Steamboat Springs Melissa Gray has felt the embarrassment and the shame.
She’s experienced the feeling that it was somehow her own mistake that landed her in an abusive relationship.
But now, the local mother and avid belly dancer has a message to share with other women.
“I really think that every woman needs to feel good enough about herself to say, ‘No, I won’t be treated that way,’” Gray said. “Part of that empowering is to be able to talk about your body comfortably and set clear boundaries.”
This weekend, she and several local women of all ages, professions and personalities will have the chance to be open about their bodies and sexuality when they read the “The Vagina Monologues” during the first celebration of V-Day Steamboat Springs.
The show takes place at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, which organized the production. Tickets are $15.
V-Day is a worldwide activist movement that helps colleges and organizations put on productions each year. The thousands of programs across the world raise funds and awareness for domestic violence services and prevention.
In the Steamboat version of V-Day, 90 percent of the proceeds will benefit Advocates Building Peaceful Communities, which provides shelter, counseling and other services for women as well as prevention-based education in local schools.
The other 10 percent will go toward helping women in Haiti, who long have been subject to sexual violence that worsened in the wake of the earthquake.
Advocates Executive Director Diane Moore said the monologues offer a fresh and healthy take on women’s issues.
“It is about talking about women, addressing women and clearly the match, so to speak, in terms of Advocates is that we’re about supporting women and families and keeping them safe and changing societal attitudes,” she said.
One way to work toward that change is by bringing sometimes-private subjects out into the open.
The monologues are a series of pieces told in the voices of a variety of women. They all relate back to female sexuality in some way. Some content is graphic, so the program might not be for everyone.
From young to old, each woman talks about how she relates — or doesn’t relate — to her vagina. Some of the characters are frenzied and militant, others are modest and timid.
Gray ended up with a monologue about the beauty of birth, something that is close to her heart as a mother.
“As we started reading, all of the girls’ personalities and passions really started to shine through,” Gray said. “It was a great way to get to know this group of girls.”
Kim Keith, events and marketing coordinator for Off The Beaten Path, will be stepping out of her comfort zone to read a story about a woman sexually abused as a child.
Brought up in the South, Keith said she grew up modest about her sexuality.
“We didn’t talk about this kind of stuff very much,” Keith said. “It’s been a real adjustment to say the word over and over again. But there’s this thing that happens when you start realizing it’s a beautiful thing and not something to be ashamed of or be private about.”
For Moore, this event is not just about women and their bodies; it’s about Steamboat’s women and the community’s well being.
“I’m looking forward to a new and different opportunity to increase awareness in our community for women,” she said. “Hopefully, men will attend as well to have some fun, but also I hope they will walk away knowing this is about helping our community, as well.”