Graduating student James Relativo admitted to not being good at dancing, and his female friend even made fun of him for it. Yet, he knew he had to join her and 50 other members of the University of the Philippines-Diliman community in dancing to the tune of One Billion Rising recently.
It’s more than just dancing, said Relativo, chairperson of the youth group Anakbayan’s UP Diliman chapter. “Ito yung gesture para bumangon sa pagkakabusabos (This is a gesture to rise against a forced state of thrall).” Relativo added that joining the event was a way for him to acknowledge that he once helped oppress women in some way.
The One Billion Rising campaign, which involved 200 countries worldwide, was founded by “Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler as a call for people to “strike, rise and dance” for women’s rights. This was in light of United Nations data that say one out of three women worldwide will experience being beaten or raped.
“We knew we had to escalate our efforts to break through the patriarchal wall of oppression and denial, to transform the mindset that has [normalized] this violence,” wrote Ensler.
Relativo was one of the many men who joined in the event, which was held in the Oblation statue’s shadow in the Diliman campus before the participants went to the main concert at Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. Although the majority of the people were women, there were also male speakers, including UP President Alfredo Pascual and UP Diliman Chancellor Caesar Saloma.
Men need to call for change to attain “the freedom of men from the belief that women are inferior beings,” said Sociology professor Gerry Lanuza.
Participation in the One Billion Rising campaign in UP also involved the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. According to John Nelvin Lucero, chairperson of UP Society of Progressive Students for Gender Emancipation and Human Rights, such participation shows that “gender equality… can not be attained by a single gender sector alone.” For him, One Billion Rising promoted “a sort of inclusivity” needed.
For Erra Zabat of women’s rights group Gabriela Youth, this showed that Filipinos of any class or sexual orientation see the situation that women endure in a society where “everyone is oppressed” in some way. “Pakikiisa siya sa ating pinaglalaban (It is solidarity with our struggle),” Zabat said about men’s participation in the campaign.
Women were cited to be suffering from violence and sexual abuse. “Victim blaming, fear of reprisal from perpetrators, and lack of family and community support are some of the factors which prevent women victims from coming out to seek justice,” the campaign said in a unity statement. Zabat also noted that women’s biological needs, such as maternity leaves, were not being addressed.
“Hindi kami narito upang agawin ang tagumpay ng mga kababaihan (We are not here to take the victory of women for ourselves),” said Lanuza. Instead, men are with women in building a society that is “free from oppression,” he added.