V-day and Ai Xiao-ming's the Vagina monologue

2007-02-14 - oiwan

The whole world is celebrating Valentine's Day, news like million dollars chocolate diamond hit the most popular international news, and the blogosphere is resonating the Love packaging consumption day.

Not many are aware that today is also the V-day, V stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery.

Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. In 2006, over 2700 V-Day benefit events are taking place by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

Last weekend, Hong Kong In-Media had invited Ai Xiao-ming, a professor from Zhongshan University to share her experience in mainland China for her organization of the performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in 2003 - the year of citizen rights in Mainland China.

I have heard a lot about Ai Xiao-ming before meeting her in person. During the Taishi incident (village level election turning into repression), she risked her life and her job in taking the documentary of the whole event.

In the weekend discussion, she talked about the difficulties in localizing the Vagina Monologues. "There have been some criticism about the middle class framework of the script. When we are localizing the play, i have to admit that the performance is detached from the lower class, such as rural migrant workers' experience."

Another difficulty is the sexual pleasure part. "It is more easy to address sexual violence, as for sexual pleasure part, such as the groaning chapter, we made a lot of changes. We changed the character from a powerful sex worker into three women with different background talking about groaning."

However, she was surprised by the enthusiasm of her students and colleagues in the play. She once considered to cut the part on masturbation because she thought no one would be willing to take up that part. Out of her expectation, one of her student volunteered herself.

The theatre was reproduced into a video documentary for gender education. And Ai Xiao-ming is now planning to produce another documentary addressing the gender problem in China, such as one child family, changing sexual attitude, etc.

In fact, apart from the Vagina Monologue, Ai has produced a documentary Paradise garden (天堂花園) which is about the murder case of a teacher Huang jing( 黃靜) in 2003. In the case, all the evidence were destroyed, and her parent were threaten by the local authority in Hunan not to follow up the case. Such kind of sexual violence have been recurring over and over in China, the most recent case had resulted in a riot in Dazhu County.

Ai found documentary a very useful tool for advocating citizen rights in China: "it provides evidence for the authority and public to see how citizens' rights have been violated." However, more training is needed because it is now getting more and more dangerous to involve in citizen media work.

Earlier in Jan 2007, a journalist was beaten to death in Shanxi when he was taking photos in a coal mine. The local authority later defended that the journalist was not professional (without journalist identification) and dropped the investigation.

In Hong Kong, we also had a local version of the Vagina monologue. Ironically, the title was translated into "VV silent talk" or "dummy VV" or "VV can't talk" (VV 勿語). The play is a "commercial" performance and the organizer would not give any donation to organization dealing with gender and sexual violence. The script is full of Hong Kong style gimmick which builds upon and reproduces the fact that vagina is a taboo! (Chinese commentary of the performance)

In mainland China, when the society is full of violence and repression, intellectuals and cultural / media workers are working against all odds to push human rights agenda, while back in Hong Kong, where we have space and liberty, everything (whether it is Valentine day or V-day) seems to turn into mere consumption.

Ohmynews also has an article on V-day.

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