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.
A little lesson in photo editing:
From the stage, at a certain angle, one could take a photo encompassing the entire crowd, making it look pretty big.
Even from the front of the crowd looking toward the back, it can be made to appear like a sea of people (and note all the media on the platform to the left).
But walk to the back of Civic Center Plaza, and take a picture from a distance, and my oh my, it certainly seems like a small event!
See how deceptive photos can be, even when they're showing "reality"? Editors can choose which reality they want to show.
So, how many people were there? I'm terrible at crowd estimates, so I couldn't really say, but if forced to guess, I'd venture two thousand or so.
That may seem like a lot, but it felt tiny compared to the 50,000 protesters who had congregated at this exact spot just a couple weeks ago at the Walk for Life rally.
Of course, massive media showed up to cover yesterday's 2,000-strong left-wing rally, but there was practically no media on hand at all to cover the vastly larger conservative rally. Par for the course.
This is the sneaky side of media bias: deciding what to emphasize, and what to ignore. Everything they say in the newspaper may indeed be true; but it's the truths they don't tell you that are important.
The Revolutionary Communist Party showed up as well (and were embraced and accepted by the organizers, and not kicked out), still bearing some of their "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" signs leftover from the pro-choice rally earlier in the year.
The communists seemed to be very popular with media, and gave several interviews. I'm quite sure that the communists were never identified as such in the news segments — they never are.
Trust me on this: If the Tea Party had stood in a circle and made a little black boy dance for them, it would have been The Racist Event of the Century. But here — it's perfectly OK. Move along, nothing to see.
The highlight of the rally was an extended "voguing" performance by a transvestite, shown here on 1 Billion Rising's huge Jumbotron. Because nothing says "women's power" like transvestitism.
The Qu'ran sign wasn't the only Islamic presence at the protest. A substantial contingent of attendees wore t-shirts that read, "Intifada of Women in the Arab World."
While, predictably, some protesters showed up wearing kaffiyehs.
Eve Ensler, for those of you blissfully unaware (oh how I envy you), is the creator of "The Vagina Monologues," a soul-destroying and culture-corrupting stage play that is now routinely performed in high schools across the country, in which teenage girls are encouraged by their teachers to read from the play's script, "Cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT!!!!!" This is education in America today.
Pen in hand, one eager V-Day participant filled out his personalized 1 Billion Rising sign with the most manic intensity I'd ever seen.
I could never quite get a full view of the whole thing, but what I could see read
...SF war mean's and
...wonder regulators and rape
...equseness and A stands for
...the P stand for people and
...stands eternity: and my
...is Karlam Cativo and
...call me Flaca our...
Later, he held up another, more customized sign reading
SF war stand for: Sucker
Free wonder above regulators and
Rape stand's for: Righteousness and
A stands for All People and the E stand
Most people at the event were just regular-seeming, normal people. Note I said most — not all.
As always, Frank Chu showed up with his ever-changing sign. Today it read:
TATROCKRULLIONS OF POPULATIONS
Tattoo of the Day goes to this young feminist, whose naked female satyr-angel bespoke gender transgression, sexual freedom, and the need to rebel against one's parents.
Of course there was a giant puppet. No self-respecting protest is complete without a giant puppet.
In case I haven't made it clear yet, the whole purpose behind "1 Billion Rising" is to get women around the world to DANCE!!!!!, and this somehow will stop rape and and sexual violence from ever occurring again. So the majority of the rally involved loud disco/techno music coming out of the speakers, and various portions of the crowd erupting into either choreographed or free-form dance, depending on how much they had rehearsed.
This teen group had obviously been practicing religiously for the event. Studying can be hard!
A key visual feature of 1 Billion Rising were special performers dressed all in white who stood around like Mournful Lolita Mimes with sad messages and statistics. But for some odd reason, almost every single sign held by these actors had this or that peculiar grammatical error, like "I rise for women who have died to domestic violence."
Or "I rise for women who have died to gang rape."
Or "Your Daughter. Sister. Mother. Wife. 1 in 3 raped or beaten." (In this case the peculiarity is mathematical rather than grammatical.)
Others made logic errors on top of the grammar errors, like this sign which assumes that statistics apply evenly to everyone across a population.
And there there were mime signs that were just plain wrong.
All the vagina-monitoring organizations were on hand, such as Planned Parenthood.
At this rally I learned of yet another leftist academic euphemism for "We can't think straight": Gender Democracy. Beware.
It had a lot of competition, but this was definitely the strangest sign of the day:
"Know what's up or you gonna get cut. Respect our/Be nice to bees or your gonna be stung."
Just back away slowly.
And a parting message: Elefant says no to rape.
Glad to hear it.
Then the rally ended. Reality rumbled on. And nothing changed.