‘V-February’ to display various campus voices

by Elizabeth Smith | 2/6/14 7:54pm

After students approached the Center for Gender and Student Engagement objecting to past V-Week programming, saying that events like the Vagina Monologues failed to represent an adequate range of student perspectives and identities, the CGSE decided to expand the week-long program of past years into month-long campaign known as “V-February.”

The revised programming will center on the theme “V is for Voices” and will spotlight global perspectives on feminism, aiming to empower Dartmouth community members to share their own experiences, acting assistant CGSE director Michelle Hector said. In past years, V-Week has used the themes of victory, violence and vaginas in its campus campaign to raise awareness of violence against women.

The new program aims to provide a space for underrepresented, marginalized and silenced voices to speak out while highlighting experiences outside of traditional gender and sexuality binaries, according to the CGSE website.

New additions to the annual program include “Voices: An Original Production,” a panel called “Voices Around the World” and a keynote address.

“Voices: An Original Production” will allow self-identified women at Dartmouth to share their own experiences in a format modeled on the Vagina Monologues, performance co-director Jessica King Fredel ’17 said. A discussion will follow the Feb. 12 show.

The production aims to provide a platform for women to share stories that will resonate with audience members, King Fredel said.

The production centers on perspectives specific to the Dartmouth student body, said V-February committee member Murylo Batista ’15.

“I predict students will connect even better with this than ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ because it’s the experiences of their own peers,” Batista said.

One of King Fredel’s main goals was to create a community for the performers beyond the production itself, she said.

“I want to be making these spaces on campus for women to come together,” King Fredel said, adding that she hopes participants will have analytical conversations about their experiences as women.

“The Vagina Monologues,” a series of monologues written by Eve Ensler that discuss taboos surrounding female sexuality, has received criticism for not actively portraying diverse female voices, V-February committee member Murylo Batista ’15 said.

While the CGSE will stage “The Vagina Monologues” this year on Feb. 26, the center will also hold an event about controversies associated with the performance the following night.

V-February will also offer Dartmouth men a chance to share their stories, through the all-male Upstaging Stereotypes performance, said director Jimmy Ragan ’16. The show, performed for the first time during last year’s V-Week, challenges traditional notions of masculinity.

Ragan said V-February is the ideal time to perform Upstaging Stereotypes because the program celebrates diverse gender and sexual identities.

The show aims to leave viewers with the realization that men fall victim to stereotypes just as women do, Ragan said. When men do not completely fit into clichéd ideas of traditional masculinity, they can act in a self-destructive manner, and the show’s cast intends to show that there are better ways of becoming confident in your identity, he said.

“We feel that our performance is pro-feminist, male-positive — and it’s essential that you have both,” Ragan said.

Upstaging Stereotypes will take place on Feb. 17 in Collis Common Ground.

Other events on the V-February calendar include a social event promoting safe spaces for all genders and a Proud to be a Woman Dinner. Speak Out, an event at which students share their experiences with sexual assault, will be held on Feb. 18.

Dartmouth’s V-February program works with the international activist organization V-Day, a group devoted to end violence against women and girls, Hector said.

Proceeds from Dartmouth’s V-February events will go to WISE, an organization that assists individuals who are suffering from domestic and sexual violence in the Upper Valley, Hector said.

The V-February program will commence with the Cindy Pierce Comedy Show on Feb. 10 and end on Feb. 28 with a keynote address by motivational speaker Sarah Vitorino, who has studied how women cope with incarceration.

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