Playwright and activist Eve Ensler once again spoke for girls and women against violence at the TED 2010 annual conference. Her V-Day initiative has funded more than 11,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. How did Eve influence audiences especially women in China ? Karen Jiang, our writer at Global TEDtoChina group, reports from Hong Kong with her interesting observations.
Coming from a wealthy family in New York, Eve Ensler, the nowadays world-famous playwright, performer, feminist and activist, did not have a happy childhood as others imagine. As a child, she was abused by her father both physically and sexually. The unfortunate childhood and chaotic youth hood together led Eve Ensler to her later career in stopping violence against women and girls. By writing and playing dramas as well as launching a special movement – V day, Eve Ensler spares no effort to envision a planet in which females are free to thrive, rather than merely survive.
The Vagina Monologues, Ensler’s first well-known drama, tells hundreds of women’s stories mainly about their sexual experiences. These funny, engaging and scary stories have attracted much attention of the public. In 1996, Eve Ensler was awarded the Obie Award, and till now, The Vagina Monologues has been translated into 45 different languages and played in more than 120 countries.
In 2001, the English version of The Vagina Monologues was first played in China, and in the following two years, though played for several times, it was mainly knew by some university students. The most influential play during the period was given by students and staffs of Sun Yat-Sen University. Though unprofessional, they have moved the masses deeply by their sincere and powerful performance. The Vagina Monologues’s first commercial show in China, unfortunately, was banned by the government in 2003. Despite of the frustrating experience, various scholars, activists, feminists and university students in China have worked at promoting the public performance of the drama for years. Finally, in 2009, The Vagina Monologues was allowed to play publicly by Xinchuan Experimental Troupe. Based on the original work, the Chinese adaption has added some contents reflecting the present situation in China, such as Dustbin Baby. The show got huge success and was given to full-houses for eight times in Beijing and Shanghai.
To an extent, The Vagina Monologues is challenging to traditional Chinese value system. Some audiences felt uncomfortable during the show, especially when hearing the word “vagina”, but more people give ardent responses to the drama. Moreover, along with the social developments in recent years, the masses’ notion is experiencing significant changes. Numerous people are participating in disseminating The Vagina Monologues and related thoughts, and some are active in V day movements.
For instance, a group called VA, short for V Action, has been formed on Douban, a popular Chinese online community with specialization in movies, books, and music: members enthusiastically discuss about the book, the drama and shows online. Besides, V day@Wuhan, Vagina Monologues@Fudan and many other groups based on the play are active in different places in China. All these events have undoubtedly aroused social concerns towards issues with respect to sex and females’ rights.
Sixteen years have passed since The Vagina Monologues was first finished; nine years have passed since the first show in China. During the years, the drama has caused lots of arguments all over the world, but meanwhile, it has touched innumerable people, leading them to sob and smile with the females’ fates in the play. The Vagina Monologues is all about self and real stories, making it more vigorous than any study and research. The increasing social concerns towards female rights in China proves it. Therefore, it is safe to say that The Vagina Monologues brings females a process of self-consciousness and self-empowering. Only if women speaks for their individuality, can they avoid the fates of being ignored and obtain freedom to thrive in the world.
Wenyu Jiang, Karen (姜文钰)
Writer at Global@TEDtoChina Group
A student of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, majoring in Integrated Business. Enjoying traveling and reading; fond of Yoga and environmental protection activities. Appreciating humanistic care; concerning with every individual’s stories; respecting all those who are kind , sincere and have full heart toward life. Wish to help others as much as possible. Used to participate in many community services, and glad to know more friends caring for the society and enjoying lives through TED.
Email: karenjiang2 AT gmail dot com