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Vibrators, violence discussed in feminist documentary

One in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, according to a 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. The film V-Day: Until the Violence Stops follows a worldwide movement in which communities stage productions of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues to raise money for domestic violence shelters.

USF Students braved a brisk Wednesday night to watch the documentary, shown by the Campus Activities Board for Movies on the Lawn. V-Day, along with the film August Rush, was part of a double feature that benefited the USF Feminist Student Alliance (FSA) and local domestic violence service provider The Spring of Tampa Bay.

Megan Alfredson, a freshman majoring in psychology and FSA member, explained the organization’s connection with the V-Day movement, saying it had special significance for college students. She said FSA recently staged a production of The Vagina Monologues on campus and several members are going to a V-Day conference in New Orleans on April 11.

“I think there’s a lot more violence against college women than people care to talk about, both domestic and sexual violence,” she said.

A 1995 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of 5,000 students at more than 100 colleges found that 20 percent of female college students, or one in five, answered “yes” to the question “In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?”

V-Day: Until the Violence Stops tells the story of how The Vagina Monologues spurred the global grassroots movement to stop violence against women and girls known as V-Day. The Vagina Monologues debuted in New York City in 1996, with Ensler reading monologues of three women’s experiences with their sexuality and abuse.

The show gained popularity when celebrities began portraying the characters. It is now performed in communities and college campuses across the country each year during February. It was performed in more than 800 communities in 2002.

V-Day documented several productions of The Vagina Monologues in diverse locales, such as Harlem, N.Y., and the small rural town of Ukiah, Calif.

In Harlem, the play was put on at the historic Apollo Theater and attracted such celebrities as Queen Latifah, Rosie Perez, Rosario Dawson, Salma Hayek and more. The play opened with Yvette Davila, a survivor of sexual abuse, speaking about laws regarding the sale of vibrators. Her point illustrated the subtle sexism inherent in some states.

“It is illegal to sell vibrators in Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Ohio and Arkansas,” she said “But it is perfectly legal to sell guns in all of those states. I have yet to hear of a mass murder committed with a vibrator.”

In contrast to the urban setting of Harlem, Ukiah’s performance of The Vagina Monologues did not feature any celebrities. Instead, the play was performed by everyday women in the town. The filmmakers interviewed workers in a roadside construction crew, who expressed shock over the idea of a play about vaginas.

Not all those who came to view the film identified themselves as feminists. Jacob Giovagnoli, a freshman majoring in psychology confessed to knowing “nothing” about the issue.

“I like to absorb all information possible. I know nothing about this topic. I had no desire to see other films like Saw IV, but this seemed to have some social importance,” he said.

Others, like freshman anthropology major Chantelle Sharpe, identify with feminism and the ideals espoused in the film. Sharpe reacted to the low turnout – about 10 people – for the screening.

“I don’t find it surprising that a majority of my peers aren’t here trying to be vocal about women’s rights. Many people feel that things were settled after the 1920s,” she said.