On Sunday night at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, President Obama took to the stage with a video message inviting the millions of people watching to join a new campaign, #ItsOnUs, to end violence against women and girls. "Tonight we celebrate artists whose music and message help shape our culture," he said. "Together we can change our culture for the better by ending violence against women and girls."
There is no doubt that art is an integral part of a cultural system, and has a significant influence on its political system and ideology. To be an activist, you do not need to march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Creative expression plays an important role, particularly for women, as this is how women give birth to feminine consciousness in society. As President Obama acknowledged, artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes, and get us thinking and talking about what matters.
That's exactly what Eve Ensler, Vagina Monologues playwright, activist and Founder of One Billion Rising, has done.
One Billion Rising grew out of the conversation Eve started through the Vagina Monologues. It is now the largest global action to end violence against women and girls in human history. It is launching its third year with One Billion Rising: Revolution, a new escalation of the movement that calls for a radical shift to end the global epidemic of abuse that women face worldwide and bring in a paradigm of equality, dignity, and freedom for all women and girls.
"One in three women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That's one billion women and girls," says Eve.
"Every February, we rise - in hundreds of countries across the world," says Eve. "We rise to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face."
"We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness - one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable." - Eve Ensler
Since 2013, activists in over 200 countries have staged dances, political and artistic events, and rallies - or RISINGS - bringing the issue of violence against women and girls front and center, garnering worldwide media attention, changing laws, and demanding justice and an end to the rampant impunity that women survivors of gender violence face.
Last year in Los Angeles, women, men and youth rose at prisons for reform of the justice system; they rose on television sets to demand a shift in media coverage and representation of women; they rose at a memorial for veterans to demand justice for survivors of sexual assault in the military; and they rose at LA City Hall to speak truth to - and with - power.
"Rising is about evincing the spirit of feminism; challenging deeply rooted inequities, embracing commonalities and acting on our collaborative power," says Cathy Hillman, President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women.
Rising, particularly through music and dance, is also about liberating women's voices and bodies from the fear, silence and shame that comes from living in a patriarchal society, where women are taught to keep themselves small, hide their true expression, and "act like man" if they are going to make it anywhere.
I will be rising in partnership with the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women, the Million Mamas Movement, and One Billion Rising Los Angeles this Friday, February 13th in West Hollywood. There will be music, dance and special One Billion Rising guests, including Michael Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center.
Did you ever consider that expressing yourself through music and dance is a very important political act?
If you are in the Los Angeles area, come dance with me in #thaPeaceMob flash mob at One Billion Rising in West Hollywood this Friday at 9:00am. Come early and learn the steps, or watch the video here.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a women's leadership mentor and coach, specializing in helping women find their voice. She is the author of the bestselling book, Find Your Voice: A Woman's Call to Action. Learn more at tabbybiddle.com.