My friend and I managed to get the afternoon of 14 February off work and we signed up to one of the many One Billion Rising Facebook events organised by local women.
Supporting the aim of Eve Ensler’s V-day event – to raise awareness of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who will be victims of rape or violence – we skim read the day’s requirements of wearing red and black and joining in a protest to Dance! Strike! Rise!
Simple enough, we thought, and on the day we find ourselves in the office bathroom running late and questioning if our protest themed outfits were “black and red enough”.
The answer is of course, no. They are not. My friend was in something maroon and I in a compilation of dark blues.
We decided the best course of action was to wear red lipstick, and off we trotted to the London Eye to meet with the other two hundred women who had signed up to the protest.
We arrive- late, approaching a crowd of about one hundred people ALL in red and black holding banners and awkwardly buzzing around as a tragic little CD player hummed in the background.
‘Oh god. AWKWARD’ I whispered to my friend as we arrive at the group.
We simultaneously whip out our phones to give our awkward hands some sort of purpose – we also need ‘evidence’ for work to prove we didn’t just take our free charity afternoon off and head straight to Topshop (which at this point seems a risk I’m willing to take)
A few seconds in and about fifteen women and children started doing ‘the dance’ which we clapped along to to avoid participation.
It soon fizzled out and I spotted a few friends making a beeline towards us, obviously feeling as awkward as we did.
Our small group consoled ourselves that not one of us had learned the associated dance to the protest theme tune of ‘Break the Chain’, and we followed the smaller than expected protest as we moved along the riverside towards the South Bank Centre.
“Guys we are going in and doing the dance!” shouted the leader as we milled around the entrance.
“Are you ready to break the chain?” she asked.
Heads down, we walked into the centre. Visitors trying to enjoy an afternoon drink looked on apprehensively.
We found our place in the middle of the centre and suddenly camera crews and photographers appeared from nowhere as we set up the little CD player.
Guilt washed over me as I realised that by not joining the enthusiastic few, we were making their impact futile and our attendance at the whole thing pretty pointless.
“Sod it!” said my friend, clearly thinking the same thing, and we joined the group preparing to bust some moves. As the music started the cameras began rolling and the photographers moved in for a shot.
As we didn’t know the dance (guilty) at first we just did a sort of rocking dance whilst randomly holding hands and laughing like we were in a much dreaded aerobics class.
We couldn’t sing along, having not memorised the song, but we started ‘whooping’ as the noise rose, spurring on the other dancers and drawing more attention to ourselves.
We began catching on to the choreography managing to appear as though we had attempted to learn it and were just unfortunate dancers rather than slackers improved the guilt.
Three minutes in and we had a crowd, our cheeks were flushed and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Bouncing up and down I started to feel like it was all happening in slow motion.
I looked at my friends as they smiled back and I realised that although we looked like utter planks we were actually making a difference.
We looked ridiculous and I started to sweat but we were over the awkwardness and now this protest, the cause and the dance, mattered.
I started to think how relevant this small experience was.
I knew I needed to be there, I knew what is happening to women across the world isn’t right and that society for too long has allowed the atrocities that women face go on – but why?
Maybe it is because until someone actually points out that there are approximately one billion women who will indefinitely suffer at the hands of rape and violence, some of us haven’t been able to find the bravery speak out, or even listen.
This lesson was more powerful than the message itself.
That awkward dance reminded me that I needed to overcome the awkwardness and surpass my own fear of being a lone voice.
Because really, all it could take is that one voice, one dance or one protest to raise awareness and put a stop to the impending violence and rape of one of those billion women.
This realisation spurred me on and I danced harder and more ridiculously than I ever have.
Sitting in a coffee shop afterwards, I saw one of the younger protesters setting off to trudge home with a smile on her face still holding up her banner and i thought, you know what…
Here is to awkward dancing! Here is to breaking the chain.