At Large

A billion women dancing

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Imagine A billion women dancing together, dancing to end violence against women. Or as the organizers of “One Billion Rising” put it: “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a Revolution.”

And if one billion women around the world begin to dance not just out of joy and exhilaration, but also out of anger, determination and commitment, then their dancing cannot but move the earth. It may in fact literally send the ground shaking.

“Dance is a form of protest,” explains Monique Wilson who, with the women’s group Gabriela, is leading the local preparations for “One Billion Rising.” The global movement seeks to get one billion women “and the men who love them” to dance and get the world moving against violence against women. Eve Ensler, the creative mind and moving spirit behind “One Billion Rising,” who is in the country to meet organizers and popularize the movement, says she senses a “feminine wind” renewing the planet, getting women, men and children to overcome their differences and join hands in the “global struggle” to bring an end to violence against women.

Ensler is of course better known as the creator of “The Vagina Monologues,” a cultural event that has focused world attention on the issue of violence against women, and has also called attention to related issues of sex and sexuality, morality, pleasure, sexual attraction, sexual repulsion, womanhood, girlhood and the power of the vagina.

“Do you remember the first time we had our first ‘Vagina Monologues’ and we didn’t even know if we could say the word ‘vagina’ in public?” Monique asked the audience at the media launch of “One Billion Rising.” “Remember how it took us some more years before we could bring ourselves to say ‘puki’?”

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INDEED, in the decade or so since TVM began scandalizing, entertaining, shocking and moving audiences around the world, it has not only broken the taboo against what are in essence clinical terms for women’s “private parts,” it has also led to a global sisterhood celebrating women’s sexuality.

But the flip side of this appreciation for women’s pleasure has been violence against women, and as Ensler has observed, “violence against women is so entrenched we need to break apart the givens, and declare that such violence is unacceptable, and that what is being accepted is itself not acceptable.”

Since coming up with the daunting idea of getting one billion women on their feet and dancing on Feb. 14, 2013, Ensler has circled the globe and will continue doing so, spreading the gospel of the need to bring an end to all forms of violence against women and girls, including violence sanctioned by the state. She has also been getting women’s groups up and organized and working to ensure that when the women want to dance, they will have a place to gather and move.

Here in the Philippines, Wilson and the “V-Day” movement which promotes the hosting of “The Vagina Monologues” around the country, has teamed up with Gabriela and other groups to organize women around the country to join the dancing next Valentine’s Day.

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ONE issue particularly alarms Ensler, and that is the “growing trend” of trafficking of girls, “wherever in the world people are getting poorer and more desperate.”

Indeed, trafficking remains an immediate issue in the Philippines, too, where women and girls have been transported within the country and across national borders (even to faraway Africa) for purposes of prostitution or forced labor.

Despite the existence of an antitrafficking law, hundreds of girls and women continue to be vulnerable, with the plight of orphaned girls or those whose families have been thrust into poverty, leaving them especially vulnerable to traffickers.

Ensler also spoke of her recent visit to Payatas, where she witnessed with her own eyes what she called “the marrying of capitalism and patriarchy,” with girls sexually exploited just for the right to scavenge in the garbage dump, after supervision over the garbage in the area was turned over to a private company.

A much happier stop for Ensler was Dumaguete, which she described as “my new favorite place in the world,” not just because she met so many women of energy there, but also because she met so many “fabulous young men there” who told her they, too, felt a form of violence from social strictures that prevented them from expressing their true selves.

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“ONE Billion Rising” will unite women, men and children all over the world in a day of protest (through dance) against gender-based violence—from the streets of New York and Los Angeles, to Manila, Dumaguete and Payatas, India, Bangladesh, Somalia, and wherever else men and women of goodwill want to bring an end to violence.

Among the celebrities who have signed on and committed their support for and participation in “One Billion Rising” are the Dalai Lama, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda—and let’s hope they’re joined here by any of our many celebrities and their followers.

A video of the international anthem for “One Billion Rising” was shown at the start of the media launch. The song is called “Break the Chain” and shows women from all over the world resisting violence, rising from where they have fallen, and getting together to dance. A local version, called “Isang Bilyong Babae Babangon,” was likewise shown, depicting the stories of real women and their real struggles, and their real rebellions.

See you on Feb. 14 next year—dancing, hopefully!

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