Thursday, February 21, 2013

Valentine's Day and One Billion Rising

Valentine's Day was about a week ago and I can't help but reflect on this interesting holiday.  It is one that people either love or hate or plain feel indifferent about. It's commercialized, but what holiday isn't? I mean isn't every major holiday, from Christmas-to Halloween- to Easter a huge payday for some corporation?
YEA, FIGHT THE POWER...but can we also fight self-righteousness?
Even knowing that, I was never actually cynical about the holiday. As a 28 year old in the Bay Area, I feel like the cool thing to do is scoff at everything Valentine's related. But I actually enjoy the day, whether I'm single or not. As a kid I loved getting all those cards at elementary school parties. I would snip out the cartoon characters for self made art projects. Yet the best part of all of that was the CANDY, more specifically the CHOCOLATE. My love for chocolate, especially for chocolate on Valentine's day increased exponentially with time. When I got to college, my love for chocolate became a self-proclaimed holiday. My college friends would recall that I called Valentines Day "Chocolate Overdose Day" (C.O.D for short). I loooved Chocolate Overdose Day (almost as much as I loved Doughnut Day). Since I spent most of my college life (and most of my life overall) single, I would grab my single buddies, give them chocolate, ignore the canoodling couples, and go out to dinner. It was amazing. The more my friends learned of Chocolate Overdose Day, the more chocolate I got. I got macaroons, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies that were dyed red for the holiday (thanks Arshad!) and one time my friend swiped me into the college dining hall in the middle of a blizzard just so I could eat ALL the chocolate they had out for their theme dinner. I stalked chocolate fountains, I ripped into Godiva boxes, I became a chocolate bandit that jacked candy from free student events. Epic chocolate WIN ya'll, that's what Valentines Day meant to me.
dude, this guy is random...
But things change, as they tend to do, and I have been in a relationship for almost 4 years now. That means that I've actually had a Valentine and celebrated it as so. It is nice to share the holiday that is supposedly for lovers with a romantic partner, especially since it's sort of a novel experience for me to share it that way.

But Valentines Day changed yet again for me a few years ago. It changed for me when I became a part of Yoni Ki Baat (YKB), the South Asian Vagina monologues. I blogged about my experiences with the show before, and how special it was for me. I worked as a domestic violence advocate at a non-profit that works with South Asian women prior to moving to California and since then, women's issues,  particularly issues relating to violence against women have held a very heavy place in my heart. YKB really introduced me to the world of the Vagina Monologues and the amazing works and efforts of Eve Ensler. This show was a way to express our thoughts, our sufferings, our voices as women through poems, monologues and shows. It was a way to unite women and girls and express ourselves to a larger audience who came to hear our voices. So I was very excited to find out about V Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that was started by Eve Ensler. I really appreciate it's placement of Valentines day, as it juxtaposes a day meant to celebrate love with a day of remembrance for those who have been violated, abused and killed in acts that occur in the absence of love.
So this Valentine's Day, I joined in V-Day's One Billion Rising movement in Oakland's City Hall. One billion Rising was an international gathering of people in honor of V-Day. According to their website "On February 14, 2013, a one-day event was held, a call for one billion women around the world to join together to dance in a show of collective strength" and was held on the 15th anniversary of the V-Day movement. I came to the city hall grounds alone, not sure what to expect. I saw a sea of red, a sea of men, women and children who had all comes to join in on this campaign. And I danced. Yea I had no idea what I was doing, supposedly there was a Youtube video put out by the organization on how to do the dance (I totally missed the memo). Regardless I danced on the steps of Oakland City hall. But this is the weird thing. As I was dancing, I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion. If anything, I think public dancing is silly, so where the hell was all the emotion coming from? Maybe it, was the song, which was pretty uplifting. Or the video I saw earlier that day of female inmates dancing with One Billion Rising volunteers at an SF prison. I couldn't forget how happy they were to do a simple dance together ( Bureau of justice statistics have shown that nearly 6 in 10 women in prison have suffered physical or sexual abuse in the past).

    Seriously, take out 3:48 minutes of your day to watch this video, it'll make your face leak

Maybe it was just all of us women just throwing our hands in the air, dancing in unison as an enthusiastic crowd cheered us on and took pictures. I'm sure there's a super awkward video of doing the wrong dance moves out there somewhere. In that moment, all of the work I have done regarding violence against women just came rolling onto me. All of the stories and tears I heard firsthand from being a domestic violence counselor, the pain I saw in my own home, the stories I read every day of rape, and violence and gang rapes and women not getting paid enough and our reproductive rights being stomped on and abortion rights being chipped away and legitimate rape and birth control control being an issue because old white men say no, ALL of that just caught up with me...and for a few moments I really though I was going to start bawling hysterically in front of all these people. I didn't want to be a buzzkill, I also didn't want my blubbering face to go viral on Youtube, so I just held it in. The point is, I never thought that something as a simple as a 3-4 minute dance with a group of strangers in red could be so powerful, but it was.

               OHMIGOD, I JUST found the video of me awkwardly dancing!! HAHAHA You can see me to the right side dancing at the top of the steps. I'm the one wearing a black and white striped dress dancing totally out of sync with everyone else

Later, my boyfriend joined in and watched other dancers who joined the show for V-Day. they were wonderful and talented, and it felt amazing to be with him to experience this on Valentines day.

Later on, the bf and I did end up getting dinner at an amazing place called Pizzaiolo, where I ate myself silly and yes...had an amazing chocolate mousse.

I bring up the dinner and my boyfriend because V-Day also makes me realize how lucky I am to have a partner who is not violent in any form. One who loves and respects me and lets me buy as much dessert and port wine as I want on Valentines day without complaining. One who uplifts me and loves that I am an empowered woman. But most of all, I am grateful that he actually joined me at the One Billion Rising event because I asked him to come. I am glad that my partner in love supports an end to violence against women ( and men), and I couldn't ask for a better Valentine's Day than that.
Activism, love, remembrance and coal oven idea of a great V-Day and Valentine's Day