Author: has written 5302 posts for this blog.

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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111 Responses

  1. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 11:08 am |

    Well, Jill, I’m very glad to see that all it takes for you to support a noted transphobe’s fairly-racistly-advertised campaign is for them to do some mighty fine dancin’.

    Also, this entire thread: for what’s wrong with One Billion Rising. My comments, Donna’s, amblingalong’s and Jadey’s in particular.

    It’s bloody racist, Jill, and sourced in a seething pit of transmisogyny to boot, and I genuinely thought better of you than this.

    1. A4
      A4 February 14, 2013 at 11:50 am |

      I agree Mac.

      If you’re going to create a symbolic protest to fight concrete evils, like trying to dance away violence against women, you better damn well get the symbolism perfect, because that’s all there is.

      Is it doing more harm or, even with all of its flaws, does it come out on the side of better than the status quo?

      Harm to whom? Who’s status quo are we talking about?

      Dancing in public is a revolutionary act because it is breaking the status quo of “walk straight, eyes ahead, arms at your sides, neutral expression”, but if you change the status quo for one day in one place and advertise it as “The status quo here and now just for a moment will be dancing! Yay revolution” that is not revolutionary because it is still operating completely in the status quo of gaining permission for public action and conforming to the public presentation of the crowd.

      If your revolution is scheduled for one hour of one day, after which you will disperse with no commitment to lasting effect, then it is not a revolution at all.

      “One Billion Rising… but don’t worry, we will sit back down shortly”

      1. EG
        EG February 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

        Yes. I mean–does it do more harm than good? It doesn’t seem like it does much, if any, good at all. Goldman was arguing against the strain of anti-pleasure puritanism that pervades the left and pointing out that you don’t make a revolution by demanding that people be miserable and martyr themselves; she wasn’t suggesting that dancing was necessarily political action.

        Here’s another Emma Goldman quotation that I’ve always found pretty great, in a grim kind of way: “Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.”

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |

        “One Billion Rising… but don’t worry, we will sit back down shortly”

        I LOLed.

        Also, “we will sit back down shortly having made Eve Ensler richer and more famous”, actually. Which is the part I object to most strenuously. I likely would just dismiss OBR with a “pfft” if it weren’t for the fact that it’s contributing to the comfort of someone I find personally squicky.

    2. amblingalong
      amblingalong February 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

      My favorite part of this is all the times I pointed to the original posts about why OBR was problematic as proof that the mainstream white feminist blogosphere could ‘get it.’

    3. SamBarge
      SamBarge February 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm |

      One Billion Rising doesn’t hit me as a white/hetero/cis thing at all but I think it’s because I only heard about it from First Nations women’s groups who used the day in Canada to highlight the on-going attacks on aboriginal women.

      In Canada, aboriginal women are disproportionately victimized (and, in turn, have their victimization criminalized) compared to white women. And, the police seem stumped about how to solve any violent crime against an aboriginal woman, so it seem they’ve joined in with the fucking rapists.

      Anyway, I didn’t know about the connection to Eve Ensler and, although I was happy to march alongside my aboriginal sisters on Feb. 14, I’m disappointed to hear of the racist, homophobic and transphobic connection to the event.

  2. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 11:17 am |

    And as for dance as a radical act: oh, yes, dance has been a radical act for a very long time. Take Bharatanatyam, for example. It was taken from the Indian equivalent of strip-dancing, “refined” (I put it in quotes because afaict there was nothing terribly indecent about the women performing it before) and frankly revolutionary in that for the first time, “respectable” women were performing it.

    Let’s look at folk dances in colonised areas all over the world and how they were a way to get back at a coloniser (who was often keen on suppressing local customs).

    Let’s look at many religious dances from minor religions and how sex has been treated as separate from sacred, or how something that was sexlessly sacred was sexualised as an act of othering, and how people subverted or resisted those norms.

    The history of dance is hella interesting. And all of the stuff I wrote, you can find examples of just in the last two hundred years of Indian dance (at a Wiki-able level of information, even). That’s not counting the rest of the world. Or ancient cultures. Or modern developments. You don’t need to attach yourself or your arguments to some asshole’s movement, or their fetishising and marginalising of brown and black bodies, to talk about how dancing is a revolutionary act, any more than you need to fawn all over Mary Daly to discuss how feminism is a good thing.

    1. insomniac
      insomniac February 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

      Bit of a tangent, what do you mean when you say Bharatanatyam grew from ‘strip dancing’? That seems like an over-simplification of a complex history… there are the scriptural/textual references, natya shastra, abhinaya darpana, dance as worship etc. Some would say that the more exploitative/sexual elements for women arose when the dance and dancers fell on hard times with ostracisation and lack of patronage during colonialism, but at previous points in history dancers were respected with a place in society.

      But in the last century many of the classical forms were as you say reinvented and became part of a nationalist cultural project. Look at the way the history of Kathak (which I know better than BN) also was reinvented as more of a Hindu storytelling form, the Islamic and Persian influences neglected for many years. Within that dance form there is tension between the official version of ‘classical’ and those who seek to keep the dance form moving and evolving. Recent kick-off between Aditi Mangaldas and Sangeet Natak Akademi being a case in point.

      Dance can be both a conservative act or a radical act, depending on who is doing it, in what era, to what audience, and whose version of history you listen to.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune February 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

        ome would say that the more exploitative/sexual elements for women arose when the dance and dancers fell on hard times with ostracisation and lack of patronage during colonialism, but at previous points in history dancers were respected with a place in society.

        As far as I know, the more ancient forms of Bharatanatyam were rather different from what was going on in colonial times (though I would argue that the loss of status of dancers coincided with the Mughal invasion up north), and there was a fusion/reversion that happened towards the end of the Raj where past forms were returned to, but the colonial forms weren’t exactly chucked out with the bathwater.

        I don’t know much about Kathak, but if you go right back into Sangam-era dance practices in the Silappathigaram and Manimeghalai dancers were…regarded in a more complex way, as far as I can tell. (I.e. while their official status was fairly high, they were subjected to a lot of exploitation and there was a definite dancer/mistress correlation, since only the most high-profile ones could support themselves fully only by dancing, and that only until they retired.) Of course, I’m hardly an expert.

        Word to the rest of your comment! Dance is definitely a radical act.

  3. Drahill
    Drahill February 14, 2013 at 11:24 am |

    I’m wary of anything that posits itself as “awareness” for violence against women. The numbers of women who suffer some form of violence in their lifetime are already very high; do we really need to make women more “aware” that they are at risk for violence as a result of their sex? The world is already flooded with the message that its dangerous out there for women – from the right side and the wrong side both. And does it need to bring awareness to men?

    I support the right of survivors to heal in any way they need. I spent a long time working in art therapy with rape survivors who healed through painting drawing and other creative ways – and yes, some through dancing. I get that. But I’m not sure how dancing can be construed as “helping” survivors when there are so many more pressing ways to help them. Lobby to get a meaningful version of VAWA re-authorized. That would help tons of survivors, at least here in the US. Give your money to organizations that help survivors get counseling, housing, jobs, etc. That will help too.

    I’m not trying to rain on anybody’s parade, really. I’m just not really sold on the idea of symbolic gestures of support when there remains so many concreate, pressing matters that energy, money and time can go towards that will have immediate, tangible effects for survivors. Just my opinion, though.

    1. anon
      anon February 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

      “Give your money to organizations that help survivors get counseling, housing, jobs, etc. That will help too.”

      Yes, though it’s not one or the other – one reason I participated in V-day at my university was because it was a fundraiser for our sexual assault / battery support centres etc.

      The numbers of women who suffer some form of violence in their lifetime are already very high; do we really need to make women more “aware” that they are at risk for violence as a result of their sex?”

      Totally. I agree. That said, though women know violence all too well, we also know victim-blaming myths, and I think awareness that counters those myths is so useful.

      1. Drahill
        Drahill February 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm |

        Anon, I’m glad that your particular group did fundraising. But that’s your group. Look at the OBR website; it makes no mention of fundraising or anything else. It’s toolkit makes a single passing reference to “advocating for laws to pass or other changes.” In doing so, it serves to occupy the field of activism under the umbrella of “awareness” without taking the next step to actually address any concrete steps to take. For the first time in a long time, VAWA is not in effect in the US. Shelters and other programs are at high risk of having their funding cut or eliminated in the coming budget debates. Isn’t this stuff terrifying? Doesn’t it at least warrant a mention (at least here in the US?) Other nations are facing similar struggles with laws and policy.

        I take this personally. I was involved in partner violence in college. I didn’t need dancing or symbolism or “awareness” when I was being hit. I needed cops who were trained to believe me and support me. I needed counseling (which my insurance didn’t cover, my religious college provided it to me. I needed a court system to help me. That stuff isn’t achieved through awareness; it comes from laws and funding. And OBR fails to mention that at all. Which to me as a feminist, feels like such a failure. If it can’t make the link between awareness and concrete action, it does nothing but occupy the field. Which to me, is an injustice.

        1. anon
          anon February 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

          You’re right and I’m sorry for being unclear.

          I wasn’t talking about OBR but rather V-Day / the Vagina Monologues. To be honest, I’m not certain how they are all the same or different. I’m kind of lumping everything together here.

          I haven’t participated in OBR. It’s not my style and I find the promotion materials too problematic.

          ” I didn’t need dancing or symbolism or “awareness” when I was being hit. I needed cops who were trained to believe me and support me. I needed counseling (which my insurance didn’t cover, my religious college provided it to me. I needed a court system to help me. ”

          So true. And I’m sorry you went through that.

        2. Miss S
          Miss S February 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

          I was involved in partner violence in college. I didn’t need dancing or symbolism or “awareness” when I was being hit.

          But you knew it was a bad situation? You knew that this partner violence wasn’t okay? You recognized abusive behavior as abusive behavior?

          That’s why we need awareness. I don’t think all women understand exactly what abuse looks like, and that it’s never okay, it doesn’t mean love, it’s not a good situation. And if awareness makes them aware of those things, then it’s worth something.

        3. Alara Rogers
          Alara Rogers February 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm |

          Miss S, how does dancing in public demonstrate that women don’t deserve to be abused?

          I absolutely agree that awareness should be raised about what abuse actually is, and that no one deserves it. But I don’t see that a campaign based around “let’s dance to raise awareness!” is going to do that. Because what people need is to see models. People need to be shown the behavior that is not ok and told it is not ok and they deserve better. People need to be told that what is happening to them is wrong. And people who already know this shit perfectly well need help in escaping it, help that actually works with the way people’s real lives work. I don’t see how dancing does any of that.

        4. Drahill
          Drahill February 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm |

          Miss S – to echo Alara’s point – how does OBR create the kind of awareness that will actually help women?

          Education is direct action in conjunction with awareness. That’s awareness that links to direct action, which is what is supposed to be done. OBR is the KONY 2012 of the feminist world, as far as I can tell. All fluff, no filler.

        5. Drahill
          Drahill February 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm |

          But you knew it was a bad situation? You knew that this partner violence wasn’t okay? You recognized abusive behavior as abusive behavior?

          I’m sorry, I just gotta add to this: Why yes, I did. Are you suggesting there is an alternative interpretation to being punched in the mouth? Because if you are, I’d love to hear it. Stop infantilizing abused women.

        6. Miss S
          Miss S February 15, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

          I’m sorry, I just gotta add to this: Why yes, I did. Are you suggesting there is an alternative interpretation to being punched in the mouth? Because if you are, I’d love to hear it. Stop infantilizing abused women.

          You should be sorry. All abuse doesn’t happen in the form of getting punched in the mouth. And yes, women have been hit and not recognized it as abuse- it’s a “one time thing” or “he was having a bad day” or “a bad argument.” I was hit by a boyfriend when I was younger, but assumed it wasn’t abuse because “I hit back.”

          The point is, abuse doesn’t always look the same. Plus, certain behaviors tend to precede abuse, and not everyone knows what those behaviors are.

          Everytime I’ve seen awareness of DV, it included information that was useful, and maybe it’s not always like that. But if awareness includes information that can actually benefit women, I support it.

        7. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve February 17, 2013 at 2:00 am |

          I’m sorry, I just gotta add to this: Why yes, I did. Are you suggesting there is an alternative interpretation to being punched in the mouth? Because if you are, I’d love to hear it. Stop infantilizing abused women.

          While you are unequivocally correct about the interpretation. I do disagree with your assessment of women who have resigned themselves to the fact that domestic violence is a painful yet unavoidable side effect of being married as ‘infantile.’ It is not a fantasy that abused women vary widely in their reaction and impression of violent abuse and I don’t think you can say one is better than another.

    2. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers February 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

      I agree with this. Dancing to demonstrate that violence against women is bad is just like the pink ribbons to demonstrate that you don’t like breast cancer. Maybe worse, if buying the pink ribbon donated any money at all to cancer research.

      I mean, we can think two thoughts at once, we can do multiple things at once, the existence of a campaign about dancing doesn’t negate our ability to actually do things that might help women who suffer from violence… but the very fact that the thing is so huge and global and highly advertised makes people feel like something concrete is happening when it isn’t. I’ll help stop violence against women by dancing! I’ll help stop the Taliban from oppressing women by sending an email chain letter! I’ll help save people dying from breast cancer by posting the color of my bra on Facebook! These things may make the people who participate in them feel good and feel like they’re helping… but since these activities are not particularly helpful, they may actually be harmful, as people think they’ve already done something. No, I gave at the office. I danced in the streets, what do you want from me? I’m a busy woman, I have only so much time for activism, so I danced to raise awareness for violence against women, because no one knows that that’s a thing, and now I’m not going to do another damn thing because I did my part!

      Also… in some countries women are forbidden to dance. But in a *lot* of them, they are not. Women dancing is not a revolutionary act, in most of the world. Women daring to take to the streets in large numbers in revealing clothes, or topless, or just in solidarity with other women, was actually breaking a taboo, and it was directly connected with the specific evil they were fighting, during the Slutwalks. But in most of the world there is no real taboo against women dancing. And dancing has nothing to do with violence. So how is this revolutionary in any way? I mean, if they could actually get a billion people to do it, that would be impressive the way the Million Man March was supposed to be impressive, but all it would say is that a billion people who are privileged enough to have internet access or know someone who does are doing one fairly simple, discrete activity in protest against a pervasive daily worldwide evil. It’s kind of like “let’s have children all over the world skateboard to protest child hunger!” Um… what’s the connection?

      This isn’t the world’s most awful thing, and maybe getting several million people interested enough in feminist collective action that they’re at least willing to dance might open doors for a few hundred thousand of them to seriously pursue feminist activism… but it’s not really a thing I can support, because it generates so much sound and fury signifying nothing, when what we need is real and concrete action. A protest walk where people carry slogans and chant is more effective than a public dance, because there’s actually an effort to convey what the message is supposed to be, but how do you dance with a sign on a post?

      1. EG
        EG February 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm |

        I mean, if they could actually get a billion people to do it, that would be impressive the way the Million Man March was supposed to be impressive, but all it would say is that a billion people who are privileged enough to have internet access or know someone who does are doing one fairly simple, discrete activity in protest against a pervasive daily worldwide evil. It’s kind of like “let’s have children all over the world skateboard to protest child hunger!” Um… what’s the connection?

        The flash mob of activism.

      2. Miss S
        Miss S February 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

        I wasn’t talking specifically about dancing, but any form of awareness that opens a dialogue around something many people aren’t talking about.

        1. Drahill
          Drahill February 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm |

          Miss S, look at the link I posted below. A full 3/4 of Americans personally have experienced or are close to somebody whose experienced DV (that they know about). Almost all Americans, except for MRAs, agree that hitting your partner is wrong. Do we really need to keep rattling off awareness as education? The psychological research now coming out suggests that most women who are battered KNOW they are battered (let’s face it – there’s not many ways to interpret being hit otherwise). Most women who are abused KNOW they are abused – suggesting they don’t know is infantilizing them, as your doing.

          Women who are being abused consistently cite certain needs – a safe place to go. Police who treat them well and take them seriously. A job to stand on her own two feet. Courts that will grant them protection. They do not, however, cite awareness. So your argument about awareness is coming up short because by and large, the numbers show that awareness is NOT the problem. Lack of tangible resources is.

        2. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm |


          I agree with your second paragraph and I’m not a fan of awareness campaigns but I take issue with you saying there is no real need for more education about DV.

