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Performing Transnational Feminist Solidarity?: The Vagina Monologues and One Billion Rising

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Theatre Journal
Issue number1
Volume71
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)29-48
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Established by Eve Ensler in 1998 and centred around benefit performances of her play The Vagina Monologues (1996), V-Day has been highly successful in raising awareness and funds in support of organisations and initiatives concerned with violence against women and girls worldwide. Meanwhile, feminist scholars from diverse (inter) disciplines have long argued that the representation of women in Ensler’s play is inherently reductionist and exclusive, and as V-Day’s global reach increased, this argument has often been made from the perspective of transnational feminist theory. In 2013, V-Day launched a parallel campaign “One Billion Rising” (OBR) which might be understood as an attempt to address this criticism. Drawing on social media and based on dance-based, flash- mob performances, OBR13 attracted high numbers of participants in over 200 countries but some activists still characterized it as embodying the “white saviour complex”. Taking account of this body of criticism of V-Day, this article considers the two campaigns together so as to question whether, rather than Chandra Talpede Mohanty’s transnational feminist ideal of “a non-colonizing feminist solidarity across borders” both One Billion Rising and The Vagina Monologues project might be said to represent the globalization of Ensler’s particular brand of feminism as a mode of cultural imperialism. At the same time, acknowledging that Mohanty’s critique is actually aimed at “Western” feminist theorizing, this essay also examines the status and impact of V-Day campaigns as situated and embodied practices in ways that raise questions about the colonizing effects of applying feminist theories across borders; national and disciplinary.