By Sabrina Singh
Last week, on February 14, people in 203 countries danced to raise awareness about gender-based violence as part of One Billion Rising (OBR), a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about gender-based violence through the medium of dance. Hundreds of flashmobs and performances from Miami to Khartoum, Bali to New Delhi, called attention to a recent United Nations report, which finds that one out of three women – one billion in all – will be raped or beaten during her lifetime.
The One Billion Rising campaign was initiated by Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues, through her organization V-Day. The campaign garnered support from organizations like Amnesty International, celebrities like Katie Couric and Anne Hathaway, and even from the United Nations itself. It has also leveraged public support with dance tutorial videos from choreographer Debbie Allen and a short film with over 900,000 views on YouTube.
However, the campaign has raised eyebrows among some feminists. In The Huffington Post, Natalie Gyte, head of communications at Women’s Resource Centre, a London-based charity that supports women’s organizations, criticized OBR as a classic case of relatively privileged, often Western, feminists’ paternalism. “It’s patronising and it denies not only the causes of violence, but also the devastating and long lasting effects,” wrote Gyte, who is skeptical that OBR will accomplish anything with its one-day dance.
Yet organizers and participants of OBR do feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. “Our event focused people’s attention on gender-based violence, but from a joyful point of view,” said Beatriz Sotomayor, organizer of an OBR event in Santiago, Chile in an email interview. “People did not become overwhelmed, they did not think, ‘Oh my god the world is such a cruel place.’ Instead, they started asking me, ‘What can we do next?’ As an organizer, it was truly satisfying.” For activists like Sotomayor, OBR’s goal and success lie in the consciousness it has raised about gender-based violence. Sotomayor added that she will continue organizing dance campaigns to raise awareness about this issue.
Aditi Adhikari, a participant of an OBR flashmob in Atlanta, USA, reported that more than 20,000 people attend the event. “The writer of the ‘One Billion Rising’ song as well as the daughter of Martin Luther [King, Jr.] and Coretta Scott King were with us,” said Adhikari in an email interview, also expressing satisfaction with overall turnout.