Violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To address and to end violence against women globally, we must consider the factors and circumstances that contribute to it, from the local to the planetary. That’s why V-Day has collected a series of articles for One Billion Rising from some of the great thinkers, activists, voices around the world.
We asked them: How do poverty, economic policy, politics, race, class, the environment and other forces influence violence against women?
We continue with Carole Bebelle, who argues that once we are awake to our power and the company we are in, we are in this joyous struggle together.
By Carol Bebelle
It is so very interesting how we human beings handle uncomfortable truth. We forget. We prevent our combined knowledge from informing us of things too uncomfortable to consider. We take the edge off a hellacious day by collapsing into a drugged state or a hard-worked, bone-tired coma sleep. We keep busy. We look the other way. We misunderstand our intuition about these frightening things.
All of this contortion and confusion in pursuit of a desired peace-of-mind and a concession to things we feel we can’t control — things that are often too terrible to give life to in words, thoughts, or dreams.
And then, a woman from New York — slight in stature, giant in reputation and accomplishment — named Eve Ensler walked on a stage in a New Orleans sports arena and asked the audience gathered to do two things. She introduced herself and asked: 1) “All of you who are personally victims of violence, please stand.” An unexpected number of silhouettes rose to be counted. I felt my heart pounding in anxiety and my eyes widening in surprise.
Then she asked, 2) “Those of you who know women who are or have been victims of violence, please stand.” The rest of the arena, including me, in one rustling move seemed to rise to join the first group of those willing to take their place, their number in a sisterhood too large for our minds to embrace.
It was then that I knew that my convenient amnesia was cured. My unfocused nudges of instinct and vague pieces of stories had stumbled into an interpretation and big-picture truth that was hard to ignore and harder still to deny. I was face-to-face with a truth. Women were in danger everywhere in the world. No family, politics, government or religion was able, maybe even willing, to make the danger cease.
There we all stood, over 25,000 from around the world, who were rising, giving a living testimony of the urgent epidemic of violence against women across the planet. How could this be? How could we be so lethargic? How could we be so inactive and blasé—blasé about such a critical matter?
Answers to these questions would take books to explain. Said simply, it is because one half of the world believed that their suffering was deserved, acceptable or survivable, while the other half has, without the influence of torture or extreme distress, colluded with and normalized this terribly big lie which protects this awfully monstrous atrocity.
I could have known better years sooner though, if I’d let myself, because I work with Mama Gwen Richardson, a New Orleans woman warrior who tirelessly assists, coaches, advocates, and submits herself to the distressing task of hearing the stories of others’ misery and violation. She bears these sorrows and allows herself to be a contribution to the ending of this epidemic and the healing of those violated and wounded by this vicious cycle.
The work sometimes takes her joy. It sometimes casts a shadow over her life. But she knows that her burden, however heavy on whatever day, pales by comparison to the burden of rape, domestic violence, or torture. Gwen is one in a legion of women and men around the world who are choosing to be uncomfortable in their lives so that others can be reclaimed from hell and healed from the time and the wounds they sustained there.
The rest of us must make up our minds. Will we continue the personal deceptions? Will we continue to look away? Will we continue to normalize and trivialize abnormal, horrific, dysfunctional behavior, or will we take the opportunity to take a stand, each of us,to purge the world of this monstrous indignity to humanity—especially womankind.
V-Day is offering us such an opportunity. With One Billion Rising, like-minded and hearted people all around the world are agreeing to Strike, Dance and Rise! We are stepping out of our everyday worlds and shutting out everything else, as we dedicate a day to the protection of women and girls everywhere. In solidarity with them, we join millions to celebrate freedom, through dance, and to rise against the benign neglect and quiet acceptance of an intolerable atrocity too big to ignore.
On February 14, 2013, will you step out of your life and into the rising movement to end violence against women? Shut down the usual and join the unusual energy of liberating dance. Dance to your heart’s content and dance till the sweat of your brow and the sound of your breath become a rising energy of spirit, love, solidarity, blessing and mantra that say to women and girls everywhere:
You are not alone,
We are with you.
We will make space for you
And time for you to heal there.
We will turn our laughter into prayers for you
Our contentment will be framed by your malcontent and suffering.
Our very breath will be a fluttering reminder that we and you are both committed to making life a good journey for all women and girls around the world.
Dear mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, lovers, grandmothers, aunties, nanas, nieces, and friends, we make this covenant for you and with you from a place of deep and abiding love sealed with a sacred and deep soul kiss.