Showing posts with label Eve Ensler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Ensler. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Rape and Murder of Turkish University Student Ozgecan Aslan

Ozgecan Aslan
Last week, a bright, beautiful 20-year-old Turkish university student named Ozgecan Aslan was the last person on her shared taxi known as a dolmuş. It's a common form of transportation in Turkey. A dolmuş, much like an airport shuttle van, carries up to 10 people at a time. Everyone in Turkey uses them. It would never have occurred to me to think of one as unsafe. Last week riding in a dolmuş cost Ozgecan Aslan her life. She was raped, stabbed, dismembered, and burned by a dolmuş driver, his friend, and the dolmuş driver's own father.
Turkish Women refused
to let men near her casket
At the funeral, the imam signalled for men to pick up the casket and Turkish women were having none of it. They refused to step away and carried her casket out themselves, a shockingly unusual act in patriarchal Turkish culture. It was an incredibly healthy response of contempt that signalled to the entire nation, this problem of violence against women MUST be addressed. Ozgecan Aslan, and her fate, was on the lips of every Turkish woman with fury and sorrow all week long. 

Turkey, a country famous for its denial of so many of its historic problems, is not in denial on this one. Turkey knows it has a problem with domestic violence and violence against women. The President himself called it "Turkey's bleeding wound." Last year, 281 women were killed in Turkey (that are known of - with honor killings and such you can't be sure of accurate reporting).

A Turkish actress started a hashtag called #Sendeanlat (tell your story), asking women to take to Twitter to tell their stories of how they had been harassed in daily life. Last I looked it had close to 1,000,000 tweets in two or three days. Even though the men of Turkey, know there is a problem,  I'm not sure they care enough to fix it
Murder of females is political
Graffiti about Ozgecan Aslan's murder filled the streets. It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of Ozgecan Aslan's murder as political until I saw the graffiti above that declared it so. Then I couldn't get it out of my mind once seeing it. There were so many ways it could be. Like the victims of so much state violence this year, Ozgecan was both Kurdish (an ethnic minority) and Alevi (a religious minority). Was her death going to be used by authorities to further restrict the freedom of women in the country, the way terrorism is used to justify the end of civil liberties for citizens in the West? Immediately, there were calls for women to be segregated into 'pink buses.' Others pointed to the misogynist statements by politicians that devalued women. The pattern of peeling women away from public life is underway in Turkey.

Our rebellion is for murdered women!

What fascinates me is the similarity of toxic cultures for women -- no matter where they are located. For example, I have always thought of the American state South Carolina as a state badly in need of the fresh breezes of change -- a state still nursing grievances from the Civil War. 

Just the other day, one of South Carolina's lawmakers referred to women as a "lesser cut of meat." It's easy to condemn the lawmaker, but it must be assumed that this attitude represents the population and it sells. These kind of statements diminishing women are common in both Turkey and South Carolina. Diminishing statements about women sell to the masses in Turkey too.

Recently, the Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina examined how the good 'ole boy culture of patriarchal policy makers contribute to South Carolina leading the nation in dead women murdered by men. Despite another woman dying every 12 days at double the national rate, (and at three times the rate of South Carolina men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan combined), policy makers actively ignored a dozen initiatives to do something about the problem.

Who matters more?
The woman or the dog?
You'd be surprised --
or maybe not.
According to the Post and Courier, the only policy initiative related to domestic violence that got acted on in South Carolina was a proposal to make sure pets were taken care of when domestic violence happens. Indeed, South Carolina must value animals higher than women as 46 shelters for animals exist (one in every county) in the state, while only 18 shelters exist for women state-wide. According to the reporters who wrote the award-winning Post and Courier series "Til Death Do Us Part," a man in South Carolina can get five years for abusing his dog, but will only have to serve 30 days in jail for the first time he abuses his wife or girlfriend. 

One of the sad aspects to the Ozgecan Aslan murder in Turkey, is that the mother/wife (same woman) of the alleged murders said she had been a battered woman for years. If she had received help, and this battery had been taken seriously in Turkey, would 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan be alive today? According to the investigative journalism of the four reporters in South Carolina, incarceration saves lives as men are separated from women. That may be, but in South Carolina and in Turkey, there appears to be no interest in helping women in that situation as men choose to view them with morality judgements as "those women."

According to experts quoted in the "Till Death do us Part" series on domestic violence, South Carolina has the most traditionalist culture in the entire nation of the United States, preserving a status quo that benefits the needs and values of the elite. Wow, does that sound like Turkey. And here's what sounds EXACTLY like Turkey, "honor culture:"
"Surprisingly little research has examined the role South Carolina’s culture plays in domestic abuse and homicides, considering the state’s rate of men killing women is more than twice the national average.One often-cited study about violent tendencies in Southern men came from Richard E. Nisbett, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
His research revealed a Southern “culture of honor,” one in which for generations a man’s reputation has been central to his economic survival — and in which insults to that justify a violent response.
“We have very good evidence that southerners and northerners react differently to insults,”Nisbett says. “In the South, if someone insults you, you should respond. If the grievance is enough, you react with violence or the threat of violence.”
In a clinical study, Nisbett subjected northern and southern men to a test. Someone bumped into them and called them a profane term. The reaction: stress hormones and testosterone levels elevated far more in southern men.
“He gets ready to fight,” says Nisbett, coauthor of “Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in The South.”
How does it apply to domestic violence? Men who perceive their women have insulted them — by not keeping up the house, by talking back or flirting with someone else — launch into attack mode to preserve their power."      
 
 ~South Carolina Post and Courier, 2014 
Here are examples of that same hypersensitivity to insult in Turkey here, and here, and here.

The response of disgust that Turkish women felt and voiced about the murder of Ozgecan Aslan was the healthiest human response to this whole sad story. The challenge for Turkish women and those who love them, will be to turn their social media energy and disgust into real lasting change. Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci describes this inability to make lasting change from social media power in her TED Talk here.


Turkish women took to the streets
throughout Turkey to protest
Turkey's pattern of
violence against women
If the first step, is to drag the whole country out of denial that there is a problem, the women of Turkey, have passed that test with flying colors and not let their nation descend any further (hello, Egypt). Respect, Turkish ladies! You have my total respect!   

May the women of South Carolina find the same strength. According to the journalists in South Carolina who wrote the award-winning series, "Till Death Do Us Part," 30 women's lives and families will depend upon it in the coming year.

What I would want the women of Turkey and South Carolina to know is, you are not in this alone. One billion women across the planet are rising up each year to ask the world to change this paradigm where violence against women is acceptable. Eve Ensler began this movement three years ago and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Luckily, the President of Turkey criticized women for participating so now everyone in Turkey has probably learned what the "One Billion Rising" is all about.  Next year, may the criticisms of women dancing for change sing out across the land! Strike! Rise! Dance! One billion rising! Break the chain!
You may be interested in these other posts about domestic violence and violence against women in Turkey:

#1billionrising in Istanbul






My First Turkish Movie -‘Kurtuluş Son Durak’


You can follow 'Empty Nest Expat' on Facebook, or just sign up for RSS Feed at the right. Care about domestic violence and violence against women? Why not share this blog post to broaden the conversation.

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to Strike! Rise! Dance!

Heaps and heaps of gratitude to the amazing journalists in South Carolina whose journalism will save lives, move their state forward, and result in a more equitable environment for the citizens of South Carolina. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

#1billionrising in Istanbul

"Everyday Five Women Are Killed
through Domestic Violence"
Yesterday was so delightful. The enormity of Eve Ensler's imagination blew me away. It was just glorious to participate in the largest global happening on the planet to date. Turkish media was 100% there for the event. Many newspapers featured it on their front page the day it was to happen and the day after. My local neighborhood municipality actually sponsored a rising themselves and offered people free dance classes. I wasn't able to go because it was during the day but the joy of those who did attend is self-evident! The anthem was perfect as it created and communicated the joyousness of the feminist tsunami circling the world.
New friend and fellow protester
Betül. She was a delight!

