I am writing to help launch One Billion Rising for Justice, 2013. As a long-time anti-racist and socialist feminist activist and writer my own voice more often than not overlaps with the voices of this newest campaign. Mine, and our, and their voices deeply engage and mobilize one another. This blending and sharing is incredibly unique to the historical moment we all inhabit.
And, this moment reveals the possibility of a revolutionary justice in process—from our bodies to the entire globe; one billion strong danced in 2013 in 207 countries: Turkey, India, Egypt, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Congo, Russia, and on and on. Our bodies are a treasure trove—they are simultaneously intimate and public, local and global. This reality is rife with amazing possibility for a radically new politics. So, we must continue in the tradition of V-Day’s 15-year activist network to find the shared intersections of our lives and the coalitions they initiate. This asks all of us to move beyond our pain and grief to forgiveness and engagement, especially to each other.
Our bodies are the canaries in the mine. But we will not die, like the canary that cannot breathe. Instead we cry out and dance for justice and freedom and dignity. Listen to our bodies and their voices and we can re-make the world, together. At the root of this movement for justice is the freeing of our bodies from bodily harm. This notion of justice engages an amazing imagination that travels outward from our violated bodies to other violations: poverty, corruption, starvation, environmental plunder, imperialism, forced migrations, exploited labor, global patriarchy, political repression, racisms, endless refugees of religious wars.
It is important to recognize and remember that we are the many, and they are the few.
Why justice? In part we claim “justice” because it has not yet been “co-opted and neutralized” by the power brokers of imperial rhetoric. It has not yet been sullied in the name of “western” democracy or its unnecessary wars. Justice remains a yearning with an admirable history of political movements: like the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in the US, the world-wide fight against AIDS and HIV; environmental movements everywhere, and so on.
Justice, as a word, elicits an inclusive strategy for the globe. It potentially embraces us all—in all our spectacular differences and uniqueness across geography, time, age, race, sex, color, gender, class, ability, culture, religion; male, female, cis, gay, and trans, and beyond.
Bodies are both shared and distinct. They make us human and vulnerable, brave and weak. Women’s bodies are too often brutalized but are also very often the source of all possibility.
Our Intersectional Selves
Look to the intersections between and among us all. Look to the overlap—to the marbled messy mix of human beings lives. This is where our politics is located—in our bodies and ourselves and the coalitions built with and between them. This includes women everywhere and anywhere, from the lipstick factory in the Bronx, to MacDonald’s almost anywhere, to the day-care workers everywhere, to the garment factory workers in Bangladesh, to the astronauts in space, to the teachers or professors wherever, to the haulers of water and carriers of wood throughout.
The connections between and with our female bodies build coalitions. Any female body knows it as already connected and named by its connection to other females. And these female bodies come in all colors, sexual identities, races, nations, ages and abilities. Forming the struggles to protect the planet emanate from the honesty of knowing our bodies and these multi-plexed meanings with their needs.
Given this, ending violence against women becomes the mobilizing site for creating social justice for the planet—utilizing and enhancing the multiple movements already in place for expanding a global politics committed to our planet, our earth, our rivers and streams and oceans, our food systems, our health and medical attention, our prisons and war camps, and so on.
Come sing. Come imagine. And, come to reconfigure and begin to restructure the world with stronger winds. We are doing it for ourselves, and everyone.
Each girl’s and woman’s body embodies multiple other identities: a sexual choice, a gender meaning, a racial coding, a color, an economic class, a geographical location or home, a culture, a religion, a physical continuum of ability, a place in the age life cycle. No female body is ever singly experienced. There are always the multiple meanings of our bodies and the multiplicities of particular locations.
As such I am arguing that girls and women have the possibility of uniquely seeing more and knowing more because their sexual class is by definition embrocated in and with racial, economic class and sexual orientations. Of course this does not exclude males, whatever their sexual choice, if they live in support of the females or people they love. But the massive reality of a majority of girls and women’s lives defined by sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation creates a particular necessity here.
From these multiple and intermeshed meanings we experience our girlhood and womanhood. And the more multiple we recognize we are, the more connections we can find with others. It is from these “complex inter-weavings”, and “triple-jeopardies”, and “adverse specificities” and “multiple statuses” long identified by feminists of every color, that we find camaraderie with each other. This multiplicity allows us many avenues for connection, rather than the “othering” and separating of one from another, and our humanness. No two of us are identically the same, and yet no two of us are completely different.
It is from this interconnection of our sexed and gendered and raced bodies that we can form a unique site of shared existence and struggle. We know each other, especially the violation or the fear of violence towards our body, because we know ourselves. This is the magical site of politics that is intimate and trustworthy. Similarity means being alike and different simultaneously. This nuanced intersection—between alike and different—bespeaks the glue of girls and women as a sexual class.
Because we are both similar and different, or similarly different and differently similar to each other there is a rare and rich possibility of coalition building that is also personal and not simply political; nor simply personal. However, the differences are often ones of power and privilege among us so this must carefully recognized and negotiated.
Our Bodies/Ourselves for each other
There is a place—because of the vulnerability(ies) of the female body– in all of us that is thickly shared and it is this that allows us to deeply know and to “witness” for each other. We do not know yet what we can fully imagine from this site. So let us come and work together, again, to coalesce on February 14 and find out.
Violence towards girls and women across this globe, both today and yesterday, is the non-exclusive unique mobilizing force that puts ONE BILLION RISING at a singular moment in history—singular in the physicist’s sense of a revolutionary moment—when the change that comes after the event totally alters what came before.
Violence against women may sound like a singular focus but it is no longer such, if it ever was, given the growing complexity of global capitalism, and patriarchy and racism, and misogyny, and heterosexism.
As women speak their violation; as we make the personal political; as we publicize the silences of this bravery, a new transparency, seeps elsewhere. We move from the body to the globe; from the personal to the structural, from the individual to the collective, and back again. Saying no to sexual violence harkens forth also saying no to the contamination of our streams, and water and air by greedy corporate interests and their raping of the earth through endless war.
One Billion Rising celebrates women and the people who love them and demands that we imagine new meanings and locations of and for justice. Economic justice, sexual justice, environmental justice, racial justice, feminist justice, prison justice, food justice, whistleblowing justice. It is necessary to imagine them all.
Bodies are always speaking if we only listen to them. They want to be free from hunger, and fear, and war, and environmental disaster. So we ask our bodies to dance and speak and call forward each other to defy the threats to us all.
One Billion Rising is a polyversal revolutionary movement—many and united simultaneously—encouraging justice for each of us. It demands an end to the global calamity of reckless profit making, unsustainable food, overconsumption of too much, abuse of land and deforestation, disregard of the inhumane suffering malnutrition of millions. Female bodies, in all their cacophonous variety, started this revolution and now every one committed to a sustainable and just life is welcome.
Last year One Billion Rising was a “catalyst and a wind.” This year, come dance again. Come sing. Come imagine. And, come to reconfigure and begin to restructure the world with stronger winds. We are doing it for ourselves, and everyone.
2013 was the biggest mass global action to end violence against women and girls in the history of humankind. The further intersectional and coalitional commitments for justice of this new mobilization in 2014 are limitless in their radical effect. Ending violence against women just might be the truly revolutionary demand, for us all.
A version of this post first appeared on the Huffington Post.