V Day is fast approaching. It is a day dedicated to empowering women to rise up against the violence perpetuated on them simply because of their gender. V Day was inspired by Eve Enslers’ performance piece the Vagina Monologues. Empowered by the incredibly powerful and positive reaction to her play, in 2001 Eve launched V Day, a non-profit organization, which demands rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery end immediately and believes “women should spend their lives creating and thriving rather than surviving or recovering from terrible atrocities”. Last year millions of women around the globe rose up and danced together on V-Day, which not coincidentally falls on Valentine’s day because beatings, strangulation, rape and mutilation do not look like love to us.
Want to feel empowered? Come out and dance with us. Go see the Vagina Monologues. Next year get a part in the play. The Monologues are not a static script, they change and morph as new women add their voices.
Abuse against women and children makes me sad. It’s a constant grief in my heart, a never-ending burden of anguish. And I am one of the lucky ones – loving father, enlightened husband, a son considerate and respectful of women. For their sakes I battled through my rage and owned my own complicity in my culture’s ongoing disdain for women. But I still can’t understand the inherent cruelty humanity exhibits toward the powerless. It often brings me to the brink of despair.
For me, the antidote to despair is the friendship of women. That friendship nourishes and sustains me. Amazingly, wherever I go I find I find women full of compassion, intelligence, wisdom and humor to befriend. I don’t mean all women are wonderful – of course not – but wonderful women abound in every place and clime. V-Day brings them dancing out into the streets. It’s a glorious celebration of femininity that demonstrates why for so many tens of thousands of years, humankind revered the feminine. I love women. I love myself. The following valentines are for us…
One Sitting/One Billion Rising
The path, flowed
rippled through time
moving between worlds
traversing past, present, future
guiding the footsteps of millions
though each one walked alone.
One day, tired of moving endlessly forward
a woman sat down upon the ground.
Others joined her. There they sat
smack dab in the middle.
Humanity pushed on around them.
They tossed their pasts into the circle –
photographs, tattered sketches, a battered box, a cradle.
A gypsy snapped her fingers
flames danced beneath the cauldron
(women always have a cauldron).
Pawing through purses, they pulled out
onion, tomato, turnip, fish
potatoes, collards, salt.
Smacking, drooling, cackling
women drank the soup
wiped the vessel clean
and pooled their dreams.
©2013 Christine Irving
V Day: Intermission at the Monologues
Last night I bled hot tears of rage and grief
poked a wound I know will never heal
a girl beside me, sitting all alone
spilled family secrets in my ear
rape-shame, passed down through generations three
still cast its cruel spell; twisted her mind
into a rational for laying low
keeping quiet, disguised, discreetly dull…
She thinks liberation is a theory –
silly dream, too far-fetched to fly aloft.
She’s swapping beauty for security
blonde hair brushed straight and flat against the skull
beige blouse, loose khaki pants
plain ears un-pierced; no hint of sparkle
not even a hole left behind to mark
the spot where once she’d yearned for bling to shine.
She took those earrings out because
her dad refused to look at her ‑
his mother’s shameful rape was all he saw
when baubles swung so pretty from her lobes.
It must have been her Nana’s fault- they all thought so.
©2013 Christine Irving
As Long As Women
As long as women sing to the ash and praise the sun
pack their wounds with poetry and prose
sculpt prayers in river clay and smear
a drop of menstrual blood into each painting,
we have time to go slowly.
Time to wash the same dish fifteen times
while brooding on words
like, “iridescence” and “detergent;”
time to still impulsive fingers itching
for ochre, rose madder, cobalt, burnt sienna
and wait for the belly
to incubate vision.
Time for a lifetime
of incremental change‑
allowing the gap
to widen in seconds‑ one,
three, five, twenty-four…
hours to sit around
talking our walk,
breathing, crying; breathing, laughing;
indulging in contemplation; consenting
to silence until silence, welling
from the center, turns to love
and we could sit together, forever.
©2000 Christine Irving