James Madison University’s Feminist Collective held a “Campus Rising” event last week in support of One Billion Rising, the world’s largest mass action to end violence against women. Our dedication to the campaign started last year in 2014 when Dr. Kristin Wylie introduced us to it, and we plan on participating far into the future as well. We partnered with many different groups on campus in order to stand together for one very special message.
The JMU Campus Rising went spectacularly, even if it was Friday the 13 and freezing outside. Every hour, we danced together in celebration of the survivors of intimate partner violence, pausing for a moment at the end in solemnity to remember that it is in the home where violence is most frequently acted out against women. We danced because we will not be quiet while another is afraid or hurt. Standing with survivors of intimate partner violence is not only a moment of solidarity with them, but also a poignant moment of opposition to their oppressors.
We rise to put an end to victim blaming, slut shaming, body shaming, and the culture of exemption that silences survivors. We rise to raise awareness of versatile and intersectional oppressions that perpetuate internalized patriarchal values. We rise to focus our collective power and to embody our school motto by being the change. Not only do we make changes through our actions and decisions, but we also are responsible for making changes as the next generation of voters, activists, friends, and teachers.
In between our dances (once an hour) we handed out flyers, pamphlets, and other resources including information about the local women’s shelter in Harrisonburg, First Step, and reminded students where there were resources available on campus. One of those resources is CARE (Campus Assault ResponsE) with whom we partnered with on this journey. Buttons with catchy feminist slogans were sold to raise money to donate to First Step. Our bestseller was the button with a picture of ovaries that said “Grow a pair.”
The whiteboard campaign was our way of extending our voices to the Internet. We asked passersby and members of the group alike to write whiteboard messages commemorating the afternoon. Many wrote about why standing in support of the survivors was important, including empowerment, love, and safety. Others wrote more broadly about how feminism has helped them feel included, welcomed, and supported here on the JMU campus.
Joining faculty and students to come together in support of victims and against oppressors was an amazing experience, and I hope that all those who stood up around the world get the same shiver when they think about it. The One Billion Rising Campaign is one that will thrive and grow, both on our campus and around the world.