I thought there was a rising at 6 p.m. in Taksim Square, but when I got there, the square was empty. I looked around and guessed who would be the most likely to be attending a rising that night. I guessed exactly right on my first try. The young German lady said, "yes, my roommate has organized the one in Kadikoy on the Asian side at 7 p.m." I guess it's been all those years of guessing who speaks English to ask questions that helped me pick the right female to ask! We gathered a Canadian friend of hers and took the ferry over to Asia.

There were all kinds of people there, at least 500 if not more. One young woman had hand-lettered signs on both sides with magic marker and gladly shared them with people she didn't know. I marveled at the time investment, but hey, I had done the same in my own way, with non-stop promotion of #1billionrising in the weeks prior to everybody I could think of.

I realized when I got there, that this was an event that was tailor-made for Turkey. Most Turks dance with abandon and they have wonderful, wonderful folk dances that are easy to learn and enable people of all ages to participate. We started doing the halay in a big circle and gorgeous young women would make that ululating sound as loud as they could with incredible joy. It was FABULOUS.
 Someone translated this to me that night as:
"Hallelujah, the women are united!"
The administrator in me started thinking "well, if I had done this promotion, I would have done this different and that different, starting with designing a dance as easy to learn as the Turkish halay so it could go viral and all ages would dance it up." The official #1billionrising choreography was intimidating to nondancers as a time investment. It looked like it would take multiple rehearsals to learn. That makes it hard for folks to identify with so that they join in up until the last minute. I would also would have waited for a year to do this when Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday so the maximum number of people could join. Had it happened on a weekend, I would have just gone to risings all day, one after the other.

I also wish the President of the United States had given #1billionrising a shoutout in the State of the Union speech the night before. I mean, it's not every single day that 1 billion people decide to organize themselves into mass action. A single "I hear ya!" would have sufficed.

The State Department, which prides itself on social media saavy, seemed like complete nonparticipants on Twitter. I would have thought Hillary Clinton's State Department would have had risings organized at all embassies and consulates. Women's rights were supposed to be hallmark of Hillary's time as Secretary of State. The United Nations, the UK Prime Minister, and the Australian PM were all over #1billionrising on V-Day. America missed a wonderful opportunity to brag about all the work it has done on behalf of women over the last four years. This could have been the capstone event!

It was amazing how hard it was to know about all of the aspects of this. I didn't realize you could order a T-shirt. I didn't know that my municipality was organizing their own rising. I didn't know that there was a #1billionrisingIstanbul Facebook page (the ladies of Izmir, Turkey had over 4,000 likes on theirs). I didn't understand how there would be #1billionrising when @eveensler only had around 22,000 Twitter followers and @vday only had 23,000 followers. There is a Twitter account called @obr that seems to be owned by a very non-active Norwegian, not One Billion Rising. Had information on all the groups organizing been more centralized, it could have been even exponentially larger.

But then I just remembered to myself the wonderful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. "It is not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena." My suggestions are mere quibbles.

Eve Ensler created something of immense power and beauty. My hat is off to her. I can't wait to sift through all of the incredibly diverse videos and take them in. I loved hearing this NPR Talk-of -he-Nation interview with her from the Congo where she expressed her optimism for the future. Most importantly, she talked about when she started with the Vagina Monologues, it was with a theatre of 100 seats. She had no idea the power of her voice. None of us do - all we have to do is take the first step. In my opinion, Eve Ensler deserves the American Medal of Freedom for her service to America and all humanity.

This is one of the most powerful #1billionrisings videos I've seen so far: #1billionrising in jail.

