A holiday loved and loathed, Valentine’s Day is known for many things. There are blissful couples that exchange frivolous gifts of chocolates and teddy bears, or the sorrowful singles that drown their heartache in powdered donuts and Netflix marathons. But for millions of women, Valentine’s Day is their chance to change the paradigm, demand accountability and rise up against gender-based violence.
According to a report by the United Nations, 1 in 3 women worldwide will be beaten or raped during their lifetime. That’s one billion women and girls.
In response to this staggering statistic, V-Day launched One Billion Rising with the intent to become the largest mass action to end violence against women in history – and they succeeded.
On February 14, 2013, people in over 200 countries around the world took to the streets in defiance of the injustices women suffer. The message was clear and empowered survivors of violence and allies alike to rise up and show the world what one billion looks like.
Now, tens of thousands of One Billion Rising demonstrations take place every February on Valentine’s Day. Many of these events have accompanying marches and others have organized speakers, but regardless of where you are there is one form of radical resistance you can always expect – dancing. This is because One Billion Rising was established under the premise that while one billion women violated is an atrocity, one billion women dancing is a revolution.
“If a billion people rise up and dance at the same time, we could really move the earth and make change happen,” says My-Linh Kunst, who has attended the One Billion Rising events in Berlin since it’s founding. “That’s the feeling I get when I go to One Billion Rising every year – I feel empowered by the global movement, by the power of music and the power of dance.”
On their website, mother of the movement and Vagina Monolgues playwright Eve Ensler explains that dancing is at the center of One Billion Rising because it’s disruptive, contagious and breaks the rules. “Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together,” she says. “It can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone and everyone.”
Many see One Billion Rising as an invitation to express outrage through positive movement. Dancing is ideal for this type of revolution because it acts as a form of peaceful protest, which allows attendees to ‘fight’ violence without perpetuating it.
“To rise means not only to resist and rebel, but also to dance, to respect and love our bodies, to turn pain into power, to dance joyfully as an act of resistance,” says Rada Boric, a regional One Billion Rising coordinator based in Croatia. “It’s no wonder that One Billion Rising is the biggest ever movement, because it belongs to all women and those who love them. A movement that respects women’s different histories, experience, context and is embracing our differences in solidarity in struggle to end violence against women.”
This year, One Billion Rising is uniting in solidarity against the exploitation of women. Demonstrations will have a sharper focus on issues like sex trafficking, equal pay for equal work, female genital mutilation and more. Meanwhile, there will be an even stronger emphasis on global solidarity to demand an end to all forms of violence.
Here are 4 ways you can get involved: