Do we happen to have any nasty women here today?
Hello nasty women! Hello sister-resistors and persistors! Hello warriors and supporters and hello men! I am so happy to see you all here today. Don’t be afraid to make noise while I’m speaking, I don’t want to just see you, I also want to hear you!*
My name is Gina Sampaio and I am a survivor, a feminist, a performer, a writer and an activist. I want to tell you more about the One Billion Rising movement and this year’s theme. But first I’m going to ask you to do a little activity with me. I’d like to ask you to attempt to have every third woman or girl raise her hand.
Now I want you to take a moment to look around. Don’t just look at the hands, look down at the faces. Because when we hear “one in three girls and women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime” it can be hard to remember that there are real humans behind that number. Worldwide that adds up to be one billion women and girls. That is why every year we rise, in cities and countries all over the planet. We rise to show our community and the whole wide world what one billion looks like. We rise through dance to express joy, to strengthen our ties to one another and to celebrate the fact that we have not—and we will not—be defeated by this violence.** We won’t be silenced by this violence.
This year the international theme of the movement is “Rising Solidarity.” The first thing that I thought when I heard that was the fact that I personally know many women who have been severely emotionally triggered by the recent Presidential election. And I also personally know many other women that can’t understand why this has been such a difficult time for some of us. So I’d like to try to help shed some light by putting it this way:
A man grabbed me by the pussy once. You know what happened to him? He was sent to prison for twenty years.
He was part of the less than three percent of rapists that actually serve any jail time.
And now a man that has boasted about doing that very same thing holds the most powerful office in our nation and directly influences not only law and policy but attitudes and behaviors. We have already witnessed a dramatic increase in hate crimes against certain religious communities. Is it a far reach to think that a spike in crimes against women might be next? I don't think so either.
This is NOT the time for polarization among us. Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with ALL women: Women who are triggered and women who struggle to understand why. Women that choose to wear string bikinis or choose to wear hijabs. Women who love women or men or both or neither. Women who are or who have been incarcerated.
Women who are afraid to use the restroom because there are those in positions of power that preach that these women’s chromosomal make up means they must be sexual predators when actually, as the rest of us know, they just really have to pee. Women whose ancestors were born here and women whose ancestors were brought here by force.
Women we see at school events who are secretly scanning the crowd to gauge which family they might be able to ask to adopt their American-born children because they live in constant fear of being separated by deportation . . . and their love for their children is so fierce that the idea of living without them is more acceptable than the thought of those children growing up in the place they fought so bravely to escape.
Standing in solidarity with all of these women does not just mean dancing today. It means believing women when they tell us they have been victimized or marginalized. It means trusting women to make the decisions that are best for their own bodies and families. It means teaching our children about consent by not forcing them to hug or kiss or be hugged or kissed when they aren't in the mood. It means calling others out—strangers and harder and maybe even more importantly, our friends--when they don’t realize they are speaking from a position of privilege. It means being opening to listening when someone calls us out on doing that very same thing ourselves. It means being humble enough to ask forgiveness and it means educating ourselves so we don’t make that same mistake twice.
Today we rise together in song and dance. Tomorrow and every day after tomorrow, we will think back on today and vow to stand in solidarity with all women.
|. . . and then we danced.|
* Our crowd was a little smaller than last year but what they lacked in size they made up for in energy, I didn't even have to say that part
** The previous four sentences describing the movement are paraphrased from the One Billion Rising website