Not Your Mama’s Vagina: The V-Word is Coming to Dorchester

Nancy Derby

In 1999, two years after Eve Ensler first began V-Day, 66 schools participated in productions of The Vagina Monologues and the amount raised, as listed on V-Day’s website (, is “not applicable.”

Seven years later, 2000 events and 940 productions of The Vagina Monologues have been organized in 76 countries, 328 cities, and 719 college campuses in 2005 alone, with the total raised for the V-Day movement amounting to more than $25 million. Not bad for a New York playwright advised by friends to omit the word “vagina” in the title of a play because it would make people uncomfortable.

The “V” in V-Day stands not only for Vagina, but also anti-Violence, and Victory, Valentine, and, new this year, Vote. V-Day, a global nonprofit organization, runs from February 1 through March 8 and raises money for grassroots, national, and international organizations and programs already in place that work to stop violence against women and girls. This year’s targeted countries for continued outreach, as part of the Karama program (Karama is Arabic for self-respect), include Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, with 10 percent of this year’s proceeds going to networks serving women in Iraq.

However, Ensler warns against overlooking the abuse of women in the United States. In an interview in Mother Jones, Ensler states, “I think violence against women in America has become ordinary [in comparison to issues such as genital mutilation in other countries]-it’s been made absolutely acceptable. Battery and rape are such a part of the framework of our culture that we don’t see them as outrageous.” (November/December 2004) Her newest play, The Good Body, for example, focuses on the American influenced issue of body image and its dominance over the world’s perception of beauty, as well as women’s roles in accepting and perpetuating this attitude. In an interview with the Guardian Weekend she draws the comparison between visiting a Beverly Hills cosmetic vaginal surgery center where women were having their vaginas tightened and labias trimmed, and women in Kenya having their clitorises removed as part of female genital mutilation (October 9, 2004).

V-Day Dorchester

Forty-one colleges and universities in Massachusetts participated in The Vagina Monologues, including UMass Boston. Newburyport, Acton-Boxborough, Northfield, Palmer, and Worcester did their own productions, and Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, and Springfield have upcoming performances.

To raise money for V-Day Dorchester’s production of The Vagina Monologues on March 4, campaign organizer Michele Martin raised for the fundraiser. In line with Ensler’s opinion that, “If you go out with artistic, outrageous irony and humor, people are drawn to it” (Mother Jones), Martin and Jeannie Greeley, sex and humor columnist for Stuff@Night, hosted O-69 Boudoir Bingo, billed as “the best place to score on Valentine’s Day,” at the Middle East Club in Cambridge, as well as the G-Spot Review at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline. The G-Spot Review, if you missed it, was the best time you could ever have for a good cause. Guests included burlesque dancing by Thru the Keyhole Burlesque (always a good show), female wrestlers La Gata Negra (the highlight of the night), slightly drunk but funny comedy duo Steamy Bohemians, Miss Dominika K. and her devilish baton, and all-female rock band Steel Poniez (their drummer is unbelievable-if you get the chance to see them, don’t miss it). On the choice of events Martin states, “Boudoir Bingo and the G-Spot Revue brought out the positives of sex and femininity showing them in all their different expressions-whether it be strength (the wrestlers), sensuality (the batonist), glamour (the burlesque girls), humor and wit (the Steamies) or raw talent (the band). In drawing attention to sex and sensuality the way we did, our hope was to show the positive ways in which it can be expressed, in an effort to end all the negativity that results when sex is used as a form of violence, abuse, and enslavement.” Proceeds for both events are going to fund the production of The Vagina Monologues, directed by Jessica Blake, at the Strand Theater on Columbia Avenue in Dorchester on March 4.

Martin first got involved in V-Day through acting in performances of The Vagina Monologues. She then decided that she wanted to play a larger role and, after learning that V-Day Jamaica Plain was already taken, decided upon originating a V-Day Dorchester. Of her interest in V-Day, Martin states, “I know so many people who are survivors. The U.N. statistics are that one in four women will be raped, mutilated, or assaulted and I find that that is an unacceptable statistic. As I became more involved I became more passionate.” She cites the case of Samantha Walton, a 20-year-old acid burn victim from Guyana who came to Boston to receive medical treatment not available in Guyana. Martin, through V-Day, is encouraging donations to Healing the Children to pay for the medical bills that Walton’s family cannot afford. For her struggle and strength Martin is awarding Walton a Vagina Warrior award, a V-Day award given to local women (and sometimes men) by campaign organizers for their unique perseverance and character in times of crisis. Another recipient of a V-Day Dorchester Vagina Warrior award is Trisha Meili, the famed Central Park Jogger who nearly died after being brutally attacked in Central park over a decade ago and who has no memory of the episode due to head injuries sustained in the incident. Meili now heads the Achilles Running Group Board of Directors (a running club for survivors of head injuries) and is an author and certified public speaker. Both women will be presented with their Vagina Warrior awards at the March 4 production of the Vagina Monologues in Dorchester. It starts at 7 p.m. at the Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road, Dorchester. Proceeds go to Fenway Community Health’s Violence Recovery Program. Tickets are still available at!

Additional Information

V-Day: This very intensive and easily navigable website can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about V-Day, as well as how to get involved.

V-Day Dorchester: Get your tickets for the March 4 showing of The Vagina Monologues at the Strand Theater!

Boston’s Sweethearts Thru the Keyhole Burlesque:

La Gata Negra, League of Masked Lady Wrestlers:

Steamy Bohemians:

Steel Poniez: