College launches 13th annual V-week events

by Axel Hufford | 2/18/13 11:00pm

Faced with the statistic that one-third of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, playwright and activist Eve Ensler created the global V-day movement in 1998 to end violence against women and create a venue for women's empowerment.

Dartmouth students joined the movement in 2000 and this week, the Center for Gender and Student Engagement will host its 13th annual V-week to educate community members about gender-based violence and empower them to act.

V-week, which began last Thursday and will continue through Feb. 27, features lectures, discussions and events organized by over 100 students, professors and staff.

Kathryn Blair, assistant director of the Center for Gender and Student Engagement, said the events help direct important attention to gender-based violence.

"Most people, you and I, probably know someone who was affected by this type of violence," she said. "I think it's critical that we work together to end it."

At Wednesday's "Speak Out" event, students affected by sexual assault will share stories and create a safe space for dialogue.

"I feel that, too often, sexual violence goes unspoken, which can create a horrible cycle where people think sexual assault doesn't happen," Rachel Funk '15, one of the event's organizers, said. "Speak Out' allows students to share their stories, and it empowers women on campus."

V-week is about more than combating violence. Thursday's "One Billion Rising" event celebrated womanhood and femininity through dance and movement. The event took place in over 200 countries and generated visibility for V-week on campus, Blair said.

The "V" in V-week, which stands for Victory over Violence, encapsulates the multi-faceted nature of the programs, Center for Gender and Student Engagement intern Carla Yoon '15 said.

"V-week raises awareness about many issues surrounding gender-based violence, but it also promotes the progress that we've made," Yoon said. "V-week brings everything together in a way that people can truly celebrate."

"The Vagina Monologues" play by Ensler about on the feminine experience will culminate V-week events.

Co-directed by Anna Fagin '13, Maia Matsushita '13 and Gillian O'Connell '15, the monologues will have an underlying focus on how words can mean different things to different people, Matsushita said. To emphasize this theme, different words will be projected onto the set and the show will feature three original monologues, written by Dartmouth students.

"This year we really asked the cast to think about how they pronounce and weigh their words, especially the tempo and emphasis of them," O'Connell said. "In regard to femininity, there are words that some women find empowering and others find disempowering. We want to emphasize this complexity."

Sandi Caalim '13 and Marian Gutierrez '13 are writing and performing an original monologue that focuses on a perceived double standard between men and women in sex. Caalim said that many women are stuck in the 1960s mindset that a woman's sole job is to pleasure her partner during sex. The monologue will advocate for the redefinition of what sex means to women.

"The Vagina Monologues bring together women from different communities, backgrounds and years, creating a group of women who can all be vulnerable together," Caalim said. "At Dartmouth, a school that used to be only for men, it is important that we, as women, realize that we have voices too."

Although the events emphasize female empowerment, V-week is not exclusively for women. A discussion will analyze male stereotypes and consider masculinity on campus.

"V-week is for everybody," Blair said. "Men, women, anybody can come out, learn and have a good time. Come out and support the movement."

Through co-sponsorships and candy sales, the Center for Gender and Student Engagement has already raised $3,500 for WISE, an Upper Valley nonprofit organization that helps those affected by sexual or domestic violence.

The week's events include "Upstaging Stereotypes" on Thursday, "Global Gender Violence" on Friday, and a mental self-defense class on Feb. 25.