On Tuesday, February 11, Vassar’s Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) hosted a screening of the film “V-Day” followed by a critique moderated by Senior Lecturer of English and Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Karen Robertson. This film documents the efforts of a grassroots activist movement sparked by Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues”. Members of the movement raise money for domestic violence prevention and survivors, as well as other international activities including rallies, leadership classes, and educational media campaigns. The film highlighted these issues with their presentation and discussion.
Coordinator of the SAVP, Elizabeth Schrock, said the impetus for the film screening came from a collective interest between the students in her office and herself. “The students that work in my office and I were really interested in learning more about the V-DAY movement including the impact that it’s had, how it fits within the larger movement to end sexual violence and intimate partner violence, and the valid critiques of it,” she said.
Office Assistant at SAVP, Fiona Abrams ‘16, participated in the planning and execution of the event and discussed her participation in an e-mailed statement. She said, “This screening [of V-Day] will be followed by another event later in February…last year we participated with a flash mob dance in the quad to support survivors of interpersonal violence. With V-day coming up this Friday, the film is a good way to raise awareness about the event and the issues it combats.”
Her fellow office assistant at the SAVP, Jordan Ross ‘16, was also involved in planning and elaborated on the SAVP’s goals. “We really wanted to be a part of the national V-Day movement and we thought that this would be a really great way to introduce it…this is one way we thought we could spark discussion and make people aware,” she said.
She continued, “This [film screening] is like part one, we’re going to have another screening later in February… it all has to do with V-Day awareness, and that’ll be part two.”
Abrams also acknowledged the importance of the guided critique after the screening. She stated, “We are very aware of the controversies about Ensler’s work including exclusion of queer identities as well as her colonialist approach. These arguments have been especially apparent with the upcoming performance of the Vagina Monologues at Vassar. I think it is important for us to recognize the strides that Ensler’s work made against interpersonal violence while also discussing its problematic aspects….”
Ross added, “We want to acknowledge the changes that [Eve Ensler] has brought to the movement, but we also want to highlight how there’s a lot more work to be done and we want people to discuss those ideas.”
Schrock elaborated on the specific issues highlighted by V-Day, saying, “We chose to include a critique because similar to many highly visible feminists of second and third-wave feminist movements, Eve Ensler, a straight, white, cisgender western woman, was the initiator of V-DAY. This erasure of incredibly powerful queer activists and activists of color within the anti-violence movement is not socially just, and we should critically examine our tendency to ignore this fact.”
Abrams added, “I think a discussion like this can be beneficial to the student body as it allows for students to voice the concerns they may have with the movement and it gets students thinking about how they would like to see things change and what they can do to help.”
The film had powerful effects on many viewers, including Schrock, who said, “I find the stories of survival, healing, and empowerment [in the film] to be incredibly powerful; and the stories of rape, violence, and control to be devastating.”
About 20 students attended the screening. In the critique afterwards, students discussed the film as well as Vassar’s upcoming student performance of the Vagina Monologues and focused on several of the issues raised by Schrock, including both play and film being alienating to the trans* community, presenting a colonialist perspective on international women’s issues, and focusing more on remedial measures than true violence prevention. All attendees declined to comment.
Abrams expressed hope that students will be inspired by the event to become more involved with the social issues discussed. She said, “I think Vassar has a lot of great resources for this kind of information and some people aren’t aware of all of them. SAVP holds events all throughout the year that aim to educate the student body about global issues as well concerns on Vassar’s campus.”
She added, “I would also highly recommend taking a Women’s Studies course at some point over the four years. There are also various organizations on campus like the Vassar Feminist Alliance that could provide great information and discussion about related topics.”
Schrock also encouraged interested students to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if they are interested in becoming involved with the SAVP, adding, “The Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention program is here to support students who have questions about sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, as well as provide information and prevention programming. Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) advocates are available to provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Ross added that “The actual V-Day is on February 14th, and we’ll be doing something for that as well, but it’s a little bit of a surprise.”