Violence against women occurs daily all over the world.
In an attempt to address the harm being enacted upon so many, Eve Ensler
decided to act. Together with a small group of women, Ensler established the V-Day organization in 1998. This organization has spearheaded performances, campaigns, films, workshops, and rallies every year since.
These events are intended to raise awareness of women’s issues and to fund programs with a focus on ending all forms of violence against women.
What began as a small group of women in New York City on Valentine’s Day over 20 years ago has grown into a global women’s movement. There are now over 6000 events which occur every year. Central to the V-Day missions is a series of performative monologues written and produced by Eve Ensler herself. She wrote this play in 1994, based on a series of interviews she conducted with women of
many different ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. The interviews focused on sexual health and the experience of living as a woman. The answers she received from the respondents became the Vagina Monologues, which
are performed by activists, students, and community groups each year close to the anniversary of V-Day. Funds raised from these performances
are donated to non-profits such as women’s shelters and rape crisis centers which work toward an end to rape and violence against women.
Although the performances of the Vagina Monologues have been successful in raising funds and awareness for the many forms of violence women face every day, the production has also faced controversy and criticism.
Several well-known authors, feminists, and activists have leveled accusations of essentialist understandings of gender identity and limited intersectionality against the Vagina Monologues. Many transgender and female-identifying individuals have felt excluded and alienated by what they argued was a play which defined women and femininity strictly through the vagina.
In 2015, Mount Holyoke, an all-women’s college in Massachusetts, cancelled their annual production because they felt it was not inclusive enough. The primary argument made by one of the student organizers was that it failed
to adequately represent the transgender experience. Mount Holyoke had just
begun to admit transgender women the year before. Eve Ensler responded in a 2015 Time magazine article that “I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.” She then backed her statement up, explaining that one of the primary monologues, titled They Beat the Girl out of my Boy, was first written and performed in 2004 after a group of transgender women
decided to perform the play together.
The real issue lay, not in transgender representation, but in how many performances of that
were performed by Cis-gendered women instead of a transgender individual. Ultimately, the Monologues remain open for each group who performs them to create the inclusivity and intersectionality necessary to represent and empower all women and allies. According to Ensler, “Trans women and trans men have been welcome to perform in the Vagina Monologues throughout its history.”
The Vagina Monologues will be performed three times in Guelph this year on February 28th and 29th. Each performance will begin with a Feature Show titled Transitions, which includes
some of the cast member’s own poetry and prose. Funds raised from the shows this year will
be dedicated to Guelph Women in Crisis.
The performances will be held at Massey Hall on the
UoG Campus for both days. For ticket information, check out this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-vagina-monologues-tickets-93150492631 See you there!