V-Day in New Orleans, Pinay-style

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Ever see Eve Ensler’s fascinating, over-the-top, and unabashedly in-your-face multi-character performance piece, The Vagina Monologues? B. and I saw it with a couple of our friends a few years ago at my alma mater, and boy, was that…interesting. Not in a bad way, but definitely in a thought-provoking, what-the-hell-is-this, hmmm-this-is-awful-awesome-heartrending-terrifying-utterly damning kinda way. You can’t walk out of it without your head spinning one way and then another, like the earth out of orbit, whacked out of its own axis. A million variations exist, as each company that performs it inevitably — hopefully — takes it apart and puts it back together again with its own unique interpretation. But it all comes down to one single, singular theme, that of reclaiming that which makes us women, that center of our bodies and souls that terrifies men, inflames passions and provokes war. Yeah, we’re talking the vagina here, but more than that, it’s about the woman who possesses it and the power she holds but is often too afraid to wield.

Check out the V-Day Web site of the New Orleans staging of the show. Jane Fonda, Ali Larter, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Hudson, Faith Hill, and many other celebrities joined thousands of New Orleans current and former residents to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Vagina Monologues. Many women of the so-called New Orleans diaspora returned specifically for this event, and the site showcases dozens of photographs of the event and the parade. Plus, bonus here: renowned Filipina stage actress Monique Wilson (who served as understudy for Lea Salonga in the original London/West End production of Miss Saigon) performed alongside three other international actors in a segment praising — in four different languages, including Tagalog — Cunt (Engish)/Cono (Spanish)/Fica (Italian)/Puki (Tagalog). You can see the video here.

Plus, I also found Washington, DC-based Code Pink’s blog. Code Pink, of course, is a global, grassroots peace movement with the goal of ending the war in Iraq and “all future wars.” I found the DC site primarily from my Google Alert for “comfort women,” and found a lengthy report of Ret. Col. Ann Wright’s speaking tour of Japan. I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says — I think that Japan’s Article 9, while admirable, won’t work globally, if only because there will always be rogue state leaders and military honchos who will take advantage of another country’s lack of defense (that’s the realpolitik student in me coming out) — but I understand the appeal and still believe in its principles. I suppose as a young ‘un I would have been right up there alongside Col. Wright as an ardent pacifist, but now I prefer to think of myself as a peace activist, one who would like to see a world governed by wise stateswomen and -men with the intention of maintaining peace at all costs but without succumbing to the naive belief that it can be achieved solely by a unilateral laying down of arms. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

I was happy to see, though, that she also met with representatives working on behalf of the Japanese comfort women, and that she has singled out in particular the horrendous abuse inflicted on the local Okinawan population by the American military. I was living in Japan in 1995 when the gang-rape case involving American servicemen and a 12-year-old school girl exploded all over the news media. I’ve no idea how much attention it received here, but it definitely dominated the Japanese media for months. From what I understand, it’s still very much a raw wound in Okinawan society today.

For more info on this case and many others like it involving the US military on Okinawa, check out the link to Wright’s travel report above.

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