The first thing that caught my eye as I walked up to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe was a white van with the word VAGINA across the side in bright pink letters. A man immediately came up to my friends and I and asked if he could film us saying the word “vagina” for a video. I knew I was at the right place. In this country, a woman is raped every six minutes, and on this planet, one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. This means that there are currently one billion women on the planet who will be violated in their lifetime. Yet, we also live in a society where “vagina” is used instead of the anatomically correct term “vulva” when referring to the external genital organs, and most women cannot even come to terms with saying the word “vagina” which is more than just a body part, but the most fundamental source of human life. The rape culture that we are all exposed to, along with violent and patriarchal media, has made it acceptable for one in three women to be raped, while simultaneously stigmatizing the word “vagina” so that girls are taught there is something wrong with their femininity.
One Billion Rising is an initiative that took place on February 14th in over 250 countries around the world. It called for the end of violence against women by using forms of activism such as dance and protest. In Santa Fe, just like the other international events, there was a flashmob that included a dance to a catchy song about women owning their bodies, as well as a march with a group of people that blocked traffic for several blocks. The huge group of women, men, and children were also informed of some tremendous news. On February 12th, Senate passed an extension of VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, which provides $1.6 billion towards investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. Although it passed by a vote of 78-22, New Mexico’s own congressman Steve Pearce did not support this act.
Being able to dance to support a cause was fun, and hearing poems was inspiring, but personally the most powerful moment was when women shared their own stories. One very brave woman walked to the mic followed by another younger woman. She said her sister was a victim of an ongoing cycle of domestic abuse. Her words stuck with me for the rest of the day: “Everyone is recognized for being hurt, we need to start recognized for being strong.” I want to recognize every woman in the world. The ones who have survived not only rape, abuse, victimization, and violence, but the women who have grown up in a world that treats them like the lesser sex. The single mothers, caretakers, and providers who work endless days while making .75 cents to the man’s dollar and the girls who have lived through millions of messages and ads that try to prove that the way we were born is not okay. I decided to be a part of One Billion Rising not because I don’t have a sense of humor or because I care too much, but because all women, despite cultural identifiers, deserve to be treated with respect, and a loving and equal world does not include violence against women.