          Sure, probably MOST women that are being abused know that they are being abused. HOWEVER, there are many, many women who are being abused that TELL THEMSELVES that it won’t happen again, that its shameful and that they are bad people for continuing to put up with it. There are MANY women, including one of my family members, that continued to put up with emotional abuse and terrorizing from her ex-husband because he never actually hit her (just broke her things in front of her and threatened her with a gun) and she was told by lots of people in our family that it would get better with counseling and she shouldn’t give up on her marriage. There are women out there that don’t know enough about domestic violence laws to know what qualifies as abuse. I worked with someone that thought that the law would not consider her “abused” because her husband never left a mark. Instead, he would “just” punch her in the stomach or pour bottles of beer over her head. Also, there are women that do not want to call the police and “snitch” on a family member, no matter how that person is treating them. They feel that that reflects poorly on them and how they were raised and I think their family members and friends sometimes encourage this (because they don’t want to see ___ go to jail), without realizing just how many people are killed by DV. So, I think there is still room for awareness of DV.

          Just because 3/4 of Americans know someone that is abused does not mean that they were supportive or knew how to be supportive of that person. Just because most Americans would agree that you shouldn’t hit your partner does not mean that most Americans would agree that, say, a woman hitting her male partner is DV. It doesn’t mean that most Americans would agree on the definition of emotional abuse. Does threatening count? How about threatening to kill themselves? How about threatening to take the children? Just agreeing that hitting a family member is wrong and knowing someone who has been abused doesn’t mean that most Americans even would agree on what constitutes abuse, period. Even just you saying that makes me a little irritated, to be honest, because I think lots of people don’t realize that abuse is more than just hitting. Then here you go acting like most people “agree[ing] that hitting your partner is wrong” means that everyone in the whole of America is in agreement of the definition of DV. Pssh! No education needed here! We know everything we need to know!

        3. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:17 pm |

          Also, most people might know they are being abused (if you define, as I don’t, abuse as “hitting”), but the women that I have known that were abused did not know about the cycle of abuse. And, more importantly, the people that knew they were being abused…did they know where to go? Did they know of the safe houses in their area? Did they know their legal recourse? Did they know that they wouldn’t lose their kids if they got a divorce or left their partner? Did they know who they could turn to for counseling, for free legal advice? Could they be sure that they won’t be arrested for paraphernalia/possession when they call the police because they are afraid for their life (the answer: no)? That is the kind of information that needs to get out there. Don’t tell me its infantilizing when I’m talking about REAL people, who I KNOW. People who are just as real as you and I and who still, despite all the studies in the world, did not know if they were “really” being abused when, for another example, the fight was “mutual” (it just so happened to have been started by him calling her degrading names). You can cite studies all you want, but my experience tells me that we still need education and awareness about DV. We need a whole hell of a lot more than that, obviously, but we, as a country, are not done with our education.

        4. Drahill
          Drahill February 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm |

          Sarah, I think you’re mis-reading the data. The greatest need for education is, statistically, before abuse starts. Most women know about physical abuse (which is what domestic violence is). The greatest need for education is in emotional abuse, controlling behavior and psychological manipulation – all of which is abuse but none of which is actionable as DV. That is the stuff that precipitates domestic violence, the vast majority of the time. But it is hard to recognize, easy to excuse and draws people closer to their abusers. Once the actual violence commences, the vast majority of women recognize it as abuse and realize it is not healthy. Anecdotes aside, that is the general case. We by and large do not need campaigns that tell us “hitting women is wrong.”

          You spend a large chunk of your paragraph talking about threats. Why? This is thread about domestic violence. Threats are not violence. If they are carried out, they become violence. So I’m not sure what your argument is in that case. DV is physical violence (note: I’m not dismissing the threats; I’m saying that your argument here makes no sense because they would not be actionable as such; they would be actionable as threats only).

          And why are you confusing awareness with Education? If you read the threads here, you’ll notice something: Education is NOT awareness. Education is Direct Action. OBR has NOTHING to do with education. It’s not holding workshops, its not distributing literature. It’s dancing. Any BTW, since you seem unaware of this: do you know who does the majority of the educating you seem so keen on? Anti-DV organizations and government agencies – the kind whose funding comes from laws like VAWA (you know, the one that’s up in the air and OBR in the US isn’t bringing any attention to?). You’re responding to an argument that I never made. I never said we do not need DV education. I said that “awareness” in the form of fluff is useless and helps nobody.

          And to answer your question – the polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans are, in fact, supportive of people who are abused and don’t blame them. Such attitudes tend to be limited to MRA-type thinking. Actually, here’s an overview of multiple polls that indicate that the majority of Americans are actually, refreshingly, pretty good about knowing what constitutes DV and have some good attitudes towards it:

          Might be tough to believe, but most people are willing to support DV victims. So let’s focus on creating that support instead of “awareness,” shall we?

        5. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

          Okay, so because I was getting all mad, I didn’t say also that I agree that awareness that “abuse happens” or “hitting is bad” is what we need. But we do need more education on DV. And I don’t think its infantilizing to say that not all people that are abused know they are being abused. Not all abuse is as clear cut as being physically hit. And, even if you KNOW that its wrong what is happening to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t help to get information that reinforces that. I KNEW deep down that what I experienced in college with a guy I was dating was sexual assault. I knew at the time that it was wrong. I knew afterwards that it was wrong. But, I didn’t want to tell anyone, because there was still a narrative out there that I was at fault. That it wasn’t “really, real, real rape.” I told myself that I hadn’t experienced any abuse. That’s different! And, hey, I’m pretty f-ing educated on DV. It has taken sites like this and it being reinforced over and over again for me to really GET it that what happened to me was wrong and that I did not deserve it. I’m glad that you didn’t need that, but I really did. It doesn’t make me an infant or childish that I needed to be told over and over again what constitutes rape and abuse. It makes me a product of our abusive culture. A culture we need to change. Sorry I got so pissy above, but I stand by what I said that more education is needed. If the dance thing is not providing real education on resources available and the laws out there and the parameters of abuse? Not helpful. But anything that does provide that awareness is helpful, in my opinion.

        6. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm |

          Ooops: first sentence should be awareness about “hitting is bad” etc is *not* what we need.

        7. A4
          A4 February 14, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

          I’d like to echo (BFing) Sarah’s sentiments regarding the lack of recognition when abuse happens. People are very good at condemning abstractions when the condemnation is built into the definition. Most people think “violence against women” is bad, but most people don’t bother to do all of the difficult mental work required to connect these abstract horrors to their own daily life because that would mean admitting that things are not hunky dory and there might be all sorts of messy feelings like guilt, anger at someone close to you, and feeling obligated to do something to help the situation. (I’m being just a little facetious here)

          This has happened to a lesser degree in my own life. Most adults believe that we are entitled to our own physical boundaries, and that if we ask someone to stop touching us they should do so immediately. I know no one in my own family would have trouble with that abstraction. But when my brother would continually touch me or grab me without permission even after I stated loudly and clearly to “Stop touching me”, nobody lifted a finger or said a word to help me out. Nobody had any problem ignoring it, or pretending like it was a mutual interaction, or an expression of love.

          Most people are not consistent. Most people are not able to take abstract things they hear and apply them concretely to their daily life because the emotional weight is vastly different in both situations. When we tell people “violence against women is bad and we should fight it” we usually don’t tell them “And you are most likely going to see it perpetrated by your friends and family or perpetrated against your friends and family”. Saying the former does not equip people for the realities of the latter.

          Awareness raising of the kind that teaches people to be aware of how these concepts of abstract political dynamics manifest in their own lives is most definitely needed because the first and best way to support victims of domestic violence is being able to name it when you see it and support others when they name it for themselves.

        8. Drahill
          Drahill February 15, 2013 at 10:46 am |

          Sarah, let me clarify: I don’t use “abuse” and “domestic violence” interchangeable. “Domestic abuse” is an umbrella term that includes emotional, mental, sexual, physical, economic and all other variety of abuses. “Domestic violence” is a sub-set of abuse in which physical violence is present. So all domestic violence is abuse, but not all abuse is domestic violence. That’s how I define it.

