At lunch, the girls at the table next to me talked about Valentine’s Day, a yearly dent in the existence of 20-something singles’ and couple’s wallets. Their passage from mail room to cafeteria had been impeded by a couple slowly rejoicing in the warm of their love, and the unusually mild Rhode Island winter. For many, Valentine’s Day seems like a holiday for couples, or at the most something to enjoy with a few friends.
This year, though, is different. One Billion Rising, the global movement to demand an end to gender violence, invites us to lose our inhibitions and dance in solidarity with others worldwide. The holiday that is all about ourselves and our loved ones has been flipped inside out to celebrate the collective strength of womanhood worldwide, women we will never know or meet.
Love is a key theme of this movement, love and respect for women’s bodies and the indestructible nature of their souls. For the 1 in 3 women who will be beaten, raped, or killed in the next year, love is a word that is marred by the pain of abuse, the pain of not being able to fully trust others. The women and men dancing on Valentine’s Day, or V-Day, are dancing to another beat, and demanding that injustices like honor killings throughout the world, the denial of education to women and girls, and the lack of protection for victims of domestic violence end.
From the fine arts to the world of policy, inroads are being made in many fields of our society. In the next month, the films The Invisible War and Girl Rising will debut, bringing attention to problems of systematic sexual abuse in the military and the lack of educational opportunities for girls. The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act has passed in the Senate, and will be put to a vote in the House for approval. The act will protect the victims of domestic violence and have unprecedented protections for LGBTQ and Native Women. The reauthorization of VAWA would mean tribal courts will be able to prosecute domestic violence cases that occur between Native women and non-Native men. The paradigm shift about gender violence in all its forms is occurring in light of the fact that violence is closer to our lives than we have ever thought possible.
The Facebook updates and online reports of risings occurring from Chicago to Rio, from India to New Zealand, from Sudan to San Francisco, are inspiring proof that the movement has begun. We are no longer willing to accept the statistics indicating a massive, systematic and far reaching problem. Instead, we demand a change to the culture indicating that women are passive bystanders who will not fight back.
Today, we ask you to rise, to sign on, and to help end gender violence in all its forms.