In the evolution of my understanding of what it is to be a human being on this planet and what it is to be woman, Tuesday became an important day when I opened my mailbox and found a brief heartfelt plea to read an article printed in The Guardian and to watch a small YouTube video, 'One Billion Rising (Short Film)'. The story was headed with a question: 'One Billion Rising: Together can we end violence against women?'
'One Billion Rising' is the name of the global movement, founded by Eve Ensler. Eve is an American playwright, performer, feminist, activist and artivist, best known for her play 'The Vagina Monologues.' A clear product of our changing times, her campaign, 'One Billion Rising,' is not just a call to every woman who has been violated, beaten, raped, mutilated, burned and sold, but also to every man. Ending violence against women is as important as ending poverty, aids, or global warming. Eve is asking every one of us to walk out of our homes, jobs, and schools on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2013, and find our friends, group, place and music and dance with our feet on the Earth.
Reading Eve's story was powerful enough, but after watching the film, it was easy for me to see why this movement has drawn an avalanche of support from both thousands of organisations and individuals. Unable to contain the tidal wave of emotion in my own body, tears streamed through my fingers as I howled out both my pain that such suffering continues and my love for a species who, in spite of everything, finds the courage to rise up and move beyond the suffering to the happiness, dignity, and self-love that we simply know is our birthright.
This campaign is clearly a movement of the heart that speaks directly to the heart of humanity as a whole. And it was to this heart that I pleaded for help. This was triggered by the beautiful desert woman in the film, who lifted her patchwork face of skin-grafts and pointed triumphantly towards the Heavens with a look in her eyes that said, "Now I live!" My impulse was to ask for the impossible. Overwhelmed, I wanted the words to express the inexpressible. And in the hours that followed, I went through the process of remembering the powerlessness of childhood rape and sexual brutality, mental cruelty and physical violence. Then I looked for the root cause of this suffering in the Genesis story of a bible which I had blamed for decades as I struggled with feeling alienated, disempowered, betrayed and shamed by an unjust society. Finally, after much pondering, I remembered all those things I had forgotten and awakened into the greater truth that I have discovered for myself along the way of my 13 year healing journey - 'we are the creators of our own reality and as we see so it shall be.' I experienced a great sense of peace as I saw that I am simply not the bridge between human ignorance and human awareness that I have yearned so long to become. I am but one pebble amongst millions of other pebbles all doing what we need to do in order to heal the tongue-bone of human suffering. Wisdom is not a quality limited to the monarchy and privileged few.
Having healed and matured my once battered sexuality, body, and mind with good healers and a good degree of self-knowledge and self-awareness, it was good to revisit the story of Adam and Eve. For just as I identified with both the victim-hood and power of the nameless desert woman in the film, who had likely had her face burned off by a husband or father, I found with unexpected joy a new identification with the bible's first woman.
In the taking of the apple of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, Eve is engaging with life. Back then the consequence was blame and shame and seeming eternal damnation, but having lived and learned that there is no blame and there is no shame in either our nakedness, our innocence, or the state of ignorance that has kept us from seeing our own perfection, here we stand, a billion women and rising strong, with all the men who love us, daring to take what is presented to us and engaging with our suffering for the purpose of living fully. As individuals we all have self-responsibility to live, but so too does humanity. Collective consciousness is nothing more than humanity taking responsibility for itself. By standing together now, and not allowing room for any of the old mind to come in, the old stuff will die. Just as I did once my eyes were open, we will simply leave it behind. My freedom has come from living without shame and guilt as I rise up to my own responsibilities and knowledge of what is good and evil in me. For in my exploration the only good I have found is the good one feels inside when what one does and what one says is in perfect alignment with what one values as truth and the only evil there is is not daring to live it. The only real responsibility a human being has is the self-responsibility to find the way to the commitment it takes to decide for truth.
Stella Creasy is MP for Walthamstow, Northeast London, UK, and Shadow Home Affairs Minister with responsibility for violence against women. She is taking the 'One Billion Rising' campaign to Parliament and, like Robert Redford and many others, has her own YouTube video speaking candidly about the need for change and new understanding. In my own YouTube film, created two years ago as a message of hope for children suffering sexual abuse and the scars that accompany it, I remind us of the UN decree in 2006 that says "no violence is justifiable and all violence is preventable." And I tell the children to hang on because we are coming for them. Together we are creating a new world.
If understanding is the necessary prerequisite for every person aspiring to common decency and cultivated sophistication, let us affirm together to increase ours and take a leaf from Eve's book. As we bite her apple let us not be afraid to admit that just because we may not know why it is we hurt others, when all in fact we seek is love, we can and will know as soon as we are ready. And in the remembering that we create our own reality and that as we see so shall it be, let us use our breath, will and imagination to dream a new world into being in which men and women, and the animals and plants of Earth, as well as our Creator, are finally united.