The feminist network

One Billion Rising framed a new nimbleness in women's protests

The success of a protest in media-saturated times can depend as much on its branding as the nobility of its cause. No one would argue that the goals of One Billion Rising, a global campaign initiated by playwright Eve Ensler to protest violence against women, are anything but virtuous. But the campaign is also a remarkable example of the ways in which the women's movement has evolved to embrace social media.

OBR marked its day of action on Valentine's Day, eschewing the traditional signifiers of protest, with few angry speeches, black flags or bra burnings. Instead, it adopted more artful methods to capture attention. In this country, where women's rights have become a political issue after the Delhi gangrape, OBR was celebrated with plays, dances and flashmobs. Balloons were released in London, there was dancing everywhere from Bangladesh to Amsterdam, and marches in Afghanistan and Fiji, among other places.

OBR relies on crowdsourced action of the kind so easily facilitated by Facebook and Twitter. Much of the new vocabulary of gender awareness is being contributed to by internet and media savvy women, who are able to leverage the visibility that social media accords — everyone who participates in a networked action can see the outcome — in ways that resonate with others. In this, OBR is the large-scale demonstration of the nimbleness displayed by campaigns as disparate as the one to censure US talk radio host Rush Limbaugh last year after his hateful comments about a female graduate student who testified in the US Congress about contraception costs, and Pink Chaddi, launched in 2009, after women were beaten and dragged out of pubs in Mangalore.

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