          And please, go read the links I’ve posted. They actually show that, data-wise, most Americans DO recognize DV when they see it. Lack of interaction generally is not due to lack of recognition, it is due to a fear for one’s own safety, fear of legal involvement, stuff like that. In fact, largely, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests anti-DV education has worked TOO WELL. People now have a tendency to define domestic abuse as hitting and not as other forms of abuse. DV has largely become the baseline by which abuse is defined, and that has actually been harmful in the long run. That is why now the push is so great to focus on other forms of abuse that so often precipitate DV. The evidence is saying that anti-DV education has been overwhelmingly effective (look at the data – the vast majority of Americans now recognize forcing one’s wife to have sex as DV and rape, when it wasn’t even legally recognized a few decades ago!). In fact, it’s starting to work too well. I know your personal experience doesn’t jibe with this (mine doesn’t either, entirely). But I’m addressing what the actual research and data is saying, as opposed to trying to argue from experience. That’s why I think we’re having a conflict.

        9. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

          You spend a large chunk of your paragraph talking about threats. Why? This is thread about domestic violence. Threats are not violence. If they are carried out, they become violence. So I’m not sure what your argument is in that case. DV is physical violence (note: I’m not dismissing the threats; I’m saying that your argument here makes no sense because they would not be actionable as such; they would be actionable as threats only).

          I don’t mean to be rude, but since you were pretty dismissive…fuck it. You are wrong. Flat out wrong. Domestic violence is more than just physical violence. And threats, stalking and forcible confinement (although not “hitting”) are actionable, even if they are not always considered DV (although sometimes they are considered DV). See:


          Even if some forms of DV are not considered DV CRIMES, that just means that the laws should change so that they DO. Also, even if something is not a crime under the law does not mean that it is not considered domestic violence under the law. An example of this would be that under the past VAWA law you could petition for a person to become a legal resident if they are the victim of domestic violence, even if they have never prosecuted the abuser. You can use the times they called the police as evidence, even if an arrest was never made. Also, you can use the information that a person made threats against you to influence custody agreements. So, even if its not actionable as a crime, does not mean that it doesn’t “count” as DV.

          In fact, just because YOU, personally, do not consider non-physical violence to be DV does not mean that many other people do not disagree with you. Its not like you get to say ‘“Domestic abuse” is an umbrella term that includes emotional, mental, sexual, physical, economic and all other variety of abuses. “Domestic violence” is a sub-set of abuse in which physical violence is present. So all domestic violence is abuse, but not all abuse is domestic violence.” and have it just BE because you said so. Because, um, lets see:

          (just in case you were wondering, the SAME site you linked for me, but another section…I guess you read what you want, right?)

          Oh, and here:


          “The US Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”. The definition adds that domestic violence “can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender”, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.”

          So, yeah, I think that I might not be the only one that thinks that threats and actions outside of physical violence have a place in the discussion of DV. And, thanks for telling me what to do, but I read the studies, mostly because…um…I work in this area…but what does that even mean that 3/4 Americans know someone who has been abused? My brother knows someone who was abused, does that mean he knows ANYTHING else about domestic violence? Fuck no! Just because you know someone who was abused does not mean you had any clue how to support them or that you did anything to be a good friend/family member to that person. Who, when asked such a question would say: “No, I wasn’t supportive of ___. I told her that ___ was not abuse. I think hitting is sometimes okay!” I guess you and I are different this way, but when a study doesn’t seem to reflect the reality in the field…I kind of start thinking that the right questions were not asked and that people were just saying what they thought would look best. But, I guess these are yet more places where education would be nice, right? I mean, since both of us obviously have lots of experience and education in this area, and we disagree on the BASICS, like what DV actually is and whether people actually know how to support a person who is a victim.

        10. Miss S
          Miss S February 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

          Also? infantilizing? I posted below, but I was just recently talking to girls my sisters age, and no, they don’t know that certain behaviors are abusive, particularly if that abuse isn’t physical. They aren’t infants, and they aren’t stupid. They’re young, and the awareness of abuse and what that looks like hasn’t reached them.

        11. Henry
          Henry February 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

          umm threats are assualt, carrying them out is battery. go ahead and threaten to beat the shit out of someone, see how they can get a restraining order, do it again see how they get an arrest warrant issued. Also see how daunting and costly and time consuming it is to do it by yourself.

          We need funding, not dance, the courts are clogged with cases, victims cannot afford lawyers, there are not enough free lawyers. I’d rather all those people dancing work an extra hour or two and donate the cash to the agencies working in the family courts on behalf of victims.

        12. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah February 15, 2013 at 6:58 pm |

          @Henry: I agree, dancing isn’t needed, like I said before. And you are right and I agree that taking legal action is time consuming and costly. I just disagree with Drahill above that there is no more need for awareness and/or education (because most groups I have worked/volunteered for do see them as the same thing) on DV. I wish that events like OBR were about raising money and about passing along information such as where to get affordable/free legal help and counseling. I also agree that there is a need for more pro bono and legal aid for this sort of thing, which is why I did pro bono work in this area when I was practicing. Also, we can’t forget that there ARE women out there that have the financial assets available to get good legal help, but they don’t do it because they think its not worth it, because people tell them its not “real” DV. Or they feel guilty about it and they don’t have the support available to empower them to do whatever is necessary for them to feel and be safe. There is so much work that needs to be done in this area, dancing is not going to cut it.

        13. Odin
          Odin February 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

          Fuck yes we need more education about abuse. And not just for the survivors, either — for those of us who know survivors and want to help, but don’t know how to speak up without making things worse. (Eg, sometimes, if you tell someone you’re worried their partner is abusive, the abusive partner will use that to convince them to cut off communication with you. Or the survivor will decide to cut you off hirself because he/she doesn’t want to admit it yet.)

      3. EG
        EG February 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

        You know what I think the progenitor of campaigns like this was? Or, at least, the earliest one I can remember, and since my memory encompasses all of human history, obviously that’s the important one.

        Remember Hands Across America? It was awareness- and fund-raising for homelessness; people paid money to reserve their place in the chain. Apparently it raised millions and millions of dollars. But it was still a stunt; it seems like campaigns like OBR have preserved the stunt-element while jettisoning the fund-raising.

        And I tell you what, even then, when I was a kid, I thought Hands Across America was stupid. What was the point? Why would anybody want to do that? Why not organize a day in which people across the US stopped what they were doing to build low-income housing or something like that? Then you could raise money and do something helpful.

        1. catfood
          catfood February 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

          I remember Hands Across America! A friend volunteered me for it, and the whole time I was thinking… What? We needed to do this stunt? What for?

          But at least it raised some money, that’s true.

  4. EG
    EG February 14, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    I agree with Drahill and Mac. I’m kind of sick of “awareness” campaigns. The reason they’re often so popular is because they’re so often non-controversial and upsetting–all that pink for breast cancer, well, is anybody going around saying “go, breast cancer!”? And even with violence against women, the issue is less that people say “I’m pro-violence against women” and more that they say “Well, of course, rape and sexual violence are bad, but it’s not really rape-rape if they’re married/she’s been drinking/whatever.”

    Sometimes the issue is awareness–hence the effectiveness of gay people coming out–but in my opinion, more often than not, you need actual, well, action to make meaningful change. And I’m not seeing it here.

    1. Alara Rogers
      Alara Rogers February 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

      Yeah, the awareness we need here is not “violence is bad, mmkay?” but “if he hits you because he loves you so much he wants to stop you from doing stupid things… that’s not love, it’s abuse. If he won’t let you leave the house because he loves you so much he can’t bear the thought of anything happening to you… that’s not love, that’s abuse. If he threw things at you because the things you said just got him so mad, and he’s really sorry and he really loves you but you just shouldn’t make him mad… he’s not really sorry, it’s not your fault, and it’s abuse.” And also “if he’s hitting her, and she doesn’t leave, that doesn’t mean she’s stupid, masochistic, or weak. The fact that he hits her and she doesn’t leave does not mean she deserves to be hit.”

      Everyone (except the most hardcore MRAs anyway) believes violence against women is bad. But what actually constitutes violence against women, versus what the bitch had coming to her because she provoked him, is widely construed to be a far more narrow thing than it actually is. We need awareness, but not the awareness that violence against women is bad or that some men beat their wives; we need the awareness of how abusers start, how they maintain control, what it does to a human mind to be abused by someone you love, and why your belief that it’s ok to hit your wife if she makes you really really mad is just totally fucking unacceptable. And that’s not going to come from such a vague campaign where the action is something that’s really unrelated to the harm it’s fighting.

