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by Reilly Richards

When one begins an adventure, they usually have either a great deal of knowledge on what they’re getting into or none at all. I’m still unsure which of the two applied to me when I decided I wanted to do something like Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, or Harriet Tubman at the age of 7. But I knew that by golly I was going do something whether you like it or not! As I got older I found other interests: sports, science, history, clothes. But all along the way I was continually drawn back to feminism, women challenging the system, and female roles in our culture. Girls like Hermione, Jo March, and Olivia Kidney became my best friends. I found more interest in Esther, Mary and Sarah than in Jesus or Abraham. It was a wonderful time of discovery and empowerment, but in my world; Women could vote, we’re legally protected against abuse, girls can go to school and play sports, and I could wear pants. The issues of today were too far away or required donations that I don’t have. So when I found V-Day, it was a chance to live my most desired dream.

I really thank Gloria Steinem for teaching me about V-Day. It was by watching her incredible speeches and interviews that I stumbled upon Eve Ensler and her beautiful Vagina Monologues. When I had finished watching them, I just kind of sat there, mind blown, and shaken. When I emerged from the daze I noticed a link to the V-Day video, and through the whole thing my brain was going a million miles a minute. My mindset of not talking about vaginas, rape, sexual abuse and FGM (loudly at least) had just been completely and utterly shattered. I was a new person, I had a new purpose.

Sadly this was discovered just a month before V-Day. Which I came to realize was not enough time to cast, direct, and fund a high school production of the Vagina Monologues single handedly. But there was time to make some posters, send out an announcement, and make some t-shirts; with the help of a most compassionate french teacher. The event went out on Facebook, it was in our daily bulletin, and some very…well…interesting posters went up around the school. Yet nobody was talking about it. Most kids still hadn’t heard of it! My teacher sent an email of the video to some other teachers and maybe one of them shared it with their class. As disappointed as I was, I understood their hesitance. It’s not easy to talk about sexual abuse in front of a lot of people. Most can’t say vagina with a straight face! The first day my teacher shared the video with our class they asked me what FGM was. Standing up in front of 30 of your peers and talking about the clitoris was not exactly in my comfort zone. Neither was sitting down at lunch with my Christian, conservative, guy friends, explaining that: “No, the V doesn’t stand for valentine, it stands for vagina.” Over time my friends became less reluctant and shared the information with their friends and so on and so forth. But when it came to our two big t-shirt making days, we had maybe 10 girls total that thought they were going to come. So when 13 showed up the first day of t-shirt making (including two boys) it was a most wonderful surprise.

On the actual V-day, there were about 20 of us who actually wore our shirts. Inspired by candy hearts, we adopted the tag line: “I am mine.” We had dipped our hands in paint to make the V-Day heart symbol. We walked together in the halls, and we were awesome. Also we were freshmen, so the majority of the school just looked at us like we were crazy. But that made it all the more fun. We also began our own, new V-day tradition; red lipstick. At first, someone told me that red lipstick is worn to be sexually attractive to men, therefore, not feminist. I responded that red stands for love, power, passion, rebellion, and change. Red stands out and refuses to go unheard. Red also draws attention to our mouths, because we too, refuse to be silent. One of my favorite V-Day moments was when I saw a girl who I’d never met and didn’t wear a shirt, but wore red lipstick and with a smile, flashed me a peace/V sign. It was a needed reassurance that I was not alone in this fight and that there were fellow students who truly believed in the power of girls.

With that assurance, support from my teacher, and a crazy ton of fundraising, this year’s V-Day is going to have an assembly, a possible production of an Eve Ensler play, and a lipstick/bracelet sale to fund it all. We are hoping for teacher and community support, school permission to perform something not within the majority of our comfort zones, and most importantly; a surge of youth involvement in all forms. We want artists, musicians, writers, organizers, pamphlet handing outers, anyone who is moved to join us. I am extremely excited for it all and am prepared to face the challenges. But I couldn’t have even started without the inspiration of some extraordinary women. So here’s a much deserved thanks to Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Bloomer and countless others who’s fearless words and actions are igniting my current generation to be loud, loving, proud and of course, wear lipstick.


(A photo gallery of t-shirts created for Reilly’s event.)




Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

Reilly Richards
About Reilly Richards


  • Ellen Christensen
    3:24 AM - 24 August, 2012

    Miss Reilly inspires young and old, women and men, with her passion, enthusiasm and heroism for liberty, justice and equality for women. She is an amazingly strong and intelligent young woman in the throes of making our world a better place through education, art and just plain fun!

  • Penny Perka
    10:42 PM - 19 September, 2012

    Reilly, What I love is that though the first idea you had didn’t work out, you figured out “small, quick wins” (the shirts, the lipstick! talking at the lunch table) that you could do with your friends to start conversations and build awareness. Bravo!

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