As training director at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Allison Glass has ample experience with community organizing and focused activism. So when the former Women's Action Coalition (WAC) fizzled out a few years ago, Glass and other passionate women picked up the torch. She sat down to tell us more about this renaissance of the Women's Action Coalition and what they're planning for One Billion Rising, a worldwide event held on Valentine's Day to fight violence against women. The Memphis rally will take place at the corner of Union and Cooper from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on February 14th.
Flyer: How did the Women's Action Coalition come about?
Allison Glass: It was actually formed about 10 years ago by a varied group of women professionals and students at the University of Memphis. It was pretty active for quite a while, but then some people moved away and it died off. About a year ago, a group of us got together to address the need for a group that advocates about a broad range of women's issues.
What does that broad range of issues include?
We are all about lifting up women's voices against abuse of privilege, against all forms of oppression, against economic exploitation. And we welome all genders and orientations to support a community of equality, empowerment, dignity, and liberation. There are a myriad of different issues that affect women. It's well known that poverty affects women more than men, because it's mostly women who are taking care of their families. War affects women in the same way. Issues about education, all kinds of things.
You said "all genders." Are men involved in WAC?
There are men involved in our Facebook group who are strong allies. We definitely invite men who identify as feminists to join us, but it's been almost all women who come to our meetings.
How many women are involved?
We have over 200 women in our Facebook group and a core group of about 20 really dedicated women. Women are so busy taking care of the rest of the world that our online presence is as important as who can come to our meetings. Our Facebook group is a great way for women to feel solidarity.
What recent issues have been at the fore of the discussion? During the last election, everything that came up around rape, around women's choices, around abortion. There was just so much inflammatory speech being thrown around that was really difficult to deal with, yet at the same time, it ignited a swell of women standing up and saying, "No. It's not okay. You can't talk about us this way.
What is the One Billion Rising movement?
One Billion Rising was the idea of Eve Ensler on the 15th anniversary of her Vagina Monologues. It's also inspired by the uprising in India following the gang rape that happened there. That was a tipping point, certainly in India, but also a shift in consciousness about violence against women around the world. One Billion Rising continues that tipping point, so that this global epidemic of violence against women is finally looked at honestly and addressed. One in three women around the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That's one billion women. One billion women is an atrocity, and One Billion Rising is a revolution.
How are Memphians and the Women's Action Coalition participating?
We'll have a rally with signs and then some sharing of women's stories, a brief candlelight vigil to honor those stories, and that will lead to a little dance party. Dance is about the healing power of physical movement and symbolic of everyone shaking the earth, activating an awakening to the violence against women and girls.