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Author Topic: One Billion Rising this Valentine's Day - to end violence against women.
WesLuck
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http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/28/one-billion-rising-feminist-campaign/print

Flashmobs in Mogadishu, marches in Bute and mass rallies in India: Eve Ensler on the global response to her One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women.

Since Eve Ensler launched the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women she has been repeatedly asked: is it a dance movement or overtly political? A protest or a giant global celebration? Just a few weeks before 14 February, the date that Ensler, activist and author of The Vagina Monologues, designated the “day to rise”, she says: “I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime.”

One in three women around the world are subject to violence at some point in their life, a statistic that prompted Ensler, who wrote the Monologues in 1996, to set up One Billion Rising. With such violence encompassing domestic abuse, gang rape, female genital mutilation and war, it is perhaps unsurprising that the campaign has taken on a different hue in each of the 190 countries where events to mark 14 February are planned.

“It is something that has gone across class, social group and religion. It’s like a huge feminist tsunami,” she said on a stopover in Paris.

Local protests range from the first ever flashmob in Mogadishu, Somalia, to the town square in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and encompass Maori women in New Zealand and an estimated 25m protesters in Bangladesh. Ensler’s idea for One Billion Rising came from her work in the Congo, where she set up the City of Joy to help female victims of violence and where she plans to be on 14 February itself, a day chosen partly to take back the idea of love from the soppy commercialism of Valentine’s Day. Her last stop before Congo will be London, with a sold-out event at the Café de Paris including Thandie Newton and other campaigners.

Ensler says a combination of social media and the world’s grassroots feminist movements have driven the way the campaign has taken off globally. In south Asia for three weeks over Christmas, she was struck by how much the horror over the gang rape of the 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh in Delhi had given impetus to the campaign. “In India, One Billion Rising is at the centre of the biggest breakthrough in sexual violence ever seen,” she says.

Kamla Bhasin, a feminist campaigner in the continent for more than 30 years, says each country is taking a different approach – from the astonishing mass movement in Bangladesh, organised by Brac, one of the world’s largest NGOs, to Afghanistan, where “there will be no dancing and no singing but people still want to say, ‘Enough is enough’”.

The idea of dancing to stop violence has understandably attracted naysayers, even among committed supporters, but two videos, among hundreds, sum up how Ensler’s idea inspires campaigners. The first is the one that launched the new anthem written and produced by Grammy-award-winning Tena Clark, Break the Chain , with a video choreographed by Debbie Allen, who went on to make her own accompanying “how to” dance video. The second is one produced by campaigners in Norwich. Without the involvement of the sort of Hollywood A-listers – Robert Redford, Jane Fonda – usually associated with Ensler, it’s still hugely effective. Local organisers were keen to show that the campaign is supported by men and boys as well as women.

Much of the effort in the UK has been concentrated on changing sex education in schools to embrace relationships and violence. A cross-party group including Labour MP Stella Creasy and Conservative MP Amber Rudd is hoping for parliamentary time on 14 February to vote on making “personal, social and health education a requirement in schools, including a zero tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships”.

Efforts to get the government to recognise the campaign itself have so far failed to gain much ground. In the latest parliamentary debate, foreign office minister Hugo Swire restricted himself to pointing out that the government took such violence seriously and warned women to be careful when going abroad.

In the US, veteran campaigner Pat Reuss is also hoping to use support for OBR in every state to resuscitate the Violence Against Women Act that provides protection for victims, yet which Congress failed to reauthorise last year.

When asked which country she has been most amazed by, Ensler rattles off a list of action – from those protesting against sex trafficking in Mexico to mass activity in the Philippines. She adds that the 50 cities preparing events in Italy took her by surprise. “That was a real turning point for me,” she says. “Fifty cities in Italy!”

Campaigners are already wondering what will happen after V-day. “The dancing will be amazing but more important is what’s happening to move violence against women to the forefront of the agenda,” says Ensler. “It will never be a marginalised issue again … At this point it really feels like a wave with a life of its own.”

[ 02-11-2013, 07:52 AM: Message edited by: WesLuck ]

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Redskies
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I feel the need to say that One Billion Rising has definitely not been universally supported by anti-violence activists. I don't know a great deal about the movement and haven't been involved either way, and have no personal agenda either way, but I know what I've come across some other people saying.

Some non-Western and/or non-white women have expressed concern about overtones of racism, at least in some of the media produced and shown in "Western" countries, and also expressed concern that the movement wasn't really Doing anything that would help or change the situation at all.

At least as far as the UK is concerned, personally I haven't heard anything about it at all. The campaigning around the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act in the US was, I think, happening independently of O B R; likewise I was under the impression that the mass protests in India were not under the banner of O B R.

There are also concerns about Ensler herself re her position on trans women and on woman-on-woman sexual assault.

I wholeheartedly support anything where people on the ground feel it will make a difference to their present or future situation; I'm not wishing to stand on anything that's doing somebody some good. I'm just aware of some concerns about O B R, and I also can't help but feel that the article above talks it up a bit more than it's earned.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Am I reading this piece right in that Ensler is basically claiming that her OBR initiative is responsible for the protests in India?

