1 Billion Rising San Francisco
February 14 used to be Valentine's Day, but this year Eve Ensler hijacked the date to mark the climax of her worldwide anti-rape dance/protest known as 1 Billion Rising. I attended the San Francisco 1 Billion Rising rally, where "dancing is a revolution."
When I first showed up at Civic Center Plaza, right in the middle of the protest someone was holding up a big sign with a Bible quote.
Oh wait, did I say Bible? My bad. I meant the Qu'ran. Silly me. Everyone knows that the Bible is anti-woman; thus it would be inappropriate to quote it at a feminist rally.
I thought perhaps her central location was a fluke, but I couldn't have been wronger; the organizers then positioned Ms. Qu'ran and her sign directly behind the podium as the event's keynote speaker and 1 Billion Rising top honcho Susan Celia Swan gave a speech (seen here with Supervisors David Chiu, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim).
Then when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (with the grey hair and glasses) came to the podium, she was positioned directly behind him as well, in THE prime messaging spot.
Yes, that's correct: This wasn't just a protest in front of San Francisco City Hall, it ended up being essentially an official act of government, as Mayor Ed Lee declared his endorsement of the action...
...along with the entire Board of Supervisors, most of whom gave speeches as well. Which is not really surprising, since most of them are to the left of Lenin, but still.
To blend in with the crowd, I picked up one of the many unused signs scattered about for participants to use.
The 1 Billion Rising event organizers had a tent in which participants were handed blank signs that read "I am RISING because..." and you filled out the rest. People could then either carry their personalized messages with them, or display them in a sort of gallery in a nearby tent. The example sign at the sign-up table said "I'm PISSED at the Oppressions!"
But despite the organizers' valiant attempt at "message control," as soon as you let people say whatever they want, things very quickly go off the rails. A brief visit to the gallery tent revealed some odd beliefs, such as...
"I am RISING because PG&E SmartMeters can explode, burn my house shatter my shoulder but can't shatter my SPIRIT!"
"I am RISING because We must fight not to grow anymore Rapist. Heal Them with the power of Love Love!"
"I am RISING because I am a mother and my dauqntes will not live in fear!"
"The Drama Has to Stop!" Indeed. Couldn't agree more.
The organizers posted a sign of their own at the front on the tent, essentially summarizing the Enslerite ethos:
"VAGINA is not a dirty word. Being a woman is a wondeful, beautiful thing!"
But most messages at 1 Billion Rising protests inevitably end up being what I call TTTs: Trite Tautological Truisms. This "protest sign" is a prototypical example. "Violence Sucks." Wow! Bold notion. In other news, the nation's physicists held a rally today to insist that "Gravity Attracts."
The main problem I have with 1 Billion Rising and V-Day and SlutWalk and all the rest is that they are purposeless — protests "against" a non-existent strawman. The only legitimate rationale behind having any kind of political protest is to support one side or the other in a contested ideological battle. But in this case, we're protesting against rape, even though there is nobody in this country who supports rape.
Sure, there are rapists out there, but I kinda get the feeling none would go to a rally like this to have their minds changed, and they sure as hell don't care what a bunch of protesters have to say on the topic (presuming on the off-chance that a rapist would ever hear of events like these, which is extremely doubtful). Rapists already know that rape is "wrong," but somehow that knowledge never dissuaded them in the past. Furthermore, there already are laws against rape and sexual abuse — laws with amongst the most severe punishments in our legal system. So: everybody (except for psychopaths) already hates rape. Rape is already as illegal as it can be. Rape is universally loathed. What more do you want?
Another TTT: "Rape Is Unacceptale" (sic). Was this ever in dispute? Can you find anyone, anywhere — at least in the Western World — who disagrees? Then what's the purpose of stating it? Maybe at the next protest I will hold up a sign with the controversial daring manifesto: "Ice Is Cold."
Another shocking claim.
The purpose of all this, the organizers might contend, is simply to get people to "Think About It," as this Riser suggests. Yeah, OK, so I've thought about it: Rape is bad. Yep. Baddy bad bad. Now what?
All of this would make sense if there was a concerted drive on the part of the protesters to increase law enforcement efforts against rape and rapists. Stricter laws, longer sentences, more police officers, and so forth. Even I might get behind that.
Instead, some of the protesters demanded the exact opposite:
"Ignore Their Laws: Respect Each Other" was the largest message in the rally's street-chalking area. Presumably written by an extremely naive anarchist-leaning Riser, the thrust seems to be: We hate society and reject its laws, so to be consistent we have to reject laws against rape too: but despite that, we should all behave nicely anyway, because it's the right thing to do. The problem with this, and with the entire anarchist worldview, and with the futility of 1 Billion Rising in general, is that there are bad people who will do bad things regardless of how many encouragements and blandishments you give them. This has been true since the dawn of history. And that fact — that bad people always violate social norms and moral dictates — is why legal systems evolved in the first place. Rapists don't listen to reason, they can't be shamed into stopping, so the only way to deal with them is to make rape illegal, convict them of the crime, lock them in prison AND THROW AWAY THE KEY.
But anarchists don't want to hear that. They think, falsely, because anarchists are stupid, that people only misbehave because they exist in a rigidly structured, rule-bound, hierarchical society, and that if we only lived in pure free anarchy, then there would be no anger, and thus no misbehavior and everything would be peachy keen. Of course, in reality, any society-wide social experiment along these lines would last about 48 hours before everyone demanded the return of law enforcement.
But not at 1 Billion Rising. Here, cops are the enemy (at least to some of the participants).
Later, I saw traces of chalk messaging battles, so at least there was some disagreement: First someone wrote "Fuck the Police," then a dissenter came along and tried to alter the message by changing "Fuck" to "Sp♡ok." Yet another person came along and re-added "Fuck" in red above the message, to once again reaffirm "Fuck the Police." And to make matters even more odd, when I tried to take a picture of it, some of the very people who likely wrote the message tried to block me by standing on it.
You see buddy, you aren't the problem. You're not a rapist. Any sane non-rapist man is "creating a culture of consent." Policemen create a culture of consent. Old-fashioned values create a culture of consent. "Patriarchy" is a leftist canard dredged up from history as an excuse to overthrow existing society. Come to think of it, you are a problem, but that's a different discussion.