      1. (BFing) Sarah
        (BFing) Sarah February 14, 2013 at 10:28 pm |

        Absolutely. I said more above, but we DO still need more awareness about what constitutes abuse and how an abuser maintains control. We do still need more awareness of the laws and how they can protect and how they need to be changed to be more inclusive and more helpful. We need more awareness about how abuse can be more than just man against woman and to have shelters in place that treat partners in same-sex relationships with the respect and counseling they need as well. And, at least as far as my experience, there are DV shelters that would still have a problem with a non-cis woman becoming a resident. Where will she go? Which shelters are inclusive and is that information readily available? The fact that I DON’T know, and, believe me, I SHOULD have come across this information…that leads me to believe that a lot more education is needed.

        1. orangedesperado
          orangedesperado February 15, 2013 at 1:23 am |

          It was my experience when I disclosed the really intense psychological abuse that happened in a long term relationship (and I mean psychological terrorism on every level) that the one question that I was asked over and over by well meaning friends was “Did he hit you?” like that was the line where REAL abuse begins. The people who asked me this were otherwise pretty culturally radical, but it was very frustrating to feel unheard.

          I think that with regards to intimate partner violence that what needs to be emphasized over and over until everyone starts to get it is that psychological violence is as serious and damaging as a physical assault. Isolation, gaslighting, threats, rationalization, blaming, brandishing anger, manipulation, intimidation, silencing, financial abuse are all a means of control that can be extremely destructive, without the abuser ever physically assaulting the victim. Yet if I had photos documenting a few bruises from a shove, my concerns would have been taken more seriously than some very specific threats of murder = fucked up. More education for everyone, not just women, is still very much needed.

        2. Aydan
          Aydan February 15, 2013 at 10:14 am |

          TW assault, abuse


          Yes. I know too many people who don’t recognize verbal and emotional abuse for what it is, or who don’t think physical abuse is “real” until it hits a level of, say, punching. We still have a long way to go in terms of education and awareness.

    2. Catie
      Catie February 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm |

      I agree with this. We need a more materialist movement that talks about what its like to be a survivor. Where are the conversations about PTSD? Why don’t we talk about the ways in which sexual assault and partner violence can interfere with work, school, and relationships? Why don’t we talk about how violence is used to continue the subjugation of women not only by by potentially damaging concepts of self worth, but also by making it more difficult for women to achieve academic, career and other goals that lead may help women to become more independent? When will we talk about who benefits from violence against women? Why don’t we talk about the fact that trauma can itself be a disability? When is the world going to want to know who survivors are, and what it is that they struggle with?

      Campaigns like OBR slam the door on these issues. They suggest that all that is needed is awareness, and prevent any real understanding of survivors. Being a survivor is an alienating experience. Most people–even many feminists I know–don’t really want to confront the issues that survivors face. They don’t want to made uncomfortable by the sometimes crippling issues that survivors deal with. Instead they want to dance and get a pat on the back so they can say “see I do care about violence against women”. But what has anyone really learned by bouncing their butt to a beat, or walking around–not much.

      What we need are conversations. Not just a day or month dedicated to a conversation, but years of talking and listening. We need people to be willing to comprehend what violence against women is about. That is the only way to really change this epidemic of hate and oppression.

  5. Donna L
    Donna L February 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

    Jill, I’m glad you said this in your article:

    In many places, including the United States, transgender women, lesbian women and women of color are disproportionately targeted.

    But is there any evidence in the OBR materials that trans women are even on their radar, or even count as women to them? I’d be surprised if there were.

    Other than that, I don’t really have anything to add to everyone else’s comments, here and in the other thread that mac links. If people participating in this found it personally worthwhile, great. But I don’t see it as making much of an actual difference (which was how it was intended), or as accomplishing much in the way of increasing awareness of violence against women.

    And I agree with EG that Goldman’s reference to dancing was more a reaction to the dour, joyless Puritanism, and exaltation of personal sacrifice, which she observed in so many leftist revolutionaries — who would probably have felt right at home in Massachusetts in 1640 — than a characterization of dancing itself as a revolutionary act.

  6. anon
    anon February 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm |

    I agree that there are serious limits to awareness raising and I agree with much of the concerns of the V-Day movement etc.

    But one of the main reasons I do awareness type things is so that I can be “out” as someone who cares and would be supportive should those in my life need it. I’ve been contacted by people, both good friends and more distant acquiescence, who have wanted to talk about their experience / get support and they’ve said said things like “it seems like I can talk about this with you.” I mean, I’m not trying to overstate the importance of that, but, I’m glad that at least some of the people in my life know I’m not going to be dismissive, I’m not going to victim-blame, I’m on-side and I’ll listen. I’m not an activist and I’m not that well-educated or experienced with violence and anti-violence efforts. But I participate in most awareness raising things, even though many are flawed, and that seems to matter to some people in my life.

    So. I don’t know.

    I’m not trying to justify promoting racist OBR campaign videos etc.

    But awareness seems to do something.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan February 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

      I get that. I went to a Slutwalk as a kind-of participant, kind-of ally, because my sister wanted someone to go with her and I wanted to make it clear that I was supportive of her. It wasn’t about raising awareness to the public so much as to my immediate friends and family.

    2. Athenia
      Athenia February 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm |

      I agree–I also think public, face-to-face activities are just another venue in addition to the blogosphere. Heck, at Slutwalk NYC, I was able to talk to an Indonesian activist who I wouldn’t have met or talk to otherwise.

  7. hotpot
    hotpot February 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

    I don’t know, I see awareness campaigns as effective precisely because they’re non-controversial, and because the vast majority of people are against violence against women. Hence, the missing ingredient to action is how primed people are to think about the issue. But I don’t think that shouting “End violence against women” while dancing in the street necessarily raises awareness. It’s not that people don’t know that violence against women exists; they may not be able to relate to it because they aren’t aware of how bad it is, or how common it is, or are just unable to imagine it. Raising awareness is not a binary, to me it’s more about telling a story. Videos of women dancing isn’t the most effective way to raise awareness.

    Also I agree that even an effective awareness campaign without any outlet to action won’t do much good. Awareness is just the first step, and the increased attention brought to the issue in the media should then be used to pressure for the passage of legislation, for people to give money to organizations to help survivors, and other actions. Where’s OBR’s efforts in this area? From their own website, there’s nothing.

    1. Drahill
      Drahill February 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm |

      Eh, I don’t know. Data says that between a quarter and a third of women experience DV in our lifetimes. Around one tenth are stalked. Then there’s also this:

      Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. (Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence, 2006. Lieberman Research Inc., Tracking Survey conducted for The Advertising Council and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, July – October 1996)

      I don’t think awareness is the issue at this point. When you have 75% of a population with personal DV experience or interaction with a victim, I think you’re reaching a pretty high level. At what level does it become alright to say “We have enough awareness – now let’s get some actual laws and money behind this?”

      1. hotpot
        hotpot February 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

        At what level does it become alright to say “We have enough awareness – now let’s get some actual laws and money behind this?”

        Absolutely– if it’s a choice between “awareness” and laws and money, laws and money are always more important. The former is completely useful insofar as it is only a tool to increase the latter. I also think that calls for specific changes that would have a concrete impact should be considered a part of what “awareness” is– not just awareness that there is a problem, but awareness of precisely what can be done to resolve it. That is broadly missing in this campaign. The more I learn about this campaign, the more I dislike it. The promotional materials are heavily linked in with Eve Ensler’s work, and there’s practically nil on concrete action items, education, voices of survivors– the whole focus seems to be about the participants in the dance. There’s just something distasteful and pro-self-congratulation about it, as if it’s more about making a spectacle than making a difference.

      2. Miss S
        Miss S February 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

        “We have enough awareness – now let’s get some actual laws and money behind this?”

        Would that really help? Beating the shit out of your wife is against the law now, and it’s still happening. Setting your wife on fire or shooting her in the head is against the law now, and it’s still happening. So is rape. For that matter, so is stealing, speeding, driving without a license, etc. What laws would actually stop an abusive man from being abusive?

        1. EG
          EG February 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

          Agreed. I would be interested in community activists doing outreach to men regarding sexual and domestic violence, in teaching women self-defense, in setting up shelters. Direct action.

        2. Drahill
          Drahill February 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

          Plenty of laws could help that aren’t on the books (at at least uniformly):

          1.) Require PFAs and restraining orders to cover pets and service animals. Currently, only a handful of states require this, even though data says when they don’t, victims are more prone to stay out of fear the abuser will harm the animal.

