Since its conception in the 1990s, Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues—an episodic play that uses the vagina as a symbol of female empowerment—has played a pivotal role in the feminist movement. It has also long figured into UNLV’s programming for V-Day, a national movement and benefit event aimed at stopping violence against women. So why is this UNLV’s last V-Day featuring the Monologues?
Producer/director Carmella Gadsen—who has been involved with the UNLV production for a combined six years—and a growing number of progressive feminists criticize the theatrical work for focusing on females who are Caucasian and cisgender (when your physical sex matches your gender identity) and not being trans-inclusive.
“A lot of people associate having a vagina with being a woman, but not all women have vaginas,” Gadsen says. “If the script included something about someone who was genderqueer, intersex or gender-fluid, then maybe we would be getting somewhere. This could have been prevented a long time ago by intentionally including more of those narratives, but it’s too little, too late.” She also states that the play’s community interest has whittled down over the years, most likely due to feminism’s growing intersectionality, and also noting that negative responses led to Tulane University replacing the play with a new event called Hers, Theirs, Ours.
The final performance she and Jean Nidetch Women’s Center Director Cristina Hernandez have created—to be held February 25, 4 and 7 p.m., in UNLV’s Student Union theater ($5-$8)—features some fun script modifications; a silent fundraising auction for UNLV CARE Survivor Fund, Trans Sistas of Color Project of Detroit and V-Day; and a reception with the cast. In the future, Gadsen says UNLV will shift focus to One Billion Rising, an international solidarity revolution against the exploitation of women.
However, Gadsen does not discount the play’s intrinsic value in the feminist movement. “I don’t think there’s anything like this production. I took a theater class a couple of years ago, and was told said that this is the quintessential protest performance. The whole reason this play exists is because of violence against women and girls,” Gadsen says. “It raises a critical consciousness in the community…[Audience members] may not realize they’re seeing something on social justice. They’re being entertained while expanding the way that they think about these issues, to understand the severity of gender-based violence…We get to hold you captive for an hour and a half and make you listen.”