Thursday, 13 February 2014

One Billion Rising and something that shouldn't need to be blogged about.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day.

Everybody knows what that means; it's a celebration of love, your relationship, the time to make a little effort for the person that you adore or just really really like enough to pretend to play along with the commercialism of the day and get away with being 'cute'. This really applies to men more than women though let's be honest, and Valentines Day is very much considered a day for men to surprise and cherish women, make an effort. Right? There's nothing subtle about it! Well Eve Ensler and One Billion Rising have very cleverly chosen this day as the main focal point for their organisation.

Anybody who has read my blog or my twitter before knows that I love tweeting provocatively about small dogs and inane occurrences, and writing poetry and making films or trying to be vaguely amusing (to myself anyway), but some things are far more important and I hope that this is read and encouraged far more than anything I've done relating to my own personal acting exploits or odd ramblings.

So on this blog I am going to try and talk about sexual violence and abuse against women. Because it is something that happens all the time, in colleges, universities, work places, everywhere, and there needs to be more said about it:

"On February 14, thousands of events will take place in hundreds of countries and on six continents, where participants will gather to fight specific issues happening in their communities."

I am not going to use this blog to preach much about figures, or to say the same things that are being stated on the 1 Billion Rising website because if people are really interested then they can click the links below and see for themselves. Besides, would anybody honestly be surprised at the figure of 1 in 3 women being raped or beaten or sexually abused in their life time? Women probably wouldn't. I, as a man, was surprised when I first heard it. I have more than 3 female friends and relatives in my own life so even taking whatever variable you would like to into account that is a scary figure. So what am I saying, what is the pointed message that I am making? It's mainly that I hope more men than women actually read this blog and that it impacts them. I doubt that you find a woman anywhere who will dismiss this idea, this blog or Eve Ensler and her organisation, but I would expect far more men will politely ignore it. Not out of any devilishness, nor even ignorance most like, but because it's not really very socially cool and is probably considered more of a 'woman's thing', (I'm not quoting anybody specifically there, it just seemed appropriate as that is a general vibe that I have noticed in my life time, which maybe until now I didn't really notice too consciously).

That brings me to the question of why am I getting involved, is there a specific reason that I am ardently trying to bring awareness to this issue? Yes. Yes and no. Yes, because of course I know people who have had things happen to them, bad things, and not so bad things; things that affect them long term and things that don't but simply shouldn't even have to be considered as a situation in the first place, ever. And No. No because there shouldn't need to be a reason to stimulate my interest and support. There shouldn't need to be an event that occurs to a friend or loved one to spark an outrage or support, not least because most men will never be aware of any of this happening to their loved ones. They may never be aware, and if they're not aware then it doesn't really exist does it. But it does, and everybody should be aware.

I will admit to entirely understanding any hesitance in supporting this cause, or talking about it. It seems so glaringly obvious that there's no need to discuss it, it's uncomfortable. Let somebody else fix it. There's charities, society has always been like this, it's such a deep seeded issue anyway so why waste time talking about it? Well no, let's talk about it because it is uncomfortable. 
Honestly, I was reluctant to go too deep into the issue because as a man you automatically feel a little like the enemy. I did anyway; I only tentatively stuck my toe into these waters initially because I felt stupid, like my male friends would judge me a little, or that my female friends would think there was some subterfuge going on. There will always be playful barbs, jokes, that's the way of life, but it's also a locker room mentality that exists in all walks of life and it is correct that many times men do things is to impress women. So yes, I entirely understand why this issue is not cool for guys to get involved in, or for there to be an element of bravado about the topic, but that could just be me. I am only on the cusp of understanding what I can do myself so I'm not naive enough to preach and act like I know everything. I just want to help, and to raise awareness, and make it painfully clear that this is something that MEN should be interested and involved in, because that's sort of the point. To what extent should they be more involved, well maybe creating a feeling that taking advantage of women, or abusing them is something that other men will react to more vehemently, and that it's not okay to have an undercurrent swimming around society, that it will not be tolerated.

I have had only a limited exposure so far to this organisation, and have only just touched upon what I would like to do, but the most glaring problem that I have noticed is the distinct lack of men involved. Not that they're aren't any but just that it is very much a women's club at the moment. I hope that I'm wrong, and that could even be my own misconception from years of embedded subtle social misogyny and I'm only seeing how few men are involved so I'm not used to it maybe. If I'm correct then this is part of the problem, more men simply need to be actively involved so that it becomes part of the norm to talk about it, in schools and universities not just in the workplace and on blogs and newspapers. Women can encourage their friends and boyfriends to be involved by asking to talk about it, and even actively encouraging them to take part - there is a lot of power in the disappointed female gaze!

This is far more important than Valentines Day and yet for men it is very inter-related. If your wife, girlfriend, sister, friend knows that you're more interested in being involved in this concept that will garner you a lot more browny points than some roses and a few nice chocolates. (Unless they're Godiva, then maybe go with the chocolates!).

So click the links below, read more about it, maybe it's too late to be involved tomorrow, but it's ongoing really, it's not just a Valentines Day fad, unlike plastic love hearts. Even if you don't want to support One Billion Rising, and I haven't gone into detail about their organisation itself over the world, because you can see yourself below, then just have a conversation about it with your friends, and bring an awareness of it as being an actual serious issue that happens every day to somebody that you care about.

Here is the One Billion Rising website:

And here is an article from the Huffington Post with Eve Ensler:

There is also an organisation for Men to get involved directly, if they want to avoid Eve and take a more masculine approach:

It should also be noted that I have more followers than @VDAY. Which is in itself a problem right?!


Much love