Do You Know What Would Have Been the Best Valentine’s Day Ever?

A day when V-Day’s One Billion Rising had won, and no women anywhere were raped or beaten.

One Billion Rising event at the San Francisco County Jail #5 on Valentine’s Day in San Bruno, California

San Francisco Sheriff's Captain Kevin Paulson (C) and Eliana Lopez, wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi (R), cheer with a group of inmates after dancing together in opposition to violence against women in a One Billion Rising event at the San Francisco County Jail #5 on Valentine’s Day in San Bruno, California. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Sara Benincasa is a blogger, comedian, and author of 'Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.'

Was your Valentine’s Day boring, disappointing, lonely or just generally all about funding foreign wars? Are greeting cards, candy hearts and flowers just not your thing? Perhaps you’ll have a better time next year if you do what a whole lot of folks around the globe did yesterday: Rise up and fight for women’s rights.

Fifteen years ago, Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler launched a global initiative, V-Day, to counter violence against women. This year, she kicked it up a notch. Under the moniker One Billion Rising, the group organized an international series of Valentine’s Day actions ranging from flash mobs to theater performances to parades to street protests to online activism. Women in 203 countries around the world had pledged to participate, and international support was widespread from Somalia to Afghanistan to the United States.

Ensler herself traveled to Africa to lend her support at City of Joy, a center of healing and educational training for rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is sponsored by V-Day.

Rap mogul Russell Simmons tweeted, “1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her life. Today I join #1billionrising to demand an end to violence. RT!”

Charlize Theron and other celebrities filmed awareness videos in advance of Valentine’s Day:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) used the day to rally support for the Violence Against Women Act, tweeting, “I rise with people of good conscience to stand up against intolerable acts of violence against women around the world. #1billionrising #VAWA”.

V-Day proclaimed that One Billion Rising was “the largest day of mass action ever,” and the worldwide event did receive global support from entities as diverse as MTV and the United Nations. The entertainment network featured One Billion Rising on its social action blog, reposting a short film initially released in September of 2012 (embedded below).

The Office of the General Secretary of the United Nations and its “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign” represented for the event at U.N. headquarters in New York City. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement declaring that “this must be more than a day of advocacy. It must be a day that triggers action.”

The One Billion Rising campaign initially launched on February 14, 2012, in response to the U.N. statistic cited by Simmons and many thousands of others among the rising: one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

With nearly seven billion global citizens, that works out to one billion female victims of violence.

OneBillonRising livestreamed events taking place around the world throughout the day on February 14, 2013.

  • V-Day board member Rosario Dawson and Glenn Close celebrated and advocated at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
  • Actress and V-Day board member Jane Fonda hosted a massive Zumba fitness event in Los Angeles’ LA Live Nokia Plaza.
  • A dance party erupted in Washington, D.C.’s Farragut Park to support the Violence Against Women Act.
  • A dance party in Tallahassee, Florida, drew 300 participants.
  • A flash mob broke into dance at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois.
  • A few dozen dancers even joined the Billion Rising outside in the snow in Steubenville, Ohio, currently infamous for a rape case allegedly involving local high school football players.     

The organizers of the One Billion Rising campaign asked that each participant, male and female alike, take a pledge “to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women. It can be a simple action, or a monumental one; it can be personal, or political; it can quiet or loud, but these actions—taken together—will create change.”

Need some examples of actions to rise up with? Try writing your Congressional representative to urge him or her to support the Violence Against Women Act; volunteer at a local domestic violence shelter; tweet a link to an anti-violence organization; write a blog post about the importance of ending violence against women.

In the end, One Billion Rising was a success regardless of whether or not accountants can prove it actually engaged the efforts of one billion women around the world.

The V-Day campaign focused all manner of international media attention and sent an atypical Valentine’s Day message, one that surely needs to be heard: Stop violence against women.

What is one thing you will do next year to end violence against women? State your action in COMMENTS.

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