It hasn’t exactly been a stellar start to 2012 for American women. Rick Santorum’s theory that birth control is “harmful to women” would have Margaret Sanger spinning in her grave. Then there was Fox pundit Liz Trotta’s question to those who have been raped in the military, “What did you expect?” The landscape has appeared dismally pre-1970.
The bright spot was the immediate and visceral reaction from women on the Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood imbroglio. It showed that social media is very much a force for organizing—a point overlooked by Komen founder Nancy Brinker when she haughtily dismissed pushback as “Internet chatter.”
Grasping the power of social media—along with the need to decisively move forward—playwright, activist, and feminist Eve Ensler has revitalized the terrain with her announcement on February 14 outlining the launch of the ONE BILLION WOMEN initiative. The yearlong action will culminate on February 14th, 2013, the fifteenth anniversary of V-Day. The goal is to have one billion women and men “dancing, striking, rising” across borders to demonstrate their demand to end the global violence against women.
Why one billion? The number is based on a computation from the United Nations statistic that one out of three women on earth will be beaten or raped in their lifetime.
On Valentine’s Day, Ensler talked with reporters by telephone to present her plans for One Billion Rising, and to field questions. Just off a plane from Australia, she joked about being able to celebrate V-Day in two time zones.
Ensler emphasized the imperative to “escalate efforts” in the fight to terminate the ongoing violence against women and girls. She said, “We are having victories, moving forward, and changing lives—but at the same time with economics, injustices, and global warming—there is a reaction to advances.”
Specifically addressing the national picture, Ensler stated, “The level of violence in America is out of control. We have the window ajar, but we haven’t gotten our body through. This action is a real attempt to go the distance now.” She added emphatically, “It’s enough already. We have to be more disruptive!” Ensler referenced the implementation of dance as a community action “speaking to people.” She suggested, “It takes up space, and allows expression of joy and outrage.”
Under the One Billon banner, varied groups will focus on specific concerns. Many of these topics were reflected in inquiries to Ensler. They covered violence in post-earthquake Haiti, corrective rape in South Africa and Jamaica, sexual trafficking, and rape in the military.
Ensler responded to each matter individually. She spoke of the “dire poverty” in Haiti and the work of Elvire Eugene, who has brought men into the process of combating sexual violence. “It’s not all of the men, it’s some of the men,” Ensler pointed out. “We must reach those who don’t stand up to stop it.” She continued, “How do we help when men’s self-esteem has been eroded? How can we redirect anger and frustration?”
Reacting to the subject of “corrective rape,” Ensler qualified it as “one of the most disturbing issues on the planet—cruel and horrific.”
On the matter of Military Sexual Assault and MST, Ensler mentioned a theatrical monologue she had written that had been presented at a V-Day in Austin, Texas entitled, “Gone AWOL.” Her exasperated reaction to Trotta’s comments was, “The idea that any woman would say to service women, ‘What do you expect?’” She added, “What she’s really saying is that women don’t belong in the military.”
During the conversation, Ensler mused that things have come a long way since 1995 when she was not allowed to utter the word vagina on television.
Indeed, Ensler has accomplished wonders in the tangible realm. V-Day has raised over 85 million dollars, public service announcements have been aired, brick and mortar safe houses have been built.
Now Ensler is taking on her biggest professional challenge yet with the conception of “ONE BILLION RISING: Dance, Strike, Rise.”
Never lacking in vision, Ensler proposed, “I think we can do this truly radical action to change the world.”