Protestors bring attention to violence through spoken word, dance

Beth Marer-Garcia and Wendy Harrison hold a sign that depicts the fact of sexual assault in the United States in hope to wake up individuals across America. photo by Francesca Alati/The Guardsman

By Lavinia Pisani
The Guardsman

Instead of passing out chocolates and roses on Valentine’s Day, hundreds used the holiday to bring attention to sexual violence against women.

As part of the internationally organized global campaign One Billion Rising Day, Women’s Studies Department Chair Leslie Simon organized a reading of The Vagina Monologues at Ocean campus’s Ram Plaza at noon, Valentine’s Day.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play, originally performed in New York City. The monologues explore the word “vagina” and women’s thoughts and sentiments toward their bodies and sexuality.

An anonymous member of the San Francisco School of the Arts drumming team drums the anthem for One Billion Rising. It is a blend of salsa and brazilian beats played by a variety of high school members. photo by Francesca Alati/The Guardsman

“One of the aspects that I love about The Vagina Monologues is that it celebrates women sexuality at the same time calling attention to violence against women,” Simon said.

Four participants read their assigned monologues and then invited four volunteers from the audience to read on the spot.

Some of the monologues’ titles were, “If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?,” “If your vagina would talk, what would it say in two words?,” “My angry vagina,” and “My village,” which describes how one woman felt after being raped.

The crowd was mostly silent and laughed during some funny moments.

“It is important to express the way you feel,” Jenna Price, a City College nursing student said.

People in more than 200 countries participated in the day of action.

In San Francisco, more than 1500 people gathered in front of City Hall to await the 4 p.m. demonstration.

Within an hour, Mayor Ed Lee and District Attorney George Gascón joined in as the crowd waited to dance. “Violence against women and girls is everyone’s issue,” Lee said.

Ensler organized the worldwide peaceful protest to bring awareness to the fact that 1 out of 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during their lifetime.

“One billion women violated is an atrocity, one billion women dancing is a revolution,” according to the event’s main website.

Melissa Clark, a doctor at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, has witnessed atrocities against women all over the world, including South Sudan and Haiti.

“I see so much violence against women and girls that unfortunately nothing shocks me anymore,” Clark said.

Organizers of the event encouraged participants to think beyond a single, narrowly focused movement.

Hundreds of women gather at City Hall on Feb. 14 to dance and raise awareness for violence against women around the world. The One Billion Rising is an annual event spanning across 21 countries as well as several cities in the U.S. (Francesca Alati / The Guardsman)



“This is really not about a women’s movement but about the rising and reclaiming of humanity,” Magalie Bonneau Marcil, an event organizer, said.

The campaign has taken special relevance in the past couple years as Congress has delayed an extension to the Violence Against Women Act.

The Senate voted this month to reauthorize the bill which was originally passed and authorized in 1994.

To reach President Obama’s desk, it must also pass the House of Representatives, where it was blocked by Republicans last year who took grievance with new protections afforded to LGBT people, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans.

“This issue should be beyond debate—the House should follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away,” President Barack Obama said in a statement, as reported by the New York Times. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue—it’s an issue of justice and compassion.”

Crime Mapping shows that San Francisco has had around 300 sexual assaults since the beginning of 2013.

City College police said they have not had any sexual assaults reported this year, but in 2012 there was one rape reported on Ocean campus and one other sexual assault reported at Mission campus.

Side bar:

A free self-defense class will start Feb. 23 at Mission campus from 12-1:50 p.m. in Room 109. For more information, contact the Women’s Studies Department, 415-239-3899.

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