V-Day: Until the Violence Stops (review)

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Eve Ensler’s powerful one-woman — emphasis on “woman” — off-Broadway show The Vagina Monologues so stirred women around the world with its themes of self-empowerment and self-determination that it spawned a worldwide movement against rape, “female circumcision,” and other female-directed violence. This, Abby Epstein’s impassioned documentary, tells the story of that movement, from the celebrity-studded performances of The Vagina Monologues across the globe to raise money for awareness and prevention programs to the grassroots efforts to protect women from abuse of all kinds — physical, psychological, spiritual — all over the planet. Lots of famous faces put in appearances — Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, Rosie Perez, Rosario Dawson — but the power of the film comes from the women whose voices have yet to be fully heard: the Philippine “comfort women” forced into prostitution during World War II, those sexually mutilated in the name of tradition in Africa, Native Americans recounting the affects of culturally sanctioned violence. Women comfortable in their own bodies — and aware of what has been done, historically and to this day, to prevent women from being fully sexual beings — won’t be shocked by what’s here, but everyone else likely will be… and that’s a good thing. More people, men and women alike, need to be aware of the important work the V-Day organization is doing.

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