One Billion Rising: Can a Massive Dance Party Stop Violence Against Women?

I’ve seen girls get hit pretty hard on the rugby pitch. Playing in my second year with the Brown Women’s Rugby team, I’ve seen teammates face female players who are twice their weight, and with a decade of more experience. We are never afraid of the punishment our body will take, because we know we are strong and that pain will fade with the next ice bath. Whether rugby, roller derby, wrestling or football, women are proving daily that they, too, can handle pain.

There is another kind of pain that women everywhere face every day, the kind of pain that does not bring bruises of glory, but bruises of shame. How do we explain to our fathers, our mothers, our sisters, our brothers, our partners and friends that we have been violated, hurt and made to face the pain of silencing? The confusion and emotional trauma that victims of domestic violence, rape, incest and other forms of abuse are faced with can destroy any sense of voice and self-efficacy that women develop over the course of their lives. Our humanity and strength can fade in situations of such crushing personal despair.

One woman violated is one woman too many. But what to make of the billion women (1 out of 3) who will be raped, beaten or killed during their lifetimes?

Created by Eve Ensler, the playwright behind The Vagina Monologues, One Billion Rising is a movement attempting to bring awareness to the massive problem of gender violence. On February 14, women and men from 170 countries will be “rising” — dancing in solidarity with the victims of violence against women everywhere. I am rising with my friends on my campus by planning three days of events that will shine a bright spotlight on this problem.

We tend to think that the problem of gender violence exists in some societies much more prevalently than it does in others. However, the statistics are proving that the reality of systematic and transcultural violence against women is a dark shadow lurking in every college campus, every untested rape kit, and every city, town, and village of the modern world. We wonder, as women champion for equal rights and equal pay, try to desperately protect our own, and clamor for the proper education of every girl, how things can change. 

Can women and men dancing in solidarity help heal the scars of gender violence throughout the world?

One Billion Rising offers an answer to this question. At first I was dubious: Could a few dance steps here and there could offer a clear answer to such a complex problem? Then, as 170 countries joined the movement, and as I began to plan Brown University’s own rising, I realized that the answer to this question does not solely lie in the intellectualization of these problems, or in art for activism and healing (though these are important). I was invested in the movement for the feeling of not being alone, of knowing our sisters and brothers will be dancing along with us in all parts of the world, and of knowing that they too will feel liberated and empowered.

Alice Walker had it right: Hard times do require furious dancing.