy prompted Victoria’s Secret to change their campaign tagline.

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Another example: J.Crew recently added a 000 (triple zero) to its online size options that contribute to a concept termed “vanity sizing“. Ads and campaigns such as these lead to a warped sense of what body measurements are ideal, despite the fact that most bodies are not built to achieve these measurements. It’s a vicious cycle with the majority of women frequently coming out on the losing end.

There’s hope though! Society has begun to stand up to the unrealistic body image standards we place on women and men.

Companies like Dove, with its real beauty campaign, and popular lingerie company Aerie, who has committed to a “no photoshop” policy with its models, are giving us hope that society can begin moving away from body image conformity and toward body appreciation.

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Follow WPAC on Facebook and Twitter to learn more details about the upcoming body image meeting. I hope to see you there so we can continue the discussion about body image and the media.

WPAC: Feminism at OSU

In 2014, TIME Magazine issued a list titled “Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?” At the top of the list: “Feminist.”

You might have heard the term “feminist” or “feminism” more often in the past year in association with celebrities like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Shailene Woodley.

The Tumblr blogs “Who Needs Feminism?” and “Women Against Feminism” have also stirred up recent press for the term.

But what is a legitimate definition of feminism?

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

That doesn’t sound so bad. Nothing at all like the man-hating, lesbian-filled, witchcraft-practicing, children-killing, capitalist-destroying, victim-seeking definition some people who hate on the term make it out to be.

In reality, “feminist” is an evolving term, marking a movement for gender equality. Some people use the terms “equalist” or “humanist”, but if you read the definitions of those terms, one by definition has nothing to do with gender equality and the other covers a broad spectrum of equality. Feminism, however, specifically addresses the historical oppression of women, with the term “womanist” more narrowly addressing the oppression of black women and “trans feminism*” approaching feminism from a trans* perspective.

The Women’s Programming Advisory Council (WPAC) at Oklahoma State University is a student-organization created to address women’s issues at OSU and in the Stillwater community. In essence, however, women’s issues are gender issues, which yes, make them EVERYONE’s issues.

I encourage the readers of this blog, of all gender identities, to get involved with an organization like WPAC or one of the many other organizations on campus that are working to achieve gender equality in their own ways.

OSU has many great organizations that address gender issues such as the Minority Women’s Association (MWA), Oklahoma State Queers and Allies (OSQ&A), the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and the Society of Women Engineers, just to name a few.

[Side note: Close to 40 percent of women with engineering degrees leave the profession or never enter the field]

I’m excited for the opportunity to write this blog and I look forward to opening the discussion on gender issues at OSU. Feel free to send any suggestions my way if there’s a topic related to gender issues that you’d like to see explored in a future blog.

WPAC’s next general meeting is Thursday, Jan. 22, at 5 p.m., CLB 114.

Find more organizations on CampusLink by searching for the keyword “women” or “gender.”