What the fuck does this accomplish?
BERKELEY — For the 100 or so women and girls — and a smattering of male allies — who danced in Civic Center Park on Thursday afternoon, Valentine’s Day wasn’t about hearts and candy.
Organizers called the day, replicated in communities throughout the U.S. and in 205 countries, “One Billion Rising,” named for the one-in-three women and girls across the globe who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.
“We have reclaimed Valentine’s Day,” said Satya Starr, an abuse survivor who participated in the event. “Women actually need to have an end to abuse and rape. That’s what they really need, not chocolate and flowers.”…
One Billion Rising used dance to celebrate women’s bodies, which organizers said are often denigrated, and encouraged participants to protest violence against women. As they executed the choreographed movements posted on the One Billion Rising website, many of the dancers sang along to recorded music reverberating through the park: ” … This is my body, my body’s holy/ No more excuses, no more abuses …”
I’m really trying to figure out a scenario in which this activity would be useful. As in, maybe there’s a rapist in the audience who, overcome by the “choreographed movements posted on the One Billion Rising website,” decides to quit raping and turn himself in to the cops? Or there’s a potential rapist who encounters same, and decides to hold off? Or there’s a third world despot somewhere trolling YouTube on his off hours and, overcome, decides to shut down the rape annex in the Ministry of Truth? Or a spectator decides to join the police?
Commenter Soozcat calls this kind of thing junk-food activism, which is such a great phrase I’m going to steal it for the Dim Devil’s Dictionary with her permission. Not only is its effect negligible by design, it could actually make things much, much worse — this being Berkeley, I can see some naive girl walking down a darker street later at night than she normally would, because just last week the One Billion dance-a-thon ended rape in the community.
Question the second: “one-in-three women and girls across the globe who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.” One in three?
Call me a horrible patriarchal pig if you must, but that number don’t pass the sniff test. So I followed the links from the One Billion Rising website. One led to this booklet from “UN Women,” which said
Throughout the world, one in three women will experience violence in their lifetime, such as beating, rape, or assault.
Notice the qualifier: “violence…such as.” Which — of course — makes it sound like they’re claiming that one in three women will be beaten, raped, or assaulted. But when you click on the .pdfs of the report, you get
One in three women throughout the world will suffer this violence in her lifetime; she will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).
Not to take a thing away from the severity of those other crimes, but…. “harassed”? I’ve seen enough fudged data in my lifetime to spot a weasel word when I see one.
The other link from the One Billion Rising website led to this .pdf, which claims
The most common form of violence experienced by women globally is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. On
average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her
Which also looks pretty weaselly. “Coerced” covers a lot of ground. Having had a few intimate partners in my lifetime, I’d sure like to know just how they’re defining that one. Is “an expensive dinner on our anniversary” coercion? (And if so, was I “coerced” into shelling out most of my week’s paycheck?).*
Which leads to question the third: why do they feel the need to juke the stats in the first place? Call me a sexist if you must, but I’d like to go on record as saying that rape is bad. So are assault and genital mutilation. If I found out about an uptick in any of them in my community, I’d….
Well, actually, now I’m starting to figure it out. We’re seeing, I think, one of those quintessentially liberal dilemmas where two competing streams of goodthink collide. One is the standard “all women are victims of something.” The other is that sense of information pollution Morgan wrote about. Let’s look at that list again:
she will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).
Except for that weasel word “harassed,” the rest of those are specific acts. In America, at least, the police keep pretty good records. You can look up crime in Berkeley, for instance, with maps and everything. The cops, no doubt, have far more detailed data than this, with advanced statistical analysis. And looking at that yellow-orange blob smack in the middle of all that red, it seems the Berkeley police are doing a pretty good job, all things considered.
Now before you start screaming that I’m “blaming the victim” or something, let’s take a step back and calm down. Notice what I’m actually saying, not what you assume a Krazy Kapitalist Konservative would say. Any rape, assault, genital mutilation, etc. is a tragedy. If the One Billion ladies of Civic Center Park were out there dancing to raise awareness of these crimes in Berkeley, I’d get out there and boogie with them, just on the off chance it might help.** If they were taking donations to fund something tangible in their community, I’d kick in. Hell, if they were taking donations to fund some global do-goodery I’d contribute, because this targets real people who are victims of real, horrible crimes.
But they aren’t doing any of that. They’re trying to “raise awareness,” worldwide, of crimes they themselves are statistically less than likely to be the victims of. Instead of doing something tangible for their community, they fudge the numbers up to make it look like one out of every three females is going to be the victim of a horrible crime, and then organize a big to-do that’s somehow supposed to affect the entirety of Planet Earth. And when this has no appreciable impact on local conditions — as it pretty much can’t by definition — the net result is to make folks like me take the whole idea of “awareness raising” even less seriously.
It’d be silly if it weren’t so sad. These are people who have the time, money, and energy to organize a hundred like-minded folks on a workday (Valentine’s Day was a Thursday this year). Obviously that energy could be mobilized to do something tangible, with measurable goals and results. But instead, the entire point seems to be to raise the emotional temperature of the already excitable, then set them gyrating in activity that’s purposeless by design. Do any of them know the real crime stats in Berkeley? What would they do differently if they did?
To ask is to answer. Which is why, I suppose, you get in trouble if you ask them.
*if, you know, that happened. Which I’m not saying it did. The last thing I need is some UN global sex police jacking me up because I said “c’mon, please?!” when the lady said she had a headache.
**assume for the purposes of this post that I live in Berkeley.