One billion rise globally to end violence against women

COMMENTARY BY
SARAH MUELLER

More than one billion people in over 200 countries rose and danced in an effort to demand an end to violence against women and girls globally Friday. The campaign, entitled “One Billion Rising,” encourages female survivors of violence such as rape, sexual assault, domestic or relationship abuse and other forms of injustice to, as mentioned in the campaign, stand up, “rise release, dance, and demand justice!”

The One Billion Rising campaign raises significant awareness on a topic that has become colloquially known as “the war on women.” The idea of battered women and their supporters banding together at a global rally is empowering. Eve Ensler, founder of “One Billion Rising,” explained the movement.

“One in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime — which is one billion women — so I thought, ‘What if one billion people stood up against gendered violence?’”

Ensler said the theme of this year’s campaign centered on justice, endeavoring to frame women’s rights and the war on women as issues that affect everybody — that everyone can end the war.

But the frustrating truth is that only one side believes it is fighting a war. Phrasing the issue as a war on women is effective and extremely accurate in providing a strong rallying point for those sympathetic to the metaphor; however, it increases discomfort among those who do not believe a war exists.

The term “feminist” raises many negative connotations. So many women and men refuse to declare themselves as feminists because they associate the label with such a negative stigma: the “men-haters,” the “bra-burners,” the list goes on and on. I think that those, at least those who live in the U.S., who associate the title with such aggressive images, do so because when they hear about the war on women, the first women they think of are the women they love. They think of their mothers, friends, sisters, classmates — and, upon scanning their feelings, generally come up with respect — leading them to reject the notion of the war on women all together.

Unfortunately, this mindset devalues campaigns such as One Billion Rising. But what those who object to the movement fail to recognize is that beliefs should not solely be based on personal experience. Women, both in the U.S. and all around the world are subjected to gender violence. So take a moment to peel off the masks of those around you. You have no idea what someone has endured. Your professor, a DeNaples worker, even your closest friends may have endured gender-based violence. How would they feel if they heard a sexist joke or criticism about the latest feminist rally?

More so, consider the women of the world. How can one undermine the importance of ending violence against women when disgusting practices exist, such as female genital mutilation in Africa, human trafficking in all nations — not just third-world countries — or violent voting and legal inequality in Afghanistan. Imagine that you are a Nigerian woman who was sold into marriage at a young age to a man who is legally allowed to beat and rape you. Based on these practices, how can you say that the war on women is fabricated or unnecessary?

This is what the women of the world are forced to endure. Before you jump to believe the negative stigmas that pollute the true meaning of feminism, remember this: Every woman, regardless of whether she lives in the U.S. or in a third-world country, has the right to live free from violence and abuse. This is what being a feminist means. This is why global rallies such as One Billion Rising matter.

contact the writer:
sarah.mueller@scranton.edu

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