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One Billion Rising: Dancing, and Rising Against Violence Against Women

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February 19, 2013

One Billion Rising at UCF

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend an event called One Billion Rising which was put on by the UCF School of Social Work and the theater department. The event had that name to refer to the World Wide Movement of One Billion rising which calls on women to walk out, dance, or rise for the I billion women on the planet  that have or will experience sexual abuse or rape in their lifetimes. Prior to becoming aware of this event, I knew about the One Billion Rising Movement from Kerry Washington who discussed it during a television interview.

As I walked up to the event I noticed that there were a lot of women dressed in pinks or reds to celebrate Valentine’s Day and to stand for this cause. I loved especially that this event was done of this holiday because it sheds an important light on violence against women and that love and violence shouldn’t be synonymous. I thought that the array of colors and the diversity of women and men that attended attested to the remarkable way we as people can collaborate and come together for a cause that is bigger than ourselves.

What I really enjoyed was having the chance to get up with the theater and dance majors at 12:15pm and join in a flash mob dance entitled “Break the Chain” that continued to have more and more people join during its duration. The event was also remarkable in that it enabled a lot of other organizations that focus on women’s health to collaborate in an area of the Health and Public Affairs building at UCF with displays and information that were all about prevention and providing information.

It was extremely eye opening to see and experience how a movement that seems so big can reach me as well as the other women on a local level and how we as women got the chance to advocate for women that may not be able to speak or won’t stand up.

The event seemed to triple in size while I was there and it was very motivating seeing women and men of many ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds saying that they want violence against women to end. I believe that this movement came at such an important time with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) finally passed the Senate again on February 12, 2013 with a vote of 78-22 after many deliberations and lack of support by some politicians that didn’t agree with its coverage for gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations and undocumented people that experience domestic violence. Originally, on Jan 2, 2013 VAWA was brought to the vote, but it did not receive re-authorization  then it was brought back up after much public outcry.

After attending this movement, and gushing about how much I enjoyed it, a friend sent me an article  from the Huffington Post about the downside and why some didn’t support the movement that was One Billion Rising. At first It was hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t love this event especially after seeing it firsthand. But now I believe that although the event’s premise of having men and women come together in an alliance against violence is promising, I do agree that the event in itself never truly explains the causes of violence and sexual violence against women and what are the resources like more shelters and domestic and sexual abuse counseling that it needed. The event also doesn’t go into detail about how you can do more and actually create action with organizing directly to make change. I think in trying to unite men and women this event and movement as a whole take away blame of gender based violence, and is a bit ineffective in the movement toward change.

Ultimately after actually attending the event and then reading critics on it, I lie at an uncomfortable medium with it as a whole. Zerlina from Feministing did a great job discussing some of critics about One Billion Rising here I believe that creating a space where people can share their stories and support other victims of violence is a good thing, but I also think that to really create effective change there needs to be more than just dancing. This event although it has problematic aspects, is a step in the direction that will in the end shed light on this issue not just for women in the US but for women worldwide.  Another article I read discusses yet another viewpoint of how this movement is not just awareness, but definitely political as well. I think that we as activists and organizers need to be careful about allowing people to share their stories while at the same time not tokenizing or creating “a save these people who can’t save themselves” campaign.

It’s movements like One Billion Rising that include people from all over the world standing up for a common goal that make me happy for how far we’ve come, but also its painfully clear how far we still have to go to reach a status of equality as women and to effectively fight and combat sexual violence and abuse against women and all people no matter how they identify.

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