Monday, January 28, 2013

Why I'm Rising

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When I was at the 2012 NOW Conference in Baltimore, I had the privilege of hearing Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and women’s rights activist, deliver the keynote address. She discussed One Billion Rising, her campaign to end violence against women on the global level. It is so named because one billion women - that’s one out of every three women in the world - will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. On February 14, 2013, Ensler wants the world to rise, end the violence, and create a better, safer, happier world.

After hearing Ensler speak, I was rallied to action. I decided on the spot to rise along with her and millions of other women across the globe. One of the many reasons I am rising is to stop street harassment. It’s such an insidious form of violence against women, since most people don’t even know that street harassment is an actual issue. Considering that almost every woman and LGBT+ individual has experienced street harassment at least once in his or her lifetime, it’s surprising that this is something that activists have to raise awareness about.

As someone who was born and raised in Manhattan, which contains 1.5 million of New York City’s total population of eight million, it’s hard not to experience street harassment. It’s gotten to the point that I’m desensitized to it, at least in its milder forms (leering, catcalls, etc.). My mother always gets really creeped out when she sees men - especially those significantly older than me - looking me up and down on the street, but I don’t even notice it anymore. Street harassment has just become part of my life, a necessary hazard of living in a city and walking on the street all the time.

That is a huge problem. It is not acceptable that street harassment has become no big deal in our society, that men and women alike trivialize it. Street harassment is a serious issue in itself, making women feel unsafe, humiliated, and threatened in their own neighborhoods. It can also be a precursor to even worse crimes, like sexual and physical assault. Those of us who understand the brevity of street harassment need to educate the world about this pressing issue. We need to raise awareness and make sure the public understands what street harassment is and how we can stop it.

“We are rising because we are over girls being trafficked and sold and reduced and objectified,” Ensler said at the NOW Conference. I can certainly empathize: I am over standing by as womankind is objectified by street harassment. And that is why I’m rising.

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