Her name is Angel and she makes heads turn, she of the red lipstick, long legs and silky black hair. She is a sought-after celebrity, at home in a world filled with klieg lights, glitz and glamour.
But on 14 February, Angel took a break from her hectic schedule to join One Billion Rising, a global dance revolt against violence against women.
She never understood up to this day, she says, why her father beat up her mother. She never understood the reasons for the beatings, the attacks, the wounds, the slaps, the screams and the shouts. This went on for years. And years. And Angel never forgot the face of her mother, bloodied and beaten; her arms, black and blue.
Why it happened is beyond Angel’s understanding. And so, with these painful memories, Angel joined the dance revolt against violence against women on Valentine’s Day.
The Philippines’ version of One Billion Rising did not gather a huge crowd as it did in other countries, but the horror stories are as numerous and as endless as anywhere in the world.
Violence against women is not imaginary. Unfortunately, it comes in all forms and it can happen to anyone – a child or an old woman, rich or poor.
During the 14 February event here, women in pink shirts filled the street and danced together to raise awareness of the alarming problem of violence against women.
On stage, women’s group Gabriela Women’s Party deputy secretary general Obeth Montes said that in the Philippines, a woman is abused every 43 minutes.
Of the different forms of abuse – sex trafficking, white slavery and discrimination – harassment is considered the most common form of abuse against women in the Philippines, Montes continued.
Critics of One Billion Rising, an event created by Eve Ensler (the name behind the internationally acclaimed play Vagina Monologues), say that the primary problem with One Billion Rising is its refusal to name the root cause of women’s inequality, to refuse ‘to point the finger at a patriarchal system which cultivates masculinity and which uses the control and subjugation of women’s bodies as an outlet for that machoism,’ in the words of Natalie Gyte, Head of Communications at Women’s Resource Centre, an umbrella body of women’s charity.
‘In asking women to dance in order to overcome violence and rape, focus is displaced and root causes are overlooked; it completely diverts the world’s attention away from the real issue of gender-based violence and rape with a pleasing-to-the-eye co-ordinated dance. It’s like saying to survivors, “OK, you’ve been raped, but you can overcome it if you come together and dance for 20 minutes on Valentine’s Day… Eve Ensler says so,”’ Gyte continued in an article published by the Huffington Post.
I can understand the sentiment, but to me, any campaign that seeks to raise awareness of the problem of violence against women, on the real situation of women in their marital beds, in their own homes or out in the streets, is welcome and valid.
It is a step, albeit small, in the right direction. What everyone who participated needs to do is to make sure that the campaign does not end as just that – a pleasing-to-the-eye co-ordinated dance, as Gyte calls it.
We owe it to ourselves to rise up and fight the problem, in concrete ways, by not tolerating it, by speaking against it and by supporting victims themselves.
We owe it to ourselves. More importantly, we owe it to our children.