Private Fundraiser for V-Day
Jennifer: "About ten years ago a friend of mine, Lisa Gay Hamilton, called to tell me she had just done this AMAZING play and that it had made her feel so expansive and empowered and she encouraged me to do it as soon as I had the opportunity. I asked her, "What's it called?" She said "The Vagina Monologues." "Uh huh," I said. She said, "It's so great we all read monologues about our character's relationship to her womanhood, to her vagina." And I just said "Lisa Gay, I love my vagina, I'm fine with my vagina — we have a good relationship. I don't need to say "vagina" 500 times to feel connected to my vagina. But I'm glad you had such a great experience."
Then at about this time last year, my agent called to tell me I had been asked to be in "The Vagina Monologues" and he was going to send me the monologue they wanted me to do. It had to do with childbirth. I said send me the whole play because I want to read it in context. I was working on a film at the time the play arrived and I read it in my trailer during lunch. At first some of the stories were funny and I just laughed out loud. Some were infuriating. Then by the end I found myself weeping and I wasn't sure exactly why but I knew that it had to do with the realization that I was connected — inexplicably, mysteriously, numinously connected to all women, everywhere. And I felt proud, and mournful and suddenly responsible. And that's what good storytelling can do. It connects you not only to yourself but to others as well.
The fact is we are all, no matter where we live, surrounded constantly by stories, whether they are literal, oral or visual. In November I went to visit my brother in Ethiopia. He works for the UN. We were walking down the road and I saw a donkey hobbling under the weight of the wood it was carrying. I said to my brother, "It must be so hard to be a donkey in Ethiopia." He turned to me and said, "It's much harder to be a woman." And sure enough, when I looked more closely, behind the donkey was a woman carrying twice as much wood. Beside the woman was a man talking to the woman, carrying only his cellphone. This story is told to every girl, every boy, every man, every woman every day in Ethiopia. It is a benign story compared to the ones of genital mutilation in the countryside, but I think it's the "benign" story that tells us what is unapologetically codified within the culture.
As for the U.S., the benign story I'm really growing tired of is the "humorous" story of the blonde woman who is either injured or humiliated all in order to sell beer. Not funny. I am tired of these stories. I am angered by these stories. There are other stories far more wondrous — stories of women claiming and reclaiming power, stories of rage and resistance and indefatigable courage, and stories of women and some men — reaching across great divides and into the most treacherous places on Earth where turmoil reigns and violence against women is unchecked, taking the hands of those women, helping to lift them up and leading them toward safety and sanctuary and self-determination.
Those are the stories of V-Day.
I've come to understand through taking part in telling many stories of many women, but especially in these last six years telling the stories of The L Word — I've come to understand that telling stories in and of itself is a radical act. It's an act that changes hearts and minds. Representing, proclaiming, truth telling, story telling progresses the culture. The right story, at the right time can move society forward, palpably, perceptibly and effectively. I've come to understand that while history may indeed be written by the victors we will make ourselves victorious by writing our own histories.
What I have realized since that fateful day Lisa Gay told me about her experience doing the "Vagina Monologues" is I may feel fine with my sexuality, my womanhood, my power, I may be one of the lucky two out of three women who has escaped rape. But, globally, I am the exception and the reality is I will NOT be OKAY until everyone ELSE is OKAY.
And I think to myself how can I be helpful? How can I help all those women, all you women to whom I am connected but will never know? As an actor I am part of the storytelling process — I can be part of the stories that are told far and wide in cinemas, on television and on the Internet. And after meeting Eve Ensler I realized I can be part of V-Day.
V-Day is telling the stories in order to change the old story. V-Day is changing the old story by putting a better, necessary, irresistible story on the ground in places where that other story was utterly unbearable, untenable and destined to be overthrown. V-Day is rewriting the story of women.
I am proud to take part in bringing L to the V. And I am excited too to be taking part three weeks from now in V to the 10th where with Eve Ensler's support we (Ilene and I and some of our colleagues) will begin collecting the LGBT stories of the women of New Orleans — a first step in a new storytelling and performance project that will, we hope, bring forward more and more of the stories that represent us, move us, change us and ultimately connect us. I feel inspired and called to action by this V-Day movement, by this woman, these women, you women. Thank you for coming out tonight. Thank you for your generosity and for your activism. Thank you for sharing our L Word season finale with us in support of V-Day. "
transcript by Motaterz