“V is for Vagina” ?: A criticism of One Billion Rising


February 8, 2013 by Vicki

woman-with-speech-bubble-mdOne billion women on February 14 shall rise up and dance against violence against women. Women uniting in protest against the violence and abuse of women is fantastic. Gathering together to show our power and passion and that we, as women, also have a voice.For full information on the event please click here  I just have one question: What is the point? No where on their website could I find a stated goal other than the vague notion of how wonderful it would be if no woman had to fear violence. How is this helpful?

A fourteen year-old girl, Julia Bluhm, successfully protested against the air-brushing of models in the magazine “Seventeen.” (For the full story, please click here) She had a stated goal and a stated target which she pursued. At fourteen, she succeeded against a major media outlet. She petitioned for that specific goal to be addressed. She wrote about the negative effects that teens can suffer when they try to achieve such an impossible goal. She focused her attack on how the magazine, by air-brushing, enforces these impossible ideals. She dealt with one issue and one magazine. Once she won against “Seventeen”, she moved on to the next magazine. Julia Bluhm’s method is how you organize a successful protest. You have a stated goal and a stated target.

“One Billion Rising” does not follow this method. They have a global statement that violence against women should not occur. I do not think that any female would disagree with them. I do have to ask, however, what is proven by these flash mobs, dance parties, and gatherings? Major news channels have shown outrage and shock at the rape and brutal deaths of women. If a man can watch the news and still hit his wife and children; why would seeing a bunch of women dancing stop him? After the party ends, everyone will go home and the violence will continue.

If we are to end violence, we need to target the causes of violence. The way media portrays women, whether it be in movies, television shows or video games, is a cause of the violence. Have you heard about Anita Sarkeesian? She is writing a book on the tropes against women in video games. In response to her project, she has received death and rape threats. Full story here  and video here .I think it’s safe to assume that she may be correct. The emphasis on violence in the toys given to boys teaches them that they must dominate in order to win. This is a cause of violence.

I could write an entire book on the various causes of violence against women. If we want to stop the violence, we need to pick one and focus our attention on that one cause until it no longer exists. Once that cause has been obliterated, then we move on to the next cause. Yes, it will take time. No, we cannot dance one day and make the violence go away. We can succeed, but it will take time, work, intelligence and a united voice.


4 thoughts on ““V is for Vagina” ?: A criticism of One Billion Rising

  1. K. Kreiger says:

    I can definitely appreciate that you say we need to do more than dance; I agree. However I believe Eve Ensler would agree too. Although I love your references to great feminist work, I don’t actually think you are critiquing One Billion Rising. You are saying what it is not, which doesn’t really engage with what the event is trying to be. It is about solidarity.

    • Vicki says:

      For what purpose? We are showing we are united against violence against women. I think that is obvious. If we are going to take the time, work, and effort to have an event then why not have an event that will accomplish something? Otherwise, the dance ends and the violence continues.

      • K. Kreiger says:

        There in lies the issue. You think it is obvious; however marginalized groups/women/individuals may not find it so obvious. And if this solidarity so clearly exists, what does that look like? Also, you could critique even the examples you are talking about in the same way. One magazine doesn’t help stop acid burnings… But that isn’t the point is it. Ending gender-based violence is of course going to need more than dancing, but why can’t it include it? Have you danced with hundreds of women in public? Do you know what kind of momentum it can provide people? How it can possibly restore a sense of belonging to a larger population that feels the way you do in a very real and physical sense? The idea that something isn’t helpful because you don’t relate to it, or that it doesn’t somehow take an approach that you find helpful to ending violence is the antithesis of solidarity. This is a multifaceted issue that needs a lot of love and creativity to combat it. Just because it does not show a reactive stance against violence doesn’t mean it doesn’t respond to it.

      • Vicki says:

        I apologize, I should have realized that those who are marginalized may not find solidarity obvious. With this consideration, I can appreciate the importance of the power and momentum created by such an event. I suppose my criticism stems from the lack of direction provided for that momentum. Those women who go to this event who suffer from physical abuse still have to live with that abuse. It is not creating shelters. It does not create laws. One woman in every three in America will still be raped.
        I can see that Creating that momentum and that power is a first step for those who do not have any power. If it empowers even one woman to stop and say “no more” than it is worth it. If it teaches one woman that she is worthy of respect then I stand and applaud. Can I ask, however, that we start to have a “reactive stance” against violence as well as showing our solidarity? I hear about individual making stands against the tide of violence, but I think women, as a group, need to start making stands as well. I agree that this is a multifaceted issue and that scares me because it is so much harder to stop an issue that has so many different faces. It’s past time that we stood up and protected our daughters, our mothers, our nieces, and our friends from these atrocities.

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