Three Passions and Three Essential Questions for the Movement
Three of my inner most interests and passions—my fervor for fostering youth leaders, intrigue with the power of social media and technology, and appreciation for dance and performing arts—were on full display at the closing plenary session of the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference.
Social Media: During her plenary address, Carmen Rios of Spark Movement highlighted the power of social media and digital technology in mobilizing and organizing the masses to counter dominant messages of rape culture. Carmen, a feminist activist and blogger, described the ways that social media could be used a tool to combat sexism, such as her timely response to Dr. Phil’s twitter post asking “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? #teenaccused.” When Carmen learned of victim-blaming tweet, she utilized her weapon of choice—social media—to fight against the familiar victim-blaming. She launched a Change.org petition titled: “Dr. Phil (@DrPhil): Sex Without Consent Is Never OK! Apologize for “Sex With Drunk Girls” Tweet,” which garnered more than 2,500 signatures. More than asking him to simply delete his tweet, Carmen challenged Dr. Phil to take concrete steps to use his platform to educate Americans about the realities of sexual assault.
While listening to Carmen, I couldn’t help but think of the opportunities for the violence against women’s movement to utilize social media. If the movement developed a strong social media arm that partnered with creative violence prevention campaigns, they could have timely responses to current events. This would move the needle towards promoting gender equality, changing social norms, and shift the conversation.
Youth Voice: It was so amazing to see an entire track dedicated to prevention, with so many youth leaders speaking about their experiences. It was particularly inspiring to hear from one of Move to End Violence’s cohort organizations, A Long Walk Home on their Girl/Friends Summer Institute and Jacob Chevalier from Stand & Serve. Having youth as future change agents is the key to ending violence against women and girls.
Dance: The concluding activity for the conference was a delightful surprise—a flash mob dance to 1 Billion Rising’s “Break the Chain” song. Imagine a room full of advocates, survivors, youth, activists, dancing and singing out against violence against women and girls. Being in Hollywood and a block away from Hollywood High Performing Arts Magnet where I studied dance, I was so excited to join in the flash mob! The lyrics and synced dance moves encouraging us all to break the chains of abuse, oppression, sexism, etc. Although some may not feel that dance is a method to prevent violence, it is similar to other forms of movement such as tai chi and yoga—I find that it can be really powerful and therapeutic. This work is tough and for those who work on the frontline and in the trenches with survivors, at times we get stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out—we need to practice self-care as a movement. Dance is an excellent self-care strategy—get up out our seats, dance, sing, express ourselves, and just let go and have fun.
In addition to these connections, the plenary sessions also reflected some of the key points we presented during one of the Move to End Violence workshops, “Ending Violence against Girls and Women: The Three Most Essential Questions for our Movement.”
The workshop engaged our participants in mapping out our movement ecosystems. Specifically, the session covered three questions:
1. Who are the actors in the movement?
2. What are the issues we address in what movement?
3. What are the strategies and tools used to address the issues?
Some of my observations from the workshop, plenary, and conference as a whole related to the actors, issues, and strategies are:
Actors—What about the Youth?
During the discussion of the actors it was noted that there were a subset of folks who were missing or at the margins the movement ecosystem such as people of color, men, LGBTQ, and youth.
Issues—We Got Issues!
One of the participants shared: “The table I was at began mapping ‘our issues’ such as competition for funding, divides in domestic violence and sexual assault, lack of intersectional work around race, gender, class, etc. And then Trina came around and we all had a good laugh when she redirected us that we were supposed to be mapping the issues we work on in the movement, not ’our issues’! As we began listing the issues we work on, we realized that our issues/problems with the movement mirror the issues that we work on and the root of oppression/domination and the ways we hate and divide ourselves that detract from our bigger goal.”
Direct service and advocacy were the most used practices within the movement to end violence against girls and women; however, as we can tell with Carmen’s plenary, social media is a resource and opportunity to leverage and build social norms change that is cost effective and isn’t resource intensive while being able to connect folks around the world.
The 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference theme this year was, “Inspire a Movement, Invest in Change, Imagine…,” and it definitely met its mark with me. Carmen’s use of digital technology was an inspiration to the cutting edge new practices available for the movement. Through Jacob Chevalier and the prevention track, I experienced the true investment in the future generation of leaders. Dancing and singing in a room full of advocate-survivors, I imagined that the world would look like if women and girls were truly free to live without violence.
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