(Scroll through to hear the voices of women as they call for an end to violence against the feminine.)
“In my mind we need to transcend the Cartesian mind/body dualism and bring back the pantheistic experience of the body with its sexuality and intellect indivisibly united — in a celebration that dances wildly in the face of the fire and brimstone wrath of a patriarchal, capitalistic, heteronormative, linear interpretation of life — a destructive anti-celebratory phallocentric force that has for centuries been thrust upon the entire global community. Enough already!”
This is what I wrote in an interview I conducted with Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame in July 2011. Eighteen months later I received a request from her to be the Southern Africa coordinator of the global campaign called One Billion Rising — a campaign to end violence towards women and girls so that they can live in their joy. As a great believer in the revolutionary power of jouissance and knowing that patriarchy has systematically stripped women of their joy in order to strip them of their inherent wisdom and power — I readily accepted.
Now we are a week away from the single biggest campaign to end violence against women the world has ever seen as millions of women from all different walks of life have joined this revolution. From grassroots organisations in India to activist Hollywood stars — One Billion Rising is set to shake the world out if its ennui around issues of violence towards the feminine.
The title One Billion Rising comes from the United Nations stat that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s more than one billion mothers, daughters, sisters, partners and friends that are or will be violated.
South Africa is the fourth most dangerous place in the world to be a woman
In South Africa it is reported that a woman is raped every 26 seconds and that 30% of girls below the age of 15 are at risk of being sexually violated. On December 10 2012 as the “16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children” came to an end, the deputy president of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, revealed horrific statistics regarding the severity of violence against women and children.
He reported that 5 out of 7 children are abused, and 90% of women are experiencing emotional and physical abuse. He also highlighted that 71% are abused sexually while 58% are experiencing economic abuse. The deputy president warned against complacency that can result from such ”short-term” campaigns and reported that in an effort to strengthen the nation’s response to the continuing violence against women and children, a National Council against Gender-Based Violence had been established.
Thousands of South Africans have since joined the global One Billion Rising campaign, started by Ensler, who is also an internationally recognised gender activist, author and founder of V-Day, to demonstrate our commitment to individually and collectively take action to end violence against women and children.
On February 14 2013 we are extending a global invitation to join women and those who love them to walk, dance, rise and demand an end to violence against women. Imagine the power of one billion people showing our collective strength, our solidarity across borders and our combined rejection of violence against women. One Billion Rising is a global revolution and your participation is vital to its success, because without you, we cannot reach one billion.
“As we rise in South Africa on the February 14 2013, men and women from across the country will dance to demand ‘less advocacy and more action’ for all 365 days of the year!” says One Billion Rising Cape Town coordinator Zubeida Shaik of the parliamentary millennium programme team, which has partnered with One Billion Rising South Africa in this campaign.
One Billion Rising Johannesburg has forged a partnership with Constitutional Hill and they will be hosting the Johannesburg rising at the Women’s prison. Here ”the only thing you should beat is a drum” campaign, in partnership with Amnesty International South Africa, will host a drumming session to stop violence against women and children. There will be poets, musicians, keynote speakers and DJs. Please bring a rose to lay on the altar to commemorate the victims of rape, abuse and murder in South Africa. We will be doing a flash mob dance as well and Gift of the Givers is donating hot meals to this event. (Time: 4pm — 12pm)
Gift of the Givers is also hosting a rising in Marikana where they well be catering for 2 000 women and distributing aid to the families that have been affected by the massacre and strikes. (Time: 9am — 1pm)
There are risings happening all over Cape Town, the Eastern Cape, Soweto, Kimberley, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the North West and Free State. This campaign is happening in cities, the rural areas, townships and informal settlements.
Please follow our Facebook campaign One Billion Rising — South Africa and click on events to see what is happening around the country.
You might be asking why we’ll ”dance”? Well why not? Dance is used in protest in many parts of the world. In South Africa especially, dance and song has always been intrinsic to protesting for human rights and often led by women. Dance denotes a freedom of body, mind and soul. It is both a celebratory and rebellious act in that it speaks of a freedom of movement, a non-restricted relationship to body and is the antithesis of an oppressed, restrained and violated body. It is essentially non-patriarchal and it rebels against patriarchal control over the female body. It is erroneous to think of celebration as non-revolutionary. Celebration is the ultimate rebellious act in a world that is dictated to us by non-celebratory forces.
One Billion Rising is a global campaign that is shifting the world into a new paradigm. It is not about politics, or ideologies, or left or right or liberal or moderate. It is a worldwide movement in which women and men are accessing their right to rise up and dance in the joy that is rightfully theirs.
It is about women and men shirking the constraints of a heavy and shackled patriarchy and claiming back their bodies as belonging to them. This campaign is not about navigating cynicism and stuck theory — it is simply about body and joy and dancing wildly in the face of those forces in the world that strip us of this possibility. It is a massive shift into that option.
We change the world by gathering in numbers and not obeying the rules that tell us to behave and remain a miserable commodity in this utilitarian scheme. This joyous and furiously passionate campaign is a collective catharsis and the world is alive with it right now.
Will it dissolve the system of capitalism or get rid of poverty overnight? Probably not. Will it remind us all that we can no longer sustain this persistent reality that strips us of our joy. Yes! Will that threaten and destabilise those gloomy forces that rule our world through war and greed. Yes! That is why we are dancing because dancing in this terrain is revolutionary and it is a global revolution that states that we are not going to be oppressed forever, that we want a different future, that we will seize that future.
Does it fit into Marxism or socialism or transcendentalism or capitalism or pessimism. No. It fits the human spirit — and the human spirit and imagination is capable of accessing the greatest joy under the vilest circumstances and that is why we survive and live — because it is our right to do just this. Joy is not my right because I am white and middle class. I have seen the most joy accessed in protests in the poorest areas. To tell people living on the margins of our economy that they cannot access their joy is just another form of imperialism.
Dancing in protest does not mean we are happy with the status quo or that we do not want to change the world or that we do not care about those who are forced to live on the fringes of a shitty and greedy economy. It means we are human and we want to dismantle a system that makes some people more vulnerable to rape and abuse and poverty than others. And that is why I am dancing.
Dancing does not mean we do not respect and mourn those who have become victims of these imbalances. It means we want that cruelty to stop and we want women to be treated with love, respect and allowed to be joyous. I support the jouissance of this campaign because to access and live in this life force is revolutionary.
Follow the International Campaign on www.onebillionrising.org