Piccadilly Gardens was yesterday host to a large group of women and men, holding a ‘flashmob’ to support the One Billion Rising campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of violence and discrimination against women all over the world. Through a combination of dance, song and protest it has united people globally to say enough is enough. The protest lasted around two hours, and included a minutes silence for all past atrocities against women. It was put on by a number of organisations, which included the Pankhurst Centre. An evening event with music, poetry and theatre was also put on by the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme.
The reasons for this event are clear. One third of women (1 billion) are raped or beaten in their lifetime. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in some parts of the world. Many women have to put up with sexist behaviour on a regular basis in their work, social or family lives and often feel unable to speak out as they fear the consequences. Ignorant and sexist attitudes still exist in all societies.
As a man, I feel it’s particularly important to support such campaigns. I want to make the point this is a male issue too. If it’s viewed as just a women’s issue, then it won’t be solved. The whole point is that we’re all human, we’re all life and we’re all dependent on one another. A lot of men feel uncomfortable speaking out about women’s rights, or gay rights (but not so much racism!) I think there’s a perception it’s somehow emasculating. All these issues are about discrimination, and they’re all as important as each other.
What does protesting actually achieve? It’s a valid question I’ve heard a lot of people ask before. What protesting does is to raise awareness. It raises awareness which is harnessed in people’s everyday actions. Even if people don’t immediately accept what they see or hear; if it’s true it will stick with them. There’s no hiding from the truth. I think this point is missed by some as you can’t always see the effects straight away, but this is how it works. Too many people in the UK are unaware of too much, but no one can be unaffected when they hear about some of the things that go on in this world. Protest and campaigning can fill the gap often left by the mainstream media.
We all have a masculine and feminine side, whatever category our bodies fall into. Denying either of those will cause suffering. I hope violence and discrimination against women will be ended as soon as possible, though I fear it could be a while. The most important thing is for people to educate themselves, speak out and take whatever action they can. This applies to any issue which is causing people to suffer. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.