Today is February 14th. Valentine’s Day. Or if you’re a fan of social change movements, then perhaps you’re celebrating Generosity Day. A day for sharing love and committing acts of generosity for your fellow human beings.
Personally taking on this call to action and now reflecting on my day, I have come to see that generosity and love are intertwined. And it’s the reciprocity of love, of intention, and benefit, that makes generosity genuine.
Sex, Violence and Media
Today I had the good fortune of gleaning some advice from the Valentines Day Goddess herself, Eve Ensler. One of the perks of working for a global women’s media organization, is that I sometimes get invited to participate in special events, like this press call with Eve to discuss V-Day's new campaign, One Billion Rising: A Global Call to Challenge and Shatter the Worldwide Acceptance of Violence Against Women.
“More than 1 out of every 3 women on this planet will experience violence during her lifetime. With 7 billion people on the planet, that’s one billion women. Stopping this violence is as crucial as addressing the issues of disease, hunger, and climate change,” said Eve Ensler.
“One Billion Rising is a global strike, a call to refuse to participate until rape and rape culture ends. It’s a solidarity reach, a new refusal, and a new way of being.”
Eve fielded questions on the Chris Brown post-Grammy outcry, how to talk to your kids about violence, and why violence perpetuates, especially domestically. Eve shared personal experience & advice on speaking openly and honestly with children about protecting their bodies and with teens about healthy and consensual sex.
Her new play, Emotional Creature, based on her book, will debut in Berkeley this summer. In her research for the book, she shared an experience speaking with high school girls who performed fellatio on boys in classrooms, bathrooms or cafeterias. When asked what they received from the experience, they responded, “popularity,” having complete dissociation with the act of “sex” in what they were doing. Meaning that they were unable to acknowledge an entitlement to receiving physical, sexual pleasure from the act of sex. For them, it was simply a means for achieving social status.
But where’s the love? Where’s the reciprocity? Where’s the generosity? Where did it go?
Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me at the least. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about it and the linkage to sexual violence, the seeming rise in acceptance of gender violence and the disproportion to strides in gender equality.
I think this issue is clearly demonstrated in the Chris Brown situation.
Jennifer Pozner, editor of Women & Media in News, spoke with CNN on the issue today, along with Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK. Edell explains:
"Because we’ve created a world where we dress women like sex objects and market to them as sex objects, they grow up thinking they are sex objects that can be hit and thrown around. In a world where we’re surrounded by marketing images almost 24 hours a day, we’re pushing out more sexualized images of girlhood and being a woman and that’s contributing to a culture of violence in little girls.”
Are we that shallow? Have we no respect for our daughters? Why do we perpetuate the violence?
Today, between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm, I focused my generosity, my energy, like every day, to facilitate new ways of communicating for grassroots women leaders around the world. I’m the Digital Campaigns Manager at World Pulse, an action media network powered by women from 185 countries. This is what I do for a living and sometimes I forget that I’m so lucky to be involved in this movement.
At 10:00 am, I focused my generosity on #CommBuild, a group of people interested in learning and sharing about building community, on and offline, with the use of social media or other technology tools. Today I hosted my first #CommBuild Twitter chat. It was on the topic of gamification and engagement incentives with guest Ben Fowler, a fellow community manager whom I met at a local PDX community managers meet-up. I’ve spent the past year designing a form of gamification for the World Pulse community, which I call the Community Leadership Model. We launched Phase I last month, and I’m so pleased to see new Vocal Contributors rising up through this incredible online community of grassroots women leaders, speaking out for change. I look forward to sharing more on that model soon.
This afternoon - right now - I am focusing my generosity inwards and writing my first blog post in four years. Since I came back from teaching English in China, where I started my first blog, ChinaMusing, I haven’t felt worthy of writing a blog. Funny isn’t it? I spend all day working to support women worldwide in speaking their truths, yet I haven’t found the courage to speak my own. Today that ends, thanks in part to the wisdom of healer, organizer, human rights activist, and my PulseWire sister, Dayanara Marte, whose recent blog post on “Conscious Accountability" showed me that I can’t have value in the movement until I hold myself accountable and value my own worth. She writes:
"If we the warriors don’t take a good look at ourselves and see how we have internalized the very oppression that we are fighting against, if we don’t create systems of personal accountability for how we show up in the movement and in our lives, then we will surely replicate the same world.”
Where Valentine’s Day and generosity meet
And finally, tonight, I turn my generosity towards my boyfriend Ben, who spent all day teaching Algebra and Geometry to high school freshman and sophomores.
Despite the call for Generosity Day as a turn away from traditional Valentine’s Day celebrations, I can’t think of a better way to express my admiration and gratitude for this wonderful man in my life, than cooking him dinner. Most nights he cooks me dinner as he’s far more talented in the kitchen. But tonight as I whip up a simple, healthy meal from my favorite cooking blog, Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks, I express my gratitude while he relaxes after a long day, a long commute and watches re-runs of the Simpsons. Sometimes generosity doesn’t have to change the world. Sometimes you can make somebody’s world - if even for a short moment, through simple acts of love and generosity.
Happy Generosity Day! How did YOU celebrate?