V-February focuses on "visibility" this year

by Lorraine Liu | 2/12/19 3:15am

Debuted at Dartmouth in 1998, the play “the Vagina Monologues” inspired and started the V-February campaign, stemming from the global V-Day movement that aims to promote gender equity and end gender-based violence. However, over its 21 years, the campaign has evolved to feature more events and reflect different initiatives. This year, V-Feb focuses on “visibility” as its theme to increase the campaign’s inclusiveness, according to co-chair of the V-Feb committee Sara Cho ’20.

Cho noted that the “V” in the 2019 V-Feb stands for “visibility” instead of “vagina” and “voices,” which were traditional interpretations of “V” in past years. She explained that the 2019 V-Feb committee decided to let “V” stand for “visibility” this year to “work towards intersectionality and inclusivity.”

“[Using V to represent vaginas] is exclusive to trans-women and non-binary folks,” Cho wrote in an email statement. “It also perpetuates the misconception that sexual violence is an issue pertaining only to people with vaginas.”

V-Feb started to incorporate two other major plays — “Upstaging Stereotypes” and “Voices” — in 2013 and 2014, respectively, to address other communities on campus, such as people who identify as gender nonconforming and womxn. 

“We started to include Upstaging Stereotypes to talk about masculinity, and Voices is also a response to the Vagina Monologues,” Cho noted. “[The plays are] a way for [us] to listen to more Dartmouth students’ experience.”

Other than the three major plays, V-Feb also features different programs each year by collaborating with a wide range of different campus organizations and departments. This year, the V-Feb committee partnered with the Native American Program and invited Cinnamon Spear ’09 MALS ’13 to speak about rape being a tool for colonization and ongoing sexual assault in Indian country. Other collaborators include the women’s, gender and sexuality studies department, which helped organize an exhibit on the global #MeToo movement on first floor Berry, and the Black Legacy Month organization, which organized a movie screening of “For Colored Girls.” 

Co-chair of the V-Feb committee Olivia Audsley ’21 emphasized the collaborative efforts that the V-Feb committee and many organizations — ranging from the Office of Student Life to WISE — put into the V-Feb kick-off event, which includes a Valentine’s card making event and a workshop on sex toys. 

“There are so many different clubs that participated in our kick-off and they really come together to celebrate this month, because it works to include everybody on campus,” Audsley said. “We really wanted to reach all across campus, so we really tried to collaborate with as many different clubs as possible.”

Cho added that apart from assisting with programming, collaborating organizations also help the V-Feb committee to advertise events by sending emails about them using different accounts.

“We have a lot of members involved in many different organizations who are able to help,” she said.

Cho noted that the 2019 V-Feb events have seen higher participation than in past years. Audsley attributed the “significantly higher attendance” to the change in the V-Feb committee’s organizational structure this year, which adds a marketing subcommittee to the team.

“There are five subcommittees and one of them is marketing, which is focused just on increasing attendance and awareness on campus,” Audsley said. “They’ve done a really great job getting students into our events.”

Paulina Calcaterra ’19, a member of the programming subcommittee and host of the dinner discussion on feminism at Dartmouth, said that she was happy to see more people interested in V-Feb events, but pointed out that high attendance for the dinner discussion may have limited in-depth conversations. 

“It’s scary to participate in that big of a group with unfamiliar people there,” Calcaterra said. “I think it just shows us that people wanted to talk about [feminism at Dartmouth] and don’t often have places to talk about that.”

Co-director of the Vagina Monologues Rebecca Luo ’20 commented that the play gives women a space for their voices to be heard and respected. As an actress in the play during her freshman year, she said the experience was “transformative.”

Audsley identified the lack of representation in the 2019 V-Feb committee as a problem that the team should address in the future. 

“Our committee is dominated by white cisgender, heterosexual women and that really needs to be improved,” she said. “We need to work on what we do and try to be intersectional.”

Calcaterra agreed with Audsley’s call for more diversity in the V-Feb committee. 

“It’s hard to have programs that reflect diverse and inclusive perspectives because people in the room planning it have a limited framework,” she said. 

Audsley said she hopes to see high participation for the rest of V-Feb’s events. 

“We’re really going to challenge ourselves to think outside of the box, [to] bring voices that are not traditionally in the room of V-Feb into the room,” she said. “So far with just four of our events that have happened, we really hit that goal. It’s really just a matter of continuing our upward motions.”