By Kurt Kalbfleisch
In her notes for the 2001 edition of “The Vagina Monologues”, Eve Ensler writes that she never set out to be the activist leader she was then, and it’s clear she could not imagine herself as the iconic presence she’s since become. The stories she and so many others have told on stage, stories that simultaneously belong to other women and to all women, those stories found her, not the other way around. It’s almost as if she was invited.
There are a good many people involved in this movement who, like Eve, were chosen by the stories they tell. Each came to V-Day with a fierce understanding of sexual and physical abuse and a storyteller’s heart. Each came to V-Day after being called to it, invited in one way or another.
And it isn’t just women. Derek Dujardins was inspired by Eve’s work to create “The MENding Monologues” as an opportunity for men to get involved, to share their own stories of survival, to add their voices to the growing chorus.
Two years ago, I was invited to write my first monologue for The MENding, about my experience as a rape crisis advocate asked by a former lover for help after she’d been drugged and raped. The story is true, and told with her permission, of course. My feelings on it change with each telling, and as I write this, I wonder if maybe she chose me because I would stand up and tell it when she herself could not. To be sure, the story chose me rather than the other way around, and the telling of it has irreversibly connected me with this movement.
It’s easy to dismiss such a story as extraordinary or unusual, to think that few of us have such stories to tell, to believe that most of us live lives that are untouched by rape. But take a moment to consider what it really means that one in three women have been, will be, or are being raped. That one in six men was molested or raped as a child. It simply is not possible for anyone to live a life untouched by rape. Walk into any coffee shop, grocery store, or shopping mall and imagine that a third of the women you see, a third of the women you smile at in line, a third of the women who hand you your change have been raped. Drive your car on the freeway, stand in line at the movies, sit in a restaurant or a bar and look at each person around you and then, consciously consider that one in three of the women and one in six of the men have been raped. You can’t tell who they are just by looking at them, can you?
That. Right there. You just read your invitation to become a V-man. It is engraved with the realization that your life is filled with people who have survived unspeakable things and chosen to go on living, a choice that colors everything they do, including the things they do around you and for you and with you. It is edged with the understanding that your mother and your sister and your friends and your wife and your daughter are in the mix, unless you help to make it stop.
How? To begin with, I invite you to stand with the women in your life. I invite you to drop whatever you’re doing and go outside with them on February 14th. They will want you to dance with them. That’s an invitation you should definitely accept.