You may be interested in my earlier posts about #1billionrising:


 



Thursday, February 14, 2013

I rise to break the chain as a part of Eve Ensler's #1billionrising!

Today is the big day!

Eve Ensler, the creator of the Vagina Monologues (which has raised $80 million for domestic violence charities globally) has organized what I believe to be the largest coordinated event in the history of the world. One billion women, and the men who love them, will be rising to change the worldwide paradigm about the acceptability of violence against women.

Here’s an example of how violence against women is often not taken seriously. When I was a branch manager of a public library branch in Colorado Springs, we were located in an upscale, gorgeous neighborhood full of expensive homes nestled under the mountains. It's the Rockrimmon neighborhood.  It was not the kind of place where you would expect violent daylight attacks against women. 


 That’s exactly what happened though. The lady in the dry cleaning business next door to our library branch was brutally raped, and had her skull bashed in. It was 3 in the afternoon, with grocery store shoppers and library users using the parking lot without a realization of what had happened. I had the responsibility for the 15-20 person female staff that day and believe me, I felt it!

A couple days later a man was arrested. What would have proved or disproved his guilt was a DNA rape kit. Colorado had passed laws by then requiring them, but the processing of them was not funded to keep up with the need and there was a six-month backlog of rape kits to be processed.

I never found out if that man was actually guilty or if he had been arrested to “calm the population down.” If he wasn’t the guilty party, how unfair it must have felt to him as he waited. How sad for the neighborhood too, if the real perpetrator was still on the loose.

It’s my guess that if you check, most American states also has a huge backlog of rape kits to be processed.  My friends in Colorado tell me nothing has changed - the backlog remains. This lackadaisical attitude about stopping violence against women must change. It's not just in that one place, it is global.
Here are a few things you can do to participate in this worldwide revolution:
1) Attend a rising. There will be flash mobs happening all over the world. There is a choreography video on the #1billionrising site. If you don't have time to learn the dance, your presence is enough. You can sway. Here's where to find an event. Global events will be livestreamed all day.
2) Share with your friends in person and on social media what #1billionrising is all about. Make sure your friends know that there are 100 million missing women from the planet. Of those that remain, 1 in 3 is touched by violence or violation, which adds up to 1 billion people around the world. Find a video on the #1billionrising website that is personally meaningful to you to share. Imagine for a moment, how the world would be different, if those women weren't violated and left dealing with shame and humiliation.
3) Make your FB cover photo reflect #1billionrising for the month of February. There are plenty of banner cover shots on the site. Help #1billionrising become a global trending topic on Twitter.
4) If you live in America, make sure you understand why the House of Representatives is voting against the Violence Against Women Act. It is not a budget buster, indeed, it is at a funding level 17% less than the last time it was renewed. Here is one video and another video that help explain why Republicans are against renewing it. Are those reasons not appalling? How is your Representative voting?
5) Feel the joy of your actions. You are personally making a difference for future generations to follow. Here's a video from San Francisco of a rising to help you feel your joy. Your actions don't end here. The work of the 21st century will be to achieve equality for women and girls. We will have more work in the future. Thanks for caring!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

#1billionrising rising in Turkey

Today brings the sad news that the Turkish police have found the body of American tourist Sarai Sierra, 33, from New York City. May she rest in peace. Thank you to all of the Turkish and American public servants who worked so hard to find her. I read the police formed a special team to view hours and hours of security camera footage to try and trace her steps. I can't imagine anything more boring that watching all that. I'm grateful they did.

Sarai Sierra's death brings reflection at the vast epidemic of violence against women globally. Global activist Eve Ensler is asking all of us, women - and especially the men who love them, to strike, rise, and dance, rising up to demand an end to the routine daily violence against women.

#1billionrising is the audaciously-named event Eve Ensler has created to demand an end to violence against women worldwide. Can you imagine trying to organize 1 billion people? Have you ever heard of anyone trying to do that before? What an amazing idea. She chose that number because that is the estimated number of women who have been violated by violence worldwide.

As of this writing, there are over 40 events planned for Turkey. The first one starts today at 2 p.m. Participants will be doing this extremely fun Turkish folk dance called the Halay (actually, pretty much all Turkish dance is fun). Here is the list of events for Turkey. Here is where you can find an event in the country you're living in. And here is the anthem, although the many ways people will be dancing is of course, varied and global. #1billionrising!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Five Most Popular Posts From 2012 for the 'Empty Nest Expat' Blog

I didn't get to blog as much as I wanted last year because I devoted many hours of my time to learning Turkish. Still, I increased my number of posts from the year before. Here are the top five most popular posts written in 2013:
"Hürrem," the leading character
 of the show 
 
1. Ready to Try Some Turkish TV? Watch one episode of "The Magnificent Century"
This soap opera is must-watch TV in Turkey and surrounding countries. The Turkish Prime Minister has threatened to ban it for focusing too much on the Sultan's bedroom, and not enough on the Sultan's time on the battlefield. The Prime Minister's threats of censorship, of course, just increase popular interest.
Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus
 
2. Time Out for Turkish
This post shares my Turkish language journey and some of the internet resources I have used along the way in my early days of learning. The irony is, now that I've finally paid to attend a traditional classroom, my learning is exponentially faster! It turns out you can't beat a real teacher walking you through the grammar.
 
3. Breaking the Silence on Street Harassment in Istanbul
Single women travellers are one of the largest growth segments in travel. I tried to point out the cost to countries and local businesses when women don't feel safe on their streets.
Here we are discussing Murakami
 
4. Discussing Books with the Global Minds Book Club
When I explain the idea behind the Global Minds Book Club as people from around the world discussing books from around the world, everywhere I go, people get excited. They love that idea! And once you've discussed a book with an international group, it can seem a bit tame to only discuss a title with only people from your own country. Challenge your thinking!
Global activist Eve Ensler
She doesn't look away
from the world's worst situations
 
5. VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!
In 2012, I acted in my first play "The Vagina Monologues" to support Eve Ensler and her amazing, amazing work on behalf of ending violence against women. I loved the experience, the time I spent with the women in the cast, and I look forward to doing my part in Eve Ensler's next big project: #1billionrising which happens next month. I hope you'll participate too.

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You might enjoy:

Most popular posts for the 'Empty Nest Expat' blog for 2009

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Following Eve Ensler's new play debut "Emotional Creature"

Looking back on my participation in "The Vagina Monologues," I can not be more proud of myself for having done it. Eve Ensler is trying to challenge the entire globe (the entire planet!!) to think more critically about how humanity tolerates physical and sexual violence against women, to call it out when it happens, and finally, do something about it.

This week Eve premiered a new play in Berkeley, California called "Emotional Creature." I found Jane Fonda's post about it so inspiring that I wanted to share it with you.

If you are a woman and aren't yet familiar with Eve Ensler's work, there's an opportunity coming up this February. She is asking the entire planet to rise up and dance together to let the entire world know that we stand together saying "this is not acceptable." You can check the hashtag #1billionrising on Twitter for more information too and be inspired by people all over the world who are doing the same.

If you are a man, we especially need you to participate. Eve Ensler asks good men in the "Vagina Monologues" play "where the hell are you?" It's blunt, but sometimes blunt is needed. Wherever you live on this big ball, can you help be part of #1billionrising in February 2013? Organize a dance, go to a dance, sell tickets to a dance? We need good men to help shift this paradigm.  Indeed, in someways, you are needed most.

One of the most satisfying aspects of being in the "Vagina Monologues" was doing something rather than just complaining about something. The future is now. Let's move humanity forward.  Here's Jane Fonda's post to inspire you too!

Here's the story of our Vagina Monologues production in Istanbul. The oldest post is at the bottom.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Listening to dissidents

Manal Al-Sharif
A woman with the simple demand:
I need to drive in my daily life.
Before coming to Little Rock, I had had dissidents on the brain due to the first award of the Vaclav Havel Award for Creative Dissent. I was moved by Vaclav Havel and his friends' simple desire to live in freedom when I lived in the Czech Republic. Now, a generation later, I was fascinated by the lady who so eloquently described what the simple ability to drive in her daily life would mean to her. I find the idea that anyone would deny her that, unimaginable.
Dan Choi
Former U.S. Army Officer and
American dissident
who worked to end
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'
the policy demanding gays lie about their identity
while serving their country
I thought about Dan Choi, the gay West Point-educated Arab linguist, who had the simple desire to serve his country in the American military. He was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for being gay at a time when our country could have used every single Arab linguist available.
Elizabeth Eckford's dignified and quiet demand:
"I want to go to a good school."
Live in freedom and safety, drive, serve one's country. Another simple wish from history, this time from Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957: go to a good school. Regular people asking their society to grant them dignity and equality. It's stunning what humanity puts them through when they ask for it.
Global Dissident Eve Ensler
demanding that people
all over the world
rise up and change the global paradigm
on violence against women.
Who are the dissidents pushing buttons in your country or culture? If they are pushing for change and meeting resistance, what is they want that seems so outlandish? How do you and I evaluate whether or not our own attitudes are on the right side of history? For example, I find the American political party, the Tea Party, often 'pushes my buttons.' But if you boil down their demands to one thing, "live within our means as a nation," that doesn't seem outlandish, does it?

I always want to make sure I'm on the right side of history. Their single demand deserves respect in my book, even though I don't always agree with how to get there.
6th generation Iowan and Eagle Scout
Zach Walls
demanding the State not discriminate
against his family
I leave you with the message of one last dissident asking for respect. He's from my home state of Iowa. All he wanted, was for Iowa lawmakers not to write discrimination against his parents into the State of Iowa constitution. His name is Zach Walls. Seems like a simple enough request, doesn't it?

What dissidents 'push your buttons' in your country? Do you agree with their cause or disagree? How do you decide whether or not you are a barrier to progress (one way to look at it) or a steward of traditional values (another way to look at it)? I ask to learn. This difference between these two ways of seeing things is at the heart of so much of our political hearthaches. Let's listen to each other.

I see what the people of Little Rock achieved when they thought of themselves as "us:" together they built the most beautiful high school in the United States of America the year it was built. When they chose to think of themselves as "us" and "them" what did they achieve?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!

Istanbul cast of the 2012 English-language version
of "The Vagina Monologues"
What a delight it was to gather one last time with my fellow cast members of the 2012 Istanbul English-language "Vagina Monologues" and meet their families, boyfriends, and friends at our cast dinner. We reunited at an Indian restaurant near Taksim Square in the Tamirhane area.
Musafir Indian Restaurant
in the Tamirhane Neighborhood
Near Taksim

This doesn't strike me
as an evil eye, how about you?
Surprisingly, our beautiful waitress
was not Indian,
she was Turkish.
Fooled you, didn't she?

Harika and her beau were off on a
photography safari of Nepal after the play.


We enjoyed delicious Indian food. Most importantly, we enjoyed each other's company and discussed what was next for each of us. Harika was off to photograph Nepal. Tara was leaving for scuba in Egypt the next day. One cast member was flying back to Rome where she lived full-time. I must admit, the more I read about Eve Ensler and her cause the more involved I wanted to become in the future. I wasn't ready to let go of the VDay cause.

"The Vagina Monologues" is coming up on its 15th anniversary next year. It makes a statement, it has been produced in over 140 countries and raised money for local charities (over $100 million since it was first written), yet still the world if full of violence against women. If anything, it's become worse. What will change the paradigm, Eve asks? What would make everyone in our buildings, on our streets, in our cities, in our nations wake up and not take it anymore? To demand a safer world for all women? Something even bigger, even bolder is needed! Listen to her yourself (prepare yourself, its an awfully tough listen):

Eve Ensler
on Democracy Now
discussing "1BillionRising"

Eve Ensler says:
"V-Day is calling the 1 billion survivors of violence on every continent of the planet to join and RISE. On February 14, 2013, we are inviting, challenging, and calling women and the people who love them to walk out of their homes, schools, jobs to strike and dance. To dance with our bodies, our lives, our heart. To dance with our rage and our joy and love. To dance with whoever we want, wherever we can until the violence stops. We know our brothers, husbands, sons and lovers will join us in the dancing. Imagine 1 billion women and those that love them dancing. Imagine us taking up space, expanding our borders and possibilities, expressing the depth of our desire for peace and change. Dancing, 1 Billion Dancing. The earth will surely move and violence against women and girls will end. Because it can."
Imagine trying to organize one billion people to end violence against half the population of the world! I love the scope and breadth of her ambition. What audacity! I can only ask myself "what can I do to help make this happen?" I ask you, is there something you can do as well in your corner of the world to help Eve reach her goal? Can we help Eve make the earth move together?

Here is one thing we can do immediately:

 follow #1BillionRising on Twitter

Here is a second thing we can do immediately:

 sign up to receive email about her goal

Here is a third thing we can do longterm:

 organize some sort of dancing for February 14, 2013

And lastly, on VDay 2013 we can DANCE!

C'mon. It will be fun.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Vagina Monologues: We Did It!

Some of our fabulous cast
for "The Vagina Monologues"
Pictured left to right: Tara, Demet, Yasemin, me,
Monique, Harika, and Kendra
The play poster

One of my fellow cast members in DreamTree's production of "The Vagina Monologues," remarked at what an amazing feat it was for Donna M.E. Banks, an American and Kendra Tyre, a Canadian to move to Istanbul and within six months start up a theatre production company and put on Eve Ensler's play. These two ladies had known each other as teachers in Korea, and then discovered they were both living in Istanbul. "Why not create a VDay event?" they thought.

VDay is the movement to wake up the world to the gender-based violence women experience. It was started by American Eve Ensler.
The name of our
adorable neighborhood theatre
was Mekan.artı
It was just down the street from the entrance
of the Istanbul Hilton in Harbiye.
As I said in my last post, acting has not ever been one of my dreams. I was in this production because I believed in the cause. I walked away from the experience with new insight and respect for actors and actresses. For one thing, it takes a lot of time to learn dialogue.  As the oldest cast member, I joked that 'act' stood for 'Alzheimer's Cognitive Testing.' It seemed odd to me to devote so much time to something I would use all of three times.  At least if I was studying a school subject - say osmosis, or something, I could use it forever. I also had no idea the amount of time that actors need to devote to rehearsals. My goodness, it's like a part-time job to go to rehearsals every week.
But is this space not endearing?
It's like a little neighborhood clubhouse.
It held just under 100 seats.

As I was whining to a friend about how much more work it is to be in a play than I realized, he said, "yes, but you'll forget all that pain when you perform it." I was scared to death to act in this play, and as we prepared I felt wave after wave of vulnerability engulf me. My friends carried  me through though, and lifted me up with joy and support as I got ready. When we put the tickets on sale, it took less than a week for them to sell out. The last few days before the play all of us in the cast were fielding calls from all kinds of people asking, "please just four more seats?"

Opening night was full of drama for the cast: one member was in the hospital hoping to get discharged by 6 p.m. for our 8:30 curtain time, another went through three or four babysitters before finding one that would commit and stick. The second night, the lights were bright and I flubbed a couple of my lines. I quickly found my way back but it was a bit unnerving. The third night, one cast member forgot to get her suitcase out of the taxi trunk with all the costumes inside. Luckily, the cabbie realized it and brought it around in time for the show. Donna and Kendra goodnaturedly rolled with all of it.

The power of art to transform and cause us to think and grow is incredible. During our rehearsals, I faced my own intolerance of the transgender character in the show, and realized I was repulsed by the ambiguity everytime I heard the monologue. I didn't want to be, but I was. I don't know anyone in that situation. I always have to think, "now, are these the people who dress in the other gender's clothes? Or the people who want sex-change surgery? Or people who have had sex-change surgery?" I can never keep it straight.

"Wow, in real life, people with that issue, are a walking violence target," I realized. If I was repulsed and was doing my best to be compassionate and still struggling, I could imagine there are plenty of people who don't even bother to struggle. I just sat with my own feelings and felt the discomfort of not understanding. The play taught me how damn hard it must be to be one of those people. May they find kindness out there in the world. May I not be indifferent to the hate crimes they experience.

I hope to post more pictures and information about how much money was raised for Turkish nonprofits, but I'll end here saying how amazingly proud I am of my friends. Their biggest accomplishment was to use art to create conversations about difficult subjects. Among the cast we had fascinating discussions about what our mothers and grandmothers had taught us about avoiding gender-based violence, we discussed what monologues we identified with and what ones we did not, we talked about what part of the female experience isn't represented. We were privleged to help create the same kind of conversations among our audiences. I felt wondrous community develop full of love and support among the English-language speakers of Istanbul around this play. It was a privlege to be a part of it - next time though - I'm signing up for the publicity team - anything but acting!

A splendid story in "Today's Zaman" newspaper about our efforts and in "Milliyet" newspaper

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Rehearsals - Vagina Monologues in Istanbul

Great movements often start in coffee shops.
Vaclav Havel famously met
with his fellow Czech dissidents
in the Cafe Slavia across from
the National Theatre in Prague.

My expatriate American friends,
Donna and Kendra,
newly arrived in Turkey,
had decided to organize a VDay event
with both expatriate and Turkish women.
They decided to produce the play
"The Vagina Monologues"
in Istanbul.
Auditions were over.
Our first rehearsal
was at an Istanbul coffee shop.
We shyly came together,
that day in February.
I was struck by the beauty of the women there.
Each one wanted to help other women
through her own personal participation
in Eve Ensler's famous play.
 I had heard about the "Vagina Monologues" for years
and finally saw them in Madison, Wisconsin.

Eve Ensler, the writer of the play, wants to end
the great global silence
about the ongoing epidemic of violence
perpetrated against women and girls
around the world.

The play represents the experiences of women
all around the globe,
most notably, women in the Congo.
Each year, a new monologue is added
reflecting the news of the day.
I wish that wasn't necessary.
I didn't know about performing a play
like this in a conservative country,
but I took faith from the courage of our
producer/directors and the other women present.
 I have no interest in acting.
I don't have that bug at all.
But I do want to support
everything Eve Ensler does.

Her life's mission is
to wipe out violence against women worldwide.
Yes, I know.
You probably think she's crazy.

Yet the impossible happens every day.
Do you think Vaclav Havel and his Czech friends
believed the Berlin wall would eventually fall?

the NACCP expected they would be so wildly successful
in seeking change that less than 100 years later
there's a black man in the White House?

I am not sure they would have dreamed it.
They just started with the first step.

Can't you just imagine how
hopeless those situations
looked at the time?

I wonder what it will be like for women
100 years from now if all of us just take that first step
toward ending the culture of violence.
VDay believes the reason for the global silence
about what women are experiencing is
 the indifference of authorities worldwide,
 the instinct of denial within families,
 and the lack of public outrage
about the violence
that millions of women experience every day.
But on this first day,
it was just interesting to learn about the play
and to meet the other women.
Kendra, one of our producer/directors
listening intently to a first reading.
V-Day dreams of a world in which
women and girls will be free to thrive,
rather than merely survive.
 
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