          2.) Mandate local police and municipal authorities to have uniform domestic violence training on a regular basis. Most states do not require this now, which is why so many cops are poorly equipped to handle DV victims.

          3.) Allow mental health and counseling services as part of insurance parity so that all DV victims have access to counseling services as they need. As of now, insurance carriers are not required to cover counseling in parity with physical healthcare (ACA might be changing this – it’s unclear).

          These are only a few of the legislative changes that have been proposed to help DV victims. You’re willfully dense if you believe laws can only be used on the prevention side. It’s sorta obtuse to assume so, which is what you’re doing now.

        3. Miss S
          Miss S February 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm |

          You’re willfully dense if you believe laws can only be used on the prevention side. It’s sorta obtuse to assume so, which is what you’re doing now.

          It’s also dense (and stupid) to assume that because you didn’t need awareness, no one else does. That, however, hasn’t stopped you.

          For the record, I think 1 and 3 are great ideas, number 2, not so much. All of those ideas can exist along with awareness though, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  8. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck February 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

    Through the French-language feminist website Sysiphe I discovered an article by Carolyn Gage, Movement vs. Dance Moves, in which she expresses her skepticism (to put it mildly) reguarding One Billion Rising. I think she makes some compelling points.

    As for me, I went to the local gathering anyway. I was nearby, and I was eager to get in touch with the local feminist organizations. It made me want to go and visit them, I miss active militantism.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L February 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm |

      Carolyn Gage is the “Brandon Teena was a woman whose gender dysphoria was caused by internalized lesbophobia and being sexually abused in childhood” person. Learning things like that is an occupational hazard of looking up unfamiliar feminist writers.

  9. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers February 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

    I always find these kinds of movements utterly pointless.

    But I wanted to say something about the rape in Vagina Monologues. I don’t think the message Ensler was sending was that rape is okay if it’s female on female; I think the message she was sending is that statutory rape is ok if the victim is consenting. Which… totally misses the point of statutory rape, but this is actually a thing that survivors of statutory rape (including male-on-female) say and do, because teenage children can, in fact, consent and even be eager to participate in sex; the reason statutory rape is *rape* is not that teenagers are literally incapable of consenting, but that teenagers are so severely hampered in their ability to express that they do not consent, when confronted with an adult who is manipulating them, that you have to work from the assumption that they don’t consent. Even if they do. Because it doesn’t matter how loudly you say “yes” if you belong to a class of people who are generally impaired in their ability to say “no”; “yes” does not mean “yes” if “no” is not possible.

    Statutory rape isn’t rape on the grounds that no teen child ever could want or enjoy sex with an adult; statutory rape is rape on the grounds that teen children are at a huge disadvantage in saying what they *don’t* want. So it is possible to be raped even if you eagerly consented, if you were underage at the time, because it’s not about you. It’s about your rapist, and whether the person who chose to have sex with you had any possible way of knowing for certain that you really *meant* yes and weren’t being coerced by their greater power over you and greater knowledge about the world than you.

    This is generally antithetical to our understanding of rape. If rape is defined by the experience of the survivor, and “if you felt raped then you were”, then what if you didn’t feel raped? A lot of teenagers do, in fact, feel that their sexual relations with adults are entirely consensual, and a lot of adults do look back fondly on memories of sexual experiences where they were underage and their partner was not. But this isn’t a thing we should be glorifying and presenting uncritically. “If it was a rape, it was a good rape” may actually be a thing a person might say, but in the context of a bunch of monologues that are supposed to be about female empowerment, it’s terrible… not because it says lesbians can’t commit rape but because it says that if you really *are* hot for teacher then teacher can safely go for it and nothing bad will happen to either of you. The fact that it was also a lesbian statutory rape as opposed to a heterosexual one just confuses the issue, because it brings in the trope of “women can’t commit rape” (which I don’t think was Ensler’s intent, but I also think that Ensler would have been much more easily able to recognize that what she was describing really was rape if the rapist had been male.) But it’s not about a lesbian rape, it’s about the statutory rape of a minor by an adult, and the minor’s belief as an adult that because she, personally, did consent, it was all ok.

    This is a dangerous belief precisely because it rings true. If you really, truly, sincerely, wanted it, how could it have been rape? There’s a failure to understand that statutory is considered rape because it’s so easy to make children say “yes” when they don’t want to say “yes”, or when it would be rationally a terrible idea to say “yes” and the rapist is playing on the fact that kids have impaired judgement, that a sincere “yes” cannot be accepted by a decent person. Kind of like a drunk person can absolutely and sincerely want sex, and it’s still rape if a sober person gives it to them.

    If we had a better understanding of how consent works, in our culture, and why you need the ability to say “no” for “yes” to be meaningful, and why “informed consent” is a thing, this kind of misunderstanding would be less likely to occur, and people would be better able to recognize, well yes I did want it, but the person who did it to me should have known better than to do it. But we don’t. I think Ensler probably sincerely believed when she wrote the thing that statutory rape isn’t bad if the minor really wants it. I do also believe that she had a harder time recognizing what she was doing, and that people all over the place couldn’t recognize it at first, because we do have a notion in our heads that women can’t commit rape. But I don’t think she’s sending the *message* that women can’t rape women; I think she’s using the underlying belief that already exists to reinforce the argument that statutory rape is a-ok when the teenager really wants it. Which, in my opinion, is a very bad message to send, and tying it in with the unspoken assumption that of course women don’t rape people makes it worse… but I don’t think she was seriously attempting to argue that rape, in general, is okay if it’s woman on woman. I think she was arguing that statutory rape is okay if the teen wants it.

    1. wembley
      wembley February 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

      This was my read on that monologue as well.

  10. Miss S
    Miss S February 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |

    I’m in the minority here I suppose- I support awareness if it actually provides information women can use. So, X% of women are going to be victims of DV- here’s information if you’re being abused, here’s the warning signs to look out for, here’s how to leave, etc.

    Talking to younger women my sister’s age recently, I realized that they don’t know the warning signs to look out for. They think that possessive and controlling behavior is an indicator of love. It’s terrifying.

    So if awareness can actually help women, I’m all for it. Sometimes I feel like the online feminist movement focuses more on talking about theories surrounding problems rather than solutions. I feel like providing women with information is actually a solution. Even at the Vagina Monologues, pamphlets with this kind of information were passed out- I used to volunteer with an organization that did this.

    I remember in a wmst course in college, the professor pointing out that you could be raped by someone you were in a relationship with. A girl told the class the next week that she dumped her boyfriend after he told her that women can’t be raped by their boyfriends. While the people posting on here take this type of knowledge for granted, not every young (or old) woman knows this stuff.

    1. anon
      anon February 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

      agreed. It’s all in the execution. awareness raising things can be just fairly hollow dance parties. Or, they can also spread valuable information, raise money, etc. For example, I think this magazine has done a great job using OBR as a theme to gather stories around:

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

      Miss S, I’m not arguing against awareness-raising. If this were a campaign to actually do some, I probably wouldn’t find it as annoying. As it stands, though, imagine being a random person watching this: “…okay, so there’s women dancing…okay…more dancing… yeah now they’re not dancing. Okay I guess?” I mean, like I said in my comment, in India they could get mistaken for a wedding party. If they were trying to actually DO something…but where is the action? If I’d seen a whole bunch of people dancing when I was 12 and being sexually abused, my reaction would have been “eh, whatever, dancing people”. If anyone had bothered to hand me a pamphlet on what constituted sexual abuse, or even have a clear and comprehensive talk with me about it, I wouldn’t have spent six more years taking it. Dancing does nothing.

      1. SophiaBlue
        SophiaBlue February 14, 2013 at 6:18 pm |

        Right, this seems like one of those things that lets people feel like they’re making a difference without actually making any difference whatsoever.

      2. Miss S
        Miss S February 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

        Mac, I totally see what you’re saying. I guess I’m working on the assumption that there will be education alongside the dancing. Every event I’ve been to like this included useful information. I’ve made (very un-artistic and non glamorous looking) pamphlets for events that I couldn’t even attend, because think information is valuable and you never know who it might help. You never really know what someone is going through, but reaching out, giving information, having a conversation, could make all the difference in the world.

        If this event doesn’t actually include any education, any useful information, then I can’t really get with it. Because then it is, just dancing.

