Last Friday, February 14, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., 5C students danced for justice on Green Beach in support of One Billion Rising (OBR). OBR represents a global movement, founded by author of The Vagina Monologues Eve Ensler, where women and men around the world rise, release, dance, and demand an end of violence against women and girls. 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime, which is one billion women worldwide. OBR therefore represents a grassroots campaign to gather individuals within local communities to break the silence and release their stories as survivors of violence on the day of love—Valentine’s Day.
The event was heavily driven by students. Student leaders Iris Liu ’16 and Hannah Bower ’16 were inspired to plan the event when Eve Ensler came to the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on February 4. During the talk, Ensler encouraged students of the 5Cs to rise up and dance to take a strong stance against the violence committed to women and girls. Ensler appealed to the statistic that “300,000 girls are assaulted at college campuses every year,” urging the Claremont Colleges to host their own OBR event. With a short timeframe of ten days yet armed with determination and passion, Liu and Bower collaborated with students, faculty, and staff in the CMC Women’s Forum and Women in Leadership Alliance to structure the programming of the event, publicize, and mobilize relevant parties.
Liu explained the planning of OBR was “a really organic and collaborative effort.” Students, who attended Eve Ensler’s Ath talk, had a “general idea [of OBR] based on national publicity video,” so a group of interested parties sat around a table to brainstorm the event’s main goals and how these goals would be actualized. “We knew we wanted dancing, some kind of art, a lasting impression, and a lot of movement. The question was how to make the movement a bit structured with programming, given time constraints of attendees.”
The event was also passionately supported by administrators, including by not limited to Marisa Walter, Michelle Chamberlain, Diana Graves, Amy Bibbens, and Darren Roberts. Bower said, “The overwhelming support of administration is a poignant representation of what this event was doing to have this kind of support so quickly and so organically.” All students and staff who planned the event were connected based on their individual passion for the cause.
While attendance and publicity was a large consideration for organizers of the event, this year’s planning of OBR was predicated on introducing this kind of event rooted in passion an energy to the Claremont community. Bower explained, “A primary motivation was taking Eve’s words and putting into action. We dared to be optimistic. What did we have to lose?”
Throughout the event, attendees signed banners with their handprints to show solidarity. Essentially, the handprint allowed “everyone to leave a personal part of themselves behind on this special day, by lending a hand to break the chain against violence,” said Liu. The banners were later hung in the front of Bauer for the rest of Valentine’s Day.
At 11:30 a.m., students participated in a “moment of motion, where everyone held hands in concentric circles, to rise for justice against violence,” said Liu. While the circles represented solidarity, it also produced an image of a target for videographers and photographers capturing the event on top of the South Quad towers.
Bower explained the movement of motion fundamentally allowed for “rising, dancing, owning our bodies, and taking action based on something we have complete control over in being able to dance and celebrate the support.”
Outside of dancing and signing banners, students were greeted with two tables when entering the event. One table had red and pink bandanas to allow students to show solidarity and unification. The other table, organized by the Claremont Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, raised money to support victims of sex and labor trafficking by selling beautiful jewelry.
Isabel Wade ’16, who organized the table with the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, loved the event. Said Wade, “I was really proud that CMC hosted the event and the energy was incredible. I hope that people left the event wanting to do more about the issue and that hosting a booth to raise awareness about human trafficking encouraged people to get involved.”
Echoing Wade’s sentiments, attendees were pleased with the event. Given the event’s visibility of the event on Green Beach, over 100 students attended, both men and women. Bower said, “What made it a success was about the attendees, who were very eager, very responsive, and willing to be vulnerable.” As a “human issue,” the violence against women and girls is an issue that affects our entire society as a whole, which compels us “to step in as a unified community against the issue.”
Fewer men attended than women. Liu attributed this to the “insecurity” of young men regarding the issue of sexual assault and violence. “A lot of conversation thus far is that young men are automatically the bad guys,” so there is a tendency for fewer men to advocate against the issue. The centrality of the event, however, “started a conversation” among both men and women on Friday afternoon.
Moving forward from this conversation, One Billion Rising will be hosted as a yearly event on CMC’s campus. With strong partnerships with 5C organizations dedicated to the cause, the event will expand in years to come. Furthermore, CMC can now take a proactive rather than a reactive approach to address the issue. Beginning this focus on action, the Dean of Students Office is currently sponsoring Teal Dot, a new bystander engagement program at the 5Cs, to reduce sexual assault and sexual violence on campus.
As Liu puts it, “I have nothing but hope for the future.”