Arts & Leisure



By Jasmine T. Cruz


Dance against violence




Posted on December 18, 2012


WHEN CRITICALLY acclaimed actress Monique Wilson came back to the Philippines in 1994, fresh from her turn as Kim in the West End’s production of Miss Saigon, she formed the fiercely feminist theater company, New Voice Company (NVC), and held the very first Philippine performances of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

SHALL WE DANCE?: Theater luminary Monique Wilson, seen here in The King and I, is behind a dance party vs. violence against women
The monologues celebrated the word “vagina” at a time when it was hardly mentioned except by gynecologists or referred to through euphemisms. By saying the word out loud, the play aimed to abolish the stigma of shame attached to it and empower women to take control of their bodies and their lives.

For 2013, Ms. Wilson and NVC will continue their advocacy by spearheading -- along with local groups Gabriela, Gabriela Youth, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Migrante, Center for Women’s Research, Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy-Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia -- the Philippine leg of One Billion Rising (OBR). On Valentine’s Day, women and men all over the world are invited to hit the streets and dance in order to demand an end to violence against women. For the OBR movement in the country, Tomas Morato Ave. in Quezon City has been chosen as the venue for the street party.

OBR is a project by V-Day, an the international movement that calls for the cessation of abuses against women and girls. Ms. Ensler, the Tony-Award winning playwright, founded V-Day as an extension of The Vagina Monologues.

To celebrate V-Day’s 15th anniversary, Ms. Ensler will embark on an OBR world tour. She is visiting the Philippines from Dec. 16 to 22.

During this time she will travel around Manila and other parts of the country in order to meet women’s groups, women leaders from the grassroots communities, women workers, migrants and their children, peasant women, comfort women, students, artists, lawmakers, writers, and V-Day actresses and activists.

As a preview to the Feb. 14 event, there will be a flash mob at the Mehan Garden in Manila on Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. Ms. Ensler will be in attendance along with an estimate of 5,000 participants composed of students, women’s groups, and civilians.

RAGE AGAINST RAPE
To this day Ms. Wilson said she still feels rage when she learns of the atrocities that women experience. “Minsan di ako nakakatulog (Sometimes I can’t sleep). My activist friends even tell me ‘calm down,’” she said during a press conference last month announcing OBR.

Her reaction to these atrocities is seen through her art.

“I’m not a politician or a social worker,” Ms. Wilson said. “I’m an artist.”

“I’m lucky that my dad encouraged me to speak up,” she added. “My involvement in the arts was also empowering.”

Although Ms. Wilson recognized that the women’s movement achieved successes in the passing of laws and raising of funds, she said that there is still “a continued escalation of violence against women.”

According to a release from the organizers of OBR, one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

Rape can happen to women of any age and class, and there are still many misconceptions about rape, Ms. Wilson said.

“There’s the misconception that the girl asked for it,” Ms. Wilson said to BusinessWorld. “She gets blamed because she wore something sexy. That’s not a license to rape. Why can’t she wear what she wants to wear? Why do we have to live defensively?”

“Another misconception is that your husband can’t rape you,” she added. “But you are not obligated to sexually serve your husband.”

Another problem that she pointed out is rape culture, noting with alarm that some people say such things “sarap i-rape ’yun (it would be delicious to rape her)” and that there are even Facebook “rape” pages.

“Of course that’s not rape, but it leads to a rape mentality. You’re not giving value to the woman or you turn a blind eye (when you encounter violence against women). Anong klaseng kultura ‘yun? (What kind of culture is that?) Rape is not something to laugh at.”

Ms. Wilson also told BusinessWorld about Lola Narcisa, a victim of sexual slavery during the Japanese occupation. “She is so open and fierce,” she said. “Knowing Lola Narcisa changed my perspective on what strength really means.”

“It’s heartbreaking na mamamatay na sila ([the Comfort Women] will soon die), and they still haven’t achieved justice,” she said. “When these comfort women fight against violence, they are fighting for the next generation already.”

“The fact that we’re not on the streets demanding change is outrageous,” she added. “That’s why I am rising for them. We want the violence to end now.”

For more information about OBR, call 896-6695, or e-mail newvoicecompany@gmail.com. Follow them on Twitter @OBRPhilippines, or like their Facebook page One Billion Rising Philippines. You can also visit www.onebillionrising.org, or http://onebillionrising.org/blog/entry/one-billion-rising-trailer, or http://www.vday.org/vday-launches-one-billion-rising.