The Power of Art and Activism

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Activists dance at a One Billion Rising campaign event in New Delhi on February 14, 2013. One Billion Rising is a global coordinated campaign calling for an end to violence against women, gender-expansive people, and the Earth. (photo by REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal)

Starting with small community performances, a one-woman off-Broadway production, and then performances on college campuses, The Vagina Monologues was a revelation. Its raw, honest, and unflinching look at women’s relationships to their vaginas changed minds and hearts, catalyzing viewers to look at themselves, their loved ones, their place in society, and their own bodies differently. This led to an extraordinary moment where on a fateful night in February 2001, 18,000 spectators gathered in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, not for a hotly contested sporting event or a rock concert but the performance of a play. From that moment on, the V-Day movement exploded across the globe. 

Art Can Make the Impossible Possible

Since it was written by V (the playwright formerly known as Eve Ensler) in 1994, The Vagina Monologues has been performed in over 140 countries, been translated into 48 languages, and touched millions of people. Both funny and heart-wrenching as it explores topics ranging from the giddy pleasures of sexual awakening to the traumas of rape and abuse, The Vagina Monologues inspired an arts and activism movement that has expanded far beyond the stage. Performances of the play have raised over $120 million for anti-violence groups, rape crisis centers, and domestic violence shelters.

For V-Day, a global arts movement dedicated to ending violence against women, gender-expansive people, and the Earth via grassroots activism, bringing thousands of people together to inspire and empower is the rule rather than the exception. V regrets that this fight is still necessary. “Our job is to go out of business,” she says. “I don’t think we ever intended to be here so long. We thought patriarchy would run its course, and it’s much more intractable and difficult to dismantle.”

But V and her collaborators, including Executive Director Susan Celia Swan, don’t lose hope. “Movements,” V says, “live in people’s hearts and spirits and minds. They can turn pain to power, alchemize grief into transformative action.”

Activating the Power of Solidarity

V-Day, founded in 1998, serves as a banner for thousands of individuals and groups working together on projects at the intersection of art and activism. These projects include: continued performances of the still-resonant The Vagina Monologues; One Billion Rising, a mass action campaign to end violence against women (given that one in three women across Earth, or one billion women and girls, will be beaten or raped during her lifetime); and “Voices,” a new soundscape written and performed by Black women intended to unify the vision of ending violence against women across the African Continent and African Diaspora.

V-Day also helped found the City of Joy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a leadership center built by and for women who have survived violence. Over 2,000 women have graduated from the City of Joy since 2011.

V-Day started with a performance. Now, it’s an expansive network of survivors, creatives, change-makers, and future-builders in places all over the world driven by the needs of women and girls and finding power through solidarity.



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Executive Director: Susan Celia Swan


V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence), girls and the Earth.

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