If so, then I find that REALLY troubling, since it sounds very much like someone is trying to take credit for something that had nothing to do with their activism; like co-opting a movement that isn't/wasn't hers at all. And given the fact that that's about Indian women and this'd be a white, American woman making that claim, that would be estra SUPER not okay.

But maybe I'm misreading?

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Redskies
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I'm reading it that way too. The reporting, certainly, makes it sound like O B R is responsible for a hell of a lot more than it is. But the reported direct quote from Ensler "In India, One Billion Rising is at the centre of the biggest breakthrough in sexual violence ever seen," seems pretty damning.

This clueless-white-saviour effect is part of the claims of racism and unhelpfulness I've heard from some non-white and/or non-Western women. The apparent co-option takes the biscuit though. Disgusting.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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(I don't know what estra, is, btw. But I meant to type extra.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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(Heather, I at least understood what you meant well enough that I didn't even notice the funny typo.)

Eh. I was trying to be non-controversial, but, um, that didn't work. I had a look at the O B R website and I just didn't like it. It seems to be jammed full of "rise, dance" and "how to run and promote your event", with very, very little about tackling sexual violence and violence towards women. There's a big tool kit with only one point suggesting a "day of action" by volunteering in women's centres (for only one day? really? how will that help?) and one point saying consider the impact of your event around you, "Organize to change a law, get more funding for women’s programs, or model new non-violent ways of being in your city, office, or college". Absolutely nothing about how to change attitudes around sexual violence, how to support victims, how to improve things for victims, or critiquing the mass of current mainstream misinformation there is.

I don't think that just "awareness" of violence against women and sexual violence is helpful. What's needed is awareness of the real impact on victims, awareness of attitudes and systems that support and enable that violence, and how to change it. I think that Scarleteen does more re. sexual violence and violence against women, with its mass of information on consent, healthy relationships and abuse, and where to get or give help, than this O B R does.

I am familiar with using art for and as activism, but this feels like "activism" being used to further someone's career.

Anyone who has organised or participated in something local which Has done something constructive and Has addressed some of the real issues has my deepest respect, as always.

But the umbrella movement is giving me very icky feelings.

Paraphrasing someone else's comment somewhere else on the net: We're rising! But don't worry, we're all sitting down again.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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You know, I think that it's good activism to think carefully ABOUT activism and activist movements. I also think that if any of us who organize activism aren't comfortable having what we're doing evaluated in the ways you've talked about this, Redskies, then we maybe need to figure we aren't likely to be very good or effective activists.

So, I don't see an issue with the kind of questions and critiques happening here, at all. I know that as a visible activist, I've certainly seen my fair share about me over the years, and while questions or critiques this thoughtful are far more rare than personal attacks or just "this sucks," paired with no why, still, sometimes they might get one's back up a little.

BUT. They're important. And when your activism actually matters to you per wanting to achieve the actual goals you've set out? You can get over any smooshed feelings or spoilt pride and use it to better your activism, which it usually does, even if and when the critiques aren't actually valid (like if, say OBR had been responsible for the recent anti-rape activism in India).

IOW, I certainly think it's all good, and certainly all things that are important to talk about. I also think going through something like this is just plain old good exercise in media literacy, and that's always a good thing, particularly at a time when activism and PR, and activism and celebrity, are so intertwined.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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Thank you for your thoughts on activism and critique. I do agree (though obviously from a less direct-personal-experience position).

I generally prefer not to give fuel to "infighting!!" claims from within and without. I guess I wouldn't tell someone they shouldn't be doing something (if it's not actively harmful or exclusive), but I guess I do feel the need to respond to positive reports if I feel the thing isn't wholly positive.

I'm not quite sure what you mean in your last paragraph; by "going through something like this", do you mean looking and thinking critically about something, or are you talking about the way this movement for example has successfully publicised itself, or something else?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I meant looking and thinking critically like this. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Redskies: you might have already seen this, but I think it speaks well to some of the (sound, I think) concerns you're talking about here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/natalie-gyte/one-billion-rising-why-i-wont-support_b_2684595.html

I think this quote is especially important:
"I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words "insulting" and "neo-colonial". She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of "telling their story to the rest of the world". Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to 'rise' above the violence they have seen and experienced by...wait for it...dancing. "Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors", she said. "

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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Thank you for the clarification.

And I've Just seen that article, after I wrote my own stuff above [Smile] I too think it raises some pretty big points.

If some survivors feel better by dancing with other survivors, by feeling more heard and recognised, then I support that. I just don't think that it's a major way to create significant change in the violence and in the world in general's response to the violence.

There are lots of different ways of "rising". I think a person rises every time they speak out against normalisation of violence or against a rape myth or a rape survivor stereotype, publicly or in a private conversation. Rising more often than on one day is pretty important. I would 100% support dancing as a form of rising, and even (or perhaps Especially) as the "hook" or public face of the movement, if the movement also gave people the tools and information to rise in other ways, too, and explicitly included, supported and celebrated All rising.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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WesLuck
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Gee, this is a shame. I guess for every good cause, there are some trying to take credit for it when they are not doing much. Sorry for posting this guys and gals (and every other gender label possible).

[Frown]

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