You could spend the 14th of February entwined in your lover’s arms, paying double the usual price for a candlelit dinner, playing drinking games with your single friends about how soon the couples in the restaurant are going to break up, eating copious amounts of chocolates and watching Sleepless in Seattle, getting married, or losing your virginity.
Or you could spend this Friday taking a stand against gender-based violence. One Billion Rising is a campaign that uses dance and music to raise awareness about violence against women. Today, all around the world, women, men, girls, and boys are meeting in public places – places where women deserve to feel safe but often don’t – to dance as a statement against violence.
But how can dancing end violence, you may well ask. Sure, we’re not going to wake up tomorrow in a violence-free world. But bringing the issue of violence against women into the public sphere, making it a topic of public discussion, and illustrating that there is a critical mass of people who are willing to publicly renounce violence – all of these things help address the injustice, guilt, shame, and fear associated with experiencing violence.
But why do this on Valentine’s Day? Well, if the whole point of Valentine’s Day (apart from the capitalist goal of hyper-consumerism) is to celebrate love, what better day to choose to encourage respect, communication, and non-violence – in my view, the very foundations of love. Furthermore, research illustrates that most violence against women is perpetrated by their intimate partners so, clearly, work needs to be done on how some men are treating their loved ones. Intimate parter rape is not even legally recognised as a crime in most countries and in Cambodia, for example, rates of violence against women increase on Valentine’s Day. And you know, when people start buying guns for Valentine’s Day something is very wrong.
V-Day, as it’s now called, is not just about women. Police in Cambridge, U.K., for example are using the 14th of February to raise awareness about violence against men in intimate partnerships. The V-Men site also encourages discussions and reflections on men’s involvement in preventing violence against women. So far, it still seems to be mostly women who are taking part in the One Billion Rising events around the world but, hopefully, as we move towards an understanding of gender-based violence as EVERYONE’S issue, more men will join the movement.
So, whatever your plans are for February 14th, take a moment to think about, talk about, or dance about ensuring that love is safe, enjoyable, and respectful for all.