Solidarity is Our Strength: One Billion Rising Around the World

Solidarity is Our Strength: One Billion Rising Around the World

In a world that says that freedom can only come if we preserve ourselves as individuals, I’m always excited when I come across movements that demand freedom through solidarity. When we come together as one, there is an overwhelming hope to achieve a freedom that can only be described as miraculous. On February 14th 2013, that hope and that sense of freedom culminated in one event: One Billion Rising.

One Billion Rising is a self-described global strike against violence, abuse, and atrocities that are committed against women. Eve Ensler, the founder and activist, began the campaign in response to Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment. She, like many other women, was appalled by the statistic that approximately one billion women (1 in 3) are raped or beaten in their lifetime, and it was this statistic that provided the name of Ensler’s campaign.

Over 5000 different organizations participated in the One Billion Rising movement, including Tulane University. Led by the Global Health Leaders Across Multicultural Women (GLAM), vice president, Anna Tan, Tulane University organized a panel discussion, a letter writing campaign, and a flash mob to take a stand against the violence committed against women around the world.

As I prepared to dance in front of McAlister Auditorium, I began to think about what I was truly dancing for and the message I was personally trying to send to the world and to myself. I considered the words of a critic of the movement, Natalie Gyte, of the Huffington Post. She criticized the movement’s lack of consideration of the root causes of the unequal status of women. She argues that it is the “patriarchal system which cultivates masculinity and which uses the control and subjugation of women's bodies as an outlet for that machoism.” While I do not disagree with the statement, I’m not sure that this was the purpose of the movement, at least not for me.

There is an endless list of reasons why violence is committed against women beyond the one proposed by Gyte. The purpose of the movement was not to elaborate on these reasons, but instead to shake the complacency. Different cultures can point to different underlying reasons for the abuse: a history of patriarchy, religious zealotry, or a culture of war, but this movement was to proclaim that, whatever the reasons, we as a society are not going to stand for violence. The woman shaking her hips beside me also seemed to agree.

The genius of this movement is not the complex research that can be done to point to the root of the problem but rather the simple idea that there is power in numbers. Individually, human beings are pretty weak when compared to other animals; we can barely run, scratch, or fight. But when humans created tribes, villages, and cities, we became a force to reckoned with; other animals didn’t stand a chance. What if women and their allies did the same? What if one woman backed by her fellow “risers” looked at the attackers in the eyes and proclaimed that this will no longer be tolerated? The monsters would flee. A woman who believes that she is alone empowers her attacker more than she can ever imagine. One Billion Rising creates solidarity among women everywhere, and informs the world that no one is ever alone. We not only know your pain, but we are willing to wear pink and dance through the pain beside you even if you are on the other side of the planet.

So as I practiced my dance moves and I made my way to McAlister Auditorium, I was more than just a Congolese American and more than a New Orleanian. I was one in a billion hoping to put an end to the violence.