    3. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters February 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm |

      I don’t think you’re in the minority here, as awareness about important information is vital. However, I think the argument is that OBR does not offer this kind of information as an integral part of the movement, and that on top of being racist, xenophobic, colonialist, homophobic, and transphobic. It seems that things done with the VM and OBR that are actually useful in dispersing information and raising money are done at the initiative of the local activists themselves, rather than being integrated into the programs. And when you add in a lack of integrated information-provision/fund-raising ideas and models/lobbying tools on top of everything else wrong with these programs, it is not about perfect being the enemy of the good (which is a phrase too often used to shut down constructive criticism in the first place). I think the reaction would even be different if VM and OBR were local and independent, as oppose to boosting the coffers and reputation of someone whose work is as dismissive and reductive as Ensler. Awareness is great, and awareness campaigns can be the catalyst for powerful story-sharing and information-sharing. But what has OBR integrated into the very basis of the program itself that ensures actual information-sharing and other types of activism, including the ongoing taking over of space, that can be apart of every event that takes place?

      1. anon
        anon February 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm |

        “It seems that things done with the VM and OBR that are actually useful in dispersing information and raising money are done at the initiative of the local activists themselves, rather than being integrated into the programs. ”

        For what it’s worth, from :

        *You must donate all of the proceeds from your event.
        *Organizers & all supporting teams should NOT be paid. (Union technical staff contracted by venue are the only exceptions.)
        *Tickets should be charged for theatrical pieces & suggested donations for the other works are at your discretion.
        *Donate 10% of net profits to V-Day Spotlight Campaign and the remaining 90% to local organizations working to end violence against women and girls.
        *Keep production costs down. Donation goal should be 94 cents of every dollar.

        *You must choose a LOCAL organization working to end violence against women & girls (as outlined in the beneficiary guidelines) NOT a large national or international NGO.
        *Include your beneficiary in your activities, outreach and publicity.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm |

          Donate 10% of net profits to V-Day Spotlight Campaign

          Ah, the CEO cut. How novel.

          But at least the rest is getting donated. Silver linings.

        2. anon
          anon February 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

          I might be totally wrong, but my understanding is its not a CEO cut. The rights to use the play are free. Rather, the spotlight campaign is an international charity being highlighted that year. But I can’t verify that the money got to a charity. But, that’s what we thought we were raising money for anyways..

          For example, “in January 2010. All funds raised through the Spotlight Campaign will be used to support a revolutionary national program in Haiti lead by a coalition of women activists – including longtime V-Day activist Elvire Eugene – that is addressing sexual violence through art, advocacy, safe shelter, and legal services.”

    4. anon
      anon February 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

      “imagine being a random person watching this: “…okay, so there’s women dancing…okay…more dancing… yeah now they’re not dancing. Okay I guess?”

      But I think these things involved posters, etc. Looking at the photos of the one in my town, there are large posters with signs, and the names of local anti-violence organizations + urls.

  11. anon
    anon February 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

    OBR is clearly doing a lot of things wrong (in addition to promo materials that strike me as racist) if it comes across as just being about dancing.

    I haven’t been involved in v-day for a few years. But, having just spent some time on the v-day website, it seems that OBR is closely connected to the other v-day events, which, from experience, are way more than awareness for its own sake. It’s really not just dancing.

    v-day events, of which OBR is just one part, address myths about violence (through coffee houses, workshops…), raise money, promote local resources.

    Honestly, I think the VM and MMRP are lousy. Plus I’m, not keen on the vagina focus at all. I’m not here to defend the plays or the OBR promo materials / establishment.

    Just, having been involved, I’m not in agreement with the “it’s just awareness” impression.

    That said, I’d love to jump on a better bandwagon, the V-day thing being so flawed.

    I’m not sure if my comment with this link vanished, but my favorite OBR interpretation so far has been Plus, in my city, the OBR events have been good for publicizing that local anti-violence organizations in town. If nothing else, more people know that these women’s shelters etc. exist to help them if they need it.

  12. amblingalong
    amblingalong February 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

    Look, I believe that its possible to make a something-like-coherent argument defending OBR, or at least advancing the position its not entirely awful. Sure. But how much does it suck for everyone who’s not white, American, or cis that yet again that’s the conversation we’re having?

    When the dialogue becomes “here’s why project X has some problematic elements but is still a good thing overall,” it draws a line straight down the middle of the feminist community, with the more privileged members on one side and everybody else on the other. This makes being (for example) a POC trying to participate exhausting, even if nobody on the thread is being directly racist. I imagine the same is true for other identities.

    So maybe it’s true OBR can be salvaged from its racist neocolonialist transphobic roots. Fine. But at this point I just don’t care, because this is the conversation we’re having yet again.

    1. Alisonhh
      Alisonhh February 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm |

      ” it draws a line straight down the middle of the feminist community, with the more privileged members on one side and everybody else on the other” i hear that. but when I look around at those in my community who have been part of vday and obr, I don’t see that line. Some people will think obr, like slut walk, is too problematic and will hate it. Some will embrace it. Those people don’t break down to those with more privileged identities vs those who are less privileged, but I mean, I’m just speaking anecdotally

      1. Alisonhh
        Alisonhh February 14, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

        Ah my bad, sorry. Earlier I had been using the name anon as I thought I was touching on things too personal for even a screen name. But then I switched computers. So full discourse, I’m anon. Not trying to sock puppet. My bad

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm |

        Some people will think obr, like slut walk, is too problematic and will hate it. Some will embrace it. Those people don’t break down to those with more privileged identities vs those who are less privileged, but I mean, I’m just speaking anecdotally

        Basically? This:

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong February 15, 2013 at 2:30 am |

          I’ve never seen that blog before but, wow, so far I’m really impressed.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong February 15, 2013 at 2:33 am |

          Addendum: I’m also being reminded, as I read it, that my objections to radfem are much broader than simple transphobia, even though that’s probably the biggest one I commonly have. The most recent post about porn is really really bad, especially the part where the author says “if you do sex work and aren’t horribly abused and don’t think its rape, don’t make this conversation about you because that’s not real sex work.”

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong February 15, 2013 at 2:34 am |

          Not to derail the fact that I think your link was a great, great analogy/response.

          Sorry I got a little carried away, triple-post style.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune February 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

          Ambling, I don’t actually have much knowledge at all of the site; I found the link to that one page on an unrelated article on Ozy Frantz’s blog. No idea what the rest of it is like, but I’m intrigued now!

        5. Donna L
          Donna L February 15, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

          I agree, amblingalong, that just because the author of that blog is a trans woman doesn’t mean I like most of what she has to say. Like you, my fundamental disagreements with radical feminism go beyond its transphobia. And perhaps I’m guilty of excessive cynicism, but I doubt that there are very many transphobic radical feminists who view her as a woman any more than they do any other trans woman, regardless of the fact that she shares many of their views. If most of my political “allies” refused to accept me as one of them, it might make me reconsider my chosen path, and wonder if there were some sort of fundamental incompatibility.

      3. Miss S
        Miss S February 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm |

        i hear that. but when I look around at those in my community who have been part of vday and obr, I don’t see that line.

        Agreed. The last few Vday events I went to (the VM), almost all of the performers were black women. I know that some people on here consider the VM to be racist, but…I’ve seen it done in an entirely non racist way. On some campuses, the NPHC (black) sororities are heavily involved in it.

        I feel like I’m seeing people draw lines that people aren’t really drawing in real life, at least in my experience.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune February 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

      But how much does it suck for everyone who’s not white, American, or cis that yet again that’s the conversation we’re having?

      Wait. Those people exist? O_O

    3. Athenia
      Athenia February 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm |

      Since Slutwalk NYC seems like no more, I’ve been wanting to participate in an event that’s more supportive of other identities but it seems like nothing has taken its place. Perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough? :(

  13. AthenaH2SO4
    AthenaH2SO4 February 15, 2013 at 3:29 am |

    Jumping in a little late here, but I have to say that when I first saw the page for One Billion Rising, I was drastically underwhelmed. I’ve never been a huge Ensler fan, but I really do try to give her the benefit of the doubt…but this…

    SlutWalk is awesome for me (I do know there are issues with it for some people, but it’s a pretty great thing for me) because it’s OURS. The people involved with SlutWalk may argue with each other, have differing visions of what it means and what it’s worth, but it really is grassroots. Various groups basically say “hey, we think that’s a great idea…let’s do one of our own!”. OBR feels…a lot like Kony2012. A Nice White Lady tells us something she thinks would be neat, and we’re all supposed to clap and tell her it’s revolutionary. When I went to the website, it actually took me a while to figure out what the hell it was even supposed to be, as the site seemed to be mostly about how awesome Eve Ensler is, and when I realized it was just dancing around…I mean, great? People do that anyway? Especially women, as it’s often their only socially-approved outlet?

