On February 14, I took part in possibly the largest movement ever for human rights, and certainly for women’s rights. If you’re living in a cave (and I’m not judging if you are, there’s very little wifi in caves), One Billion Rising is a movement that seeks to end the cycle of violence against women. More than 200 countries (on the record, that is) participated on V-Day. My Facebook wall feed was inundated with stories, pictures, videos of events happening all around the globe, as women, men, and children stood up in unity. I was even seeing stories pop up of politicians dancing and pledging to make this issue their #1 priority.
I was involved in a flashmob dance at the local mall and attended an event at a local bar which raised money for the community’s Women’s Center. There was spoken word poetry, prayer, and stories — some heart-wrenchingly vulnerable which spoke of abuse at the hands of men. And dancing. Lots of dancing.
Yesterday and last week — during fundraising dance workshops — I was approached by women thanking me for my support. At the dance workshops I was one of only three males (one being an 8-year old boy, the other helping with the sound). There were more men at last night’s event, but still not a big male presence (many relegated themselves to the edges of the bar as quiet witnesses). Whenever I was thanked I never knew how to respond. I didn’t want to be thanked. I thought it my duty to do what I was doing. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that part of the reason I didn’t want to be thanked was guilt.
I’ll let you in on something. I did not jump into this movement head first with wild excitement. For those who don’t know me, I’m an introvert. I’m quiet and my nature has always been reserved. I’ve always supported this cause with my heart, but I was not comfortable with the idea of putting myself out there, especially being only one of a few (and sometimes the only) males.
I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I would participate in the dance flashmob at the mall. What would people think? What would my male friends think if they saw me dancing in formation with a couple dozen females? These were actual thoughts I had. I’m not proud of them. In the end I decided to commit to it though, because I realized that this was not about me — it was about supporting something that I am very impassioned about, and I had to let go of any fear and anxiety. I especially found it important because of the lack of male involvement. I guess I felt some sort of duty to represent, to let women and girls know that they are not alone in this fight, and also to hopefully inspire other men to join in.
At the event I even got on stage with around eight women and performed the flashmob dance in front of a full house and cameras. Being the lone male was starting to not bother me. I was starting to feel pride in my participation; honour to be included in such an important time in our history.
A poem called “Manifesta to young women and girls” by Eve Ensler was read; here’s a short excerpt:
HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL BE TOLD:
Find a man
The world is scary
Don’t go out
You are weak
Don’t care so much
They’re only animals
Don’t be so intense
Don’t cry so much
You can’t trust anyone
Don’t talk to strangers
People will take advantage of you…
I could write a “Manifesto for young men and boys” in the same manner about what we’re told (e.g., “Don’t cry so much”, except with the words “so much” crossed out). Such a manifesto would be the reason that I (and, I feel, many other men) have such a hard time putting ourselves out there, expressing what we’re really feeling on the inside. Being vulnerable. This is the only reason I can think of why there aren’t way more men actively involved. I know in my heart that this disproportion is not a true reflection of the actual sentiment.
There is a lot of cultural conditioning to shake off, for both females and males. One Billion Rising inspires me; the women of the world inspire me. I pledge to do my part and attempt to spread the inspiration outward from me, to women and men.
It’s taking some time, but I can feel that men are waking up and realizing what this male-dominated culture is doing to Mother Earth and all that she nurtures. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you for your patience.
[Feature photo: DMahendra]