N97: New Orleans = Vagina of America

Vagina Monologues author and activist, Eve Ensler, has had the pivotal role along with help from the Katrina Warriers in organizing this weekend’s 10th anniversary event against violence in New Orleans yesterday and today.
The Best of New Orleans blog post, Making Herstory writes,
For a decade, playwright and activist Eve Ensler has been using her continuously evolving work The Vagina Monologues to raise funds and awareness in a global effort to end violence against women. During a talk at the University of New Orleans last month, Ensler addressed her decision to hold "V to the Tenth," the 10th anniversary celebration of V-Day, her anti-violence initiative, in New Orleans. She had struggled, she said, to find the right symbolic link that would perfectly express her focus on the women affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Then it came to her.

'Duh," she said, "wetlands."

It's a glib but appropriate metaphor and the central point of one of her newest monologues. "New Orleans is the vagina of America," begins the piece, which casts New Orleans and the Gulf South in the role of the feminine in a culture that disrespects and underserves women; seductive and sustaining — and repeatedly abused.

Friday morning Democracy Now host Amy Goodman devoted the show, being broadcast from New Orleans to this V to the Tenth event. She interviewed spokeswomen from the Gulf Coast, Kenya, Congo and Iraq as well as replaying clips from Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda interviews. The video is impressive.

The Making Herstory, Gambit Weekly article continues,

Statistics consistently have borne out that following natural or man-made disasters, women suffer disproportionately, says Dale Standifer, director of the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Not the event itself but resulting burdens of stess and difficulty coping leads to increases in abuse of women. The frequency and intensity of sexual assaults and domestic violence increase.

In a cruel inverse ratio, the availability of services for women in need — from available childcare services to shelter beds — declines. The aftermath of Katrina affected women in shocking ways. Emergency medical services that were functioning had very few forensic nurses — the trained staff who deal with sexual assault victims and collect evidence for rape kits. Abusive partners were able to track down their victims through post-Katrina networks set up to help families and friends find one another. Victims of domestic abuse found themselves dependent on abusive spouses who signed up for FEMA benefits under the abusers' names.

In conflict zones, some Third World countries, and in nations where religion and cultural tradition incorporate misogyny into law and custom — like Taliban-controlled Afghanistan or West African countries that practice the female genital mutilation referred to as female circumcision — Ensler saw women becoming casualties as a matter of course. In post-Katrina New Orleans, she saw it on American soil.

'In any war, or any place where infrastructure falls apart, poverty increases, racism increases, abuse increases. And women are on the front lines," Ensler says.

Fonda made this point, that Eve’s little play has done more for the women of the US than the government. More money has been given because of this one woman than all of the federal government. That is an inspiration for us individual women (as well as a national shame).

Update: Shakespeare's Sister, Melissa McEwan, has written a compelling post specifically about the Congolese sexual terrorism. There is to be a Blog in Solidarity: Congo Rape Epidemic. She has links to some powerful testimony from one rape victim. Heartbreaking.

I will re-iterate, the Democracy Now program cited above has a Congolese woman who speaks passionately about this horror for the women of the Congo that the US government and the coroporate media is ignoring.

Update: One of the best summaries of the DRC conflict.

No comments: