Few Dartmouth students will have escaped noticing we are in V-Week. From February 14th to February 26th, a slew of events have been organized drawing attention to ending violence against women and girls. This year’s focus, One Billion Rising, seeks to draw attention to the long overlooked issue of sexual abuse. The number one billion comes from the sobering statistic of the number of women, globally who have been or will be victims of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetimes. V-Week seeks to draw attention to the prevalence of these crimes and to provide support for organizations that help those affected. For the fourth year now, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) is a proud sponsor.
The history of V-Week and V-Day goes back fifteen years. It was started by Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler as a way of using art to start conversations and raise awareness. The goal: to end violence against women and girls. The movement is a grassroots one. It seeks to mobilize women of all classes and generations with the unified purpose of raising funds and drawing attention to violence against women and girls. The grassroots nature gives local networks control of ninety percent of funds raised. These funds will go to Wise, a nonprofit organization based in Lebanon, New Hampshire, that helps those affected by sexual and domestic violence in the Upper Valley. The other ten percent goes to a preselected international campaign. This year’s campaign is One Billion Rising, an internationally coordinated day of dancing, striking, and rising.
Dartmouth’s role in V-Day goes back to 1999. Initially an undergraduate-led initiative, the movement quickly spread to the local community; it began involving staff, faculty, alumni, and of course, the graduate community.
Active and passionate people led the way to graduate involvement. Megan Fallon, the former assistant director of the Center for Gender & Student Engagement at Dartmouth and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) student, took a pivotal role. Fallon’s position and her dedication allowed her to be active in making V-Day and V-Week an important time at Dartmouth.
Katie Kinnaird, a math PhD candidate, has continued Fallon’s work. Kinnaird had taken part in the Vagina Monologues as an undergraduate and wanted an opportunity to continue her activism. V-Week provided this opportunity. Through her hard work, graduates and undergraduates have been able to come together to make a difference for women in the community and beyond.
“It was a great way to meet really passionate women, real unabashed feminists” says Kinnaird, “I will be sad to leave the community and hope that someone in the graduate school takes my place.”
Kinnaird swiftly took control of making v-pops. V-pops are vagina-shaped lollipops. Their purpose is twofold. Firstly, they act as a way in which woman can create a cultural shift in the way in which vaginas are viewed. Secondly, making and selling v-pops is a great way to raise money, allowing people to socialize in the process. In taking on the role of making v-pops, Kinnaird has carved out a unique space for the graduate community.
The graduate community also takes on the role of organizing the Venefit for V-Day. Hosted with a local business, this event raises money for V-Day. Anyone who wants more information about the Venefit, the V-Pop Parties, or wants to get involved, can email Kinnaird at: Katherine.M.Kinnaird.GR@dartmouth.edu. For the full schedule of events go to the V-Week Website.
Speaking of her activism, Kinnaird said “I hope to be involved when I’m in a retirement community in my nineties.” She continued, “what could be more fabulous?!”
by Dan Durcan