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Controversy Provoked By V-Day and "The Vagina Monologues"

Benefit Performances of Award-Winning Play Sparks Protests

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Updated April 15, 2011
Any event centered around a play in which women talk about their vaginas is bound to be controversial.

So it's not surprising that V-Day, the global movement to stop violence against women and girls, has faced protests, outright bans, picketing, and counter-movements to stop the event from being held on college campuses. V-Day, the brainchild of playwright Eve Ensler, is a public awareness and fundraising campaign that young women at colleges and universities have rallied around. Schools that participate in the V-Day College Campaign typically mount a performance of Ensler's award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues; proceeds benefit local women's domestic violence programs and shelters in the community.

Although V-Day's mission is to support women and end violence, the frank sexual nature of The Vagina Monologues has become an issue in and of itself.

Since 2003, an ongoing campaign by the Cardinal Newman Society - a group dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity in Catholic higher education - has targeted V-Day benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues at Catholic colleges and universities in the US. The Society encourages supporters to email Catholic college presidents and alumni of schools sponsoring V-Day benefit performances of the Monologues and request that the production be shut down.

Even on the occasion of V-Day's tenth anniversary in February 2008, the most unlikely protests surfaced. In a city known for its progressive lifestyle and open-minded residents, the Seattle Times refused to print a paid ad submitted by Seattle office of the National Council of Jewish Women. The artwork for a Monologues performance was rejected due to what the paper saw as the graphic nature of heart-shaped image used to promote the show.

In many of the large-scale benefits held in major cities in the US and around the world, celebrated actresses and other notable women associated with the feminist movement participate in staged readings of the Monologues. Despite their fame, these women are not immune to the backlash surrounding V-Day.

On Valentine's Day 2008, during an appearance on NBC's TODAY show, actress and activist Jane Fonda found herself at the center of controversy. In responding to a question about her participation in V-Day, Fonda inadvertently said the "C" word on live television, prompting a storm of protests once again.

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