    I feel like she was inspired by Where The Hell Is Matt, which isn’t perfect, but Matt has listened to criticism, and really improved his approach (also he’s just aiming for a neat common-humanity message, and not trying to claim that he’s going to save the world). Maybe also the flash mob Beit Shemesh that danced in protest of misogynist religious fundamentalism…but in that case, it was the women in that place, doing that because it was the best thing at that time for them. I kinda feel like Eve isn’t really listening to people at all. I know she likely means well, but this all felt very condescending and out-of-touch.

    Sorry for the ramble, but OBR has bugged me ever since I saw it, and it’s tricky to articulate why.

  14. Nico
    Nico February 15, 2013 at 10:27 am |

    I just think it’s a shame how events like One Billion Rising distracts American feminism from dealing with truly important things, like whether or not Beyonce and Gaga are feminist, or if wearing makeup and sexy outfits is a capitulation to the male gaze or something we do for ourselves. On the other hand, we can all breath a little easier now that reproductive rights have finally been secured and the evil anti-choicers are on the run. So I suppose on balance, we’re sitting pretty pretty.

    1. oldlady
      oldlady February 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      Gosh, reproductive rights secured? Evil anti-choicers on the run? Sorry, but I think you’re celebrating a little early. Attacks on a woman’s right to decide about her own body haven’t stopped and the evil anti-choicers haven’t changed their minds. They’re just resting up for the next battle.

    2. EG
      EG February 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

      Silly American feminists! You should care about only the things Nico pre-approves!

    3. Nico
      Nico February 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm |

      Well I DID consider putting “irony” tags around my comment. Oh well.

      “Sorry, but I think you’re celebrating a little early. ”

      As it happens, my last comment here at Feministe was getting at the exact same thing: premature celebration & declarations of victory.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L February 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm |

        Nico, don’t worry, it was obvious to me that you were being facetious. Because nobody could really believe what you said. At least, I hope not!

        1. Nico
          Nico February 15, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

          Thanks, Donna. And also to you and EG elsewhere in thread re: Goldman’s dance/revolution quote.

          Before it’s anything else, One Billion Rising is another Eve Ensler performance art franchise, made plain by its tie-in with & and spin-off from her “V-Day” enterprise, itself a clever appropriation of Valentine’s Day, doubly clever conflated with vagina, and readymade for a Victoria’s Secret promo.

          OBR is really just another piece of pop culture, only more overtly and self-righteously political and feminist than what typically gets lumped under that tag. Like any piece of pop culture that traffics in politics — or can plausibly lend itself to appearing political — it’s message can’t be anything but messy and ambiguous.

          I think I only half consciously realized it when I posted, but that’s what was behind my reference to Beyonce and Gaga and the feminist Rorschach tests they reliably toss out.

          What I’ve seen of the the “risings” make them look like global auditions for Glee extras, or 80s-era video backup dancers like Miss Jackson (if ya nasty) and others (including brother Michael) used to employ to signify empowerment and liberation. In fact, if you look at Pat Benatar’s video for Love Is A Battlefield you’ll find not just a similar visual aesthetic as Ensler’s One Billion Rising “Short Film” but (about 2/3 in) a nearly identical use of a spontaneous “rising” where colorfully dressed oppressed women turn the tables on their oppressors through synchronized dance.

          The only thing new here is the decade, and the internet, which allows the feminist response to pop culture (to borrow a phrase) to happen faster, even in real time (WATCH A LIVE RISING), but the response remains the same.

  15. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune February 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm |

    To speak out of anger as woman of color is to confirm your position as the cause of tension. Lorde points out: “When women of Color speak out of the anger that laces so many of our contacts with white women, we are often told that we are ‘creating a mood of helplessness,’ ‘preventing white women from getting past guilt,’ or ‘standing in the way of trusting communication and action’”. The woman of color must let go of her anger in order for the white woman to move on. Some bodies become blockage points, points where smooth communication stops; they disturb the promise of happiness, which I would redescribe as the social pressure to maintain signs of getting along.

    (by Sara Ahmed, Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness)

    Clearly I woke up on the wrong side of the grumpy this morning.

    1. EG
      EG February 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

      Anger, as I tell my students when they talk about how angry Adrienne Rich is in “When We Dead Awaken,” is powerful, powerful enough that who’s allowed to express anger and have it taken seriously, and to/by whom, tells you a lot about power.

      1. EG
        EG February 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm |

        Ugh. That was supposed to be a supportive comment, and now I’m reading it and the tone is coming off as condescending. Apologies. I certainly didn’t mean to imply any comparison, mac, between you and my students!

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune February 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

        EG, no offense taken! And that’s exactly what I feel.

        And I feel at the same time like I’m piling on Jill, who, fuck knows, I judge to be ignorant rather than malicious here. It’s not really her I’m angry about. But frankly, I just…gah. My fuck-giving levels are steadily dropping.

    2. A4
      A4 February 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm |

      Yup. A much shorter way of saying what I was trying to articulate here:

  16. Irrelevant feminist from the East
    Irrelevant feminist from the East February 17, 2013 at 11:37 am |

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I felt the need to say something because the above comments all seemed very caught up in their first-world perspective. We don’t need awareness because…people already know and support the statement that “hitting women is bad”? Are you people serious?

    I am born and raised in a country of the former Soviet block. Saying that everybody here knows and agrees that “hitting women is bad” is nothing more than wishful thinking. In fact, “hitting women is good when they don’t keep their mouths shut” is a pretty popular opinion, especially amongst the older generations. This opinion is often voiced in the media and elsewhere without much opposition and sanction from anybody. My grandpa thought that a husband who beats you is a husband who’s manly and proves his love in this way (and shunned my mother after she divorced on grounds of domestic violence). An acquaintance of mine who on one occasion got her head bashed into the radiator by her partner is encouraged to stay with him by pretty much everybody she knows, because it’s probably her fault she’s making him upset in the first place, and what if she doesn’t find another man and remains, gulp, single?

    The feminist movement here is minuscule, just a handful of women, mostly gender-studies academics (and yes, white and ostensibly cis. Our country’s population is almost all-white, and support for LGBTQ rights is non-existent, so pretty much nobody identifies as trans publicly. If there are trans women out there, they’re keeping it to themselves, we have no means of finding them and we can only wait until they find us. I’m sorry if that makes our feminism irrelevant to you). Whenever they make their voice heard they are viciously antagonized, and it’s perfectly fine to call them ugly, unfuckable, frustrated and disgusting in a national newspaper or on TV, but most of the time they are simply ignored. For them, the small OBR event we had here was most of all an opportunity to get some people to declare themselves feminists, anti-domestic violence and meet and chat on the topic. This is a HUGE step forward for them. The endorsement from a few public figures and a progressive newspaper was also a HUGE step. Saying “I don’t think women deserve to be beaten when they’re being their usual womanly annoying selves” is an unconventional statement here.

    OBR laid the grounds for some support for the cause, and allowed the movement to have some growth, not to mention some abused women who reached out to us felt, for the first time, the joy of finding a sort of sisterhood who understands them. If you don’t think dancing in the name of feminism is a radical act, you should see the messages these women received from men calling them crazy, disgusting, radical bitches who are trying to destroy the world. You guys are living in the clouds if you think everybody has got the awareness part figured out. Maybe OBR doesn’t do anything for you, but for us, it was definitely a good thing.

    1. Dee
      Dee February 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

      Thank you for commenting and I don’t think your kind of feminism is irrelevant at all. Sometimes people can get caught up in their own perspective and we need all sorts of voices around here. Thanks for stating your piece, I appreciate it.

  17. Skimping the explosion of online feminism | Make Love & Culture War

    […] awareness” itself becomes fodder for intra-feminist blogospheric flame wars (e.g., see recent thread at Feministe on One Billion Rising, an “action” that resembled Slut Walk in more ways […]

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