V-Day will be celebrated on Feb. 14 – no, not Valentine’s Day, which is universally recognized as the annual holiday set aside for lovers to express their affection with the exchange of tokens. I’m talking about the other V-Day which has recently been designated the day to protest against violence perpetrated against women and girls, such as rape, murder, sexual trafficking and genital mutilation.
Gentle readers, females represent more than 51 percent of the world’s population – a 51 percent “minority,” if you follow the trends, laws and customs of how the human female is treated around the world.
Before you begin to get riled up with indignation and self-righteousness, do not forget that, even in this country of laws and advanced human rights, women received the right to vote after the slaves were freed.
I have been invited to participate in an event at which one billion women and girls are expected worldwide to “rise”/dance on our V-Day. The event on Miami Beach will be celebrity filled. That is how we like to protest our inner convictions, at least here in the U.S.A., because, if the biggest stars support the cause, then it must be worthwhile.
The international organizers plan to show the documented plight of women from around the world who have suffered at the hands of men – fathers, brothers, husbands, strangers; their families; their government – but who are beginning to rise up en masse to claim their right to be free from violence.
The recent story of a gang rape in India which ended in death for a young woman has riveted our attention to the issue. While I am encouraged to learn that the entire society appears to be responding positively to the orderly prosecution of the perpetrators, I am not entirely convinced that this incident will put much of a dent in the violence committed against women in India – or elsewhere.
Forms of protest such as “risings,” street demonstrations and marches, as well as international film documentaries, nonprofit support and counseling organizations are all good, right and necessary but they are not enough.
I am an optimist by nature. I look for the good in all and everyone. I live my life from a Silver Linings Playbook, if I may borrow the name of the movie, with some suggesting that I am naive, Pollyannaish or even unrealistic. I don’t know if they are right but, when I look around, I see human beings being human.
We lie, steal and kill. We cheat, commit adultery and we covet our neighbor’s property. And we dishonor our fellow humans in too many ways to describe, especially women. Those are the things we do on our own.
In groups, two or more, we often get the notion to go to war with our enemy.
Once it was the hand, the club or a rock that was the weapon of choice but, more and more, lately, weapons have been refined by technology and loaded with mob mentality and heightened destructive qualities to create greater damage and human pain and suffering.
It is widely reported that one in three women worldwide will be subjected to rape or some other form of violence. Substitute your own subgroup that you most closely identify with and see how that looks: One in three blacks in the United States will be subjected to some form of violence; one in three Hispanics; or Native Americans; or Jews; or…
I am intrigued by how the V-Day movement will arm women to fight against the tide of violence against them. I’m going to attend the “rising” and dance to the joy of being alive and living under the protective cloak of laws adopted for my safety and security here in the U.S.A. but, still, I am leery about being unguarded, whether it is in the corner, in the dark, in my home or alone.
How do you change minds after centuries of embedded notions that being born with a vagina makes you worthy only as chattel or that you are “dirty” and need ritual baths and are surrounded by menstrual cycle taboos; or are economically unviable, justifying infanticide, even in utero; or must be sexually tamed, forced to wear face and full body coverings and/or subjected to genital mutilation; or told that your beauty is valued only after some enhancement and/or mutilation, such as implants/extensions/bindings/scarifications, et al.?
The work has begun and is catching fire and will be demonstrated on Feb.14, the traditional day of exchanging tokens of love. May your token this year be to give and receive the gift of enlightenment; to know and understand the issues about violence against women; to embrace and celebrate your sisters, daughters, mothers and aunts; to hold dear everyone in the 51 percent “minority” and to work to help stop the violence against them.
For more information about V-Day, visit vday.org You will find a very well organized series of lectures, demonstrations, community-based movements and other events that you can access around the world.
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org