The Value of Raising Awareness of Real World Violence Against Women With a Virtual Dance Party (Guest Post)
Last week's One Billion Rising event in Second Life caused a fair amount of controversy, mainly because the dance party, an official part of a world-wide awareness-raising collective dance event against rape and other violence against women, seemed by many to be an ineffective response to such a deep and serious issue. Saffia Widdershins of the excellent SL blog Prim Perfect offers her answer as one of the event's lead organizers:
This event was planned and held within five weeks. The people behind it (and there were over a hundred and thirty people involved in the event) were experienced event organizers in Second Life (events including Second Life Birthdays, Relay for Life etc etc). This was short notice for a wholly new event, but a blog was set up, a Facebook page and a Twitter stream. It received publicity through the real world OBR event as well - and even featured on the Guardian newspaper's live blog of One Billion Rising!
There were four sims open for twenty-four hours, with people coming and going all day long. On average, I'd say there were 120 people at the event at any one time - attendance might have dropped to 80 at some points, and rose to nearly 200 at peak times - at which point the sims were really groaning. I would suspect that well over a thousand people visited the event in the course of the day - and more watched on Livestream - it was broadcast for the whole 24 hours.
And we got nearly five thousand hits on the OBR blog on the day itself - so maybe I'm being conservative with visitor numbers.
Many bloggers gave excellent pre-coverage - including Inara Pey and Daniel Voyager. Obviously, Honour McMillan and I did - we were among the organizers.
We held a press day to which many bloggers were invited - and through our blogs, we invited more people to apply for a press pass - which several did. Those who came were able to talk to organizers about the event and its aims (this was also discussed on the One Billion Rising blog, so the information was available). Some press people received personal invites to the press day.
I would say that - because of the involvement of the Art and Music Communities, word did travel wider. In addition, the 24 sponsors - many of them large commercial enterprises in Second Life, like KittyCats and the Heart Garden Center, displayed materials at their stores. The fact that you hadn't heard about it, Archangel, is probably a reflection on the fact that Second Life is so large and diverse that it is extremely difficult to get the word out to everyone in a short space of time. That's an ongoing problem for anyone who wants to organize anything in Second Life.
This was not an event about raising money - it was about raising awareness of the issue. With greater awareness, we plan to offer opportunities for people to do more and to become involved, if they wish. That is a discussion that is only just starting.
People who did want to give money were told where they could find organisations who would welcome donations, but raising money was not our aim. People who wanted to help were welcomed.
We didn't set out to solve the problem of violence against women, nor to analyse the root causes. There were no speeches - but there was information available - both details of organisations and info sheets about the issues - what you can do if you find yourself in a violent situation, advice about anger management, what you can do if you suspect someone you know is being abused. Personally, I would like to see one result of this event to be to make such information more widely available. That's a discussion that will be had over the coming weeks, I am sure. I've already started discussing issues arising on my blog.
I don't think that every event in Second Life or the real world should be about fund-raising. Even with Relay for Life, which raises huge sums in Second Life, I think the awareness-raising and the support for survivors and caregivers is just as important - if not so headline-grabbing.
Was this event an exercise in feel-good do-nothingness? I don't think so. I think it brought together a great many people to learn about - or learn more about - a very important issue, and as a component in a global event. Some people, I know, have raised concerns about the manner of the event feeling that dancing was a hopelessly inadequate or even inappropriate response to this issue, but to balance that, I know that - like other organizers - I had the privilege of talking to people for whom this had been a very affirming experience - sometimes because of dreadful experiences in their own lives. I also spoke to many more people who said that through the event and through the information that the global event disseminated, they learned more about the whole issue. And the people who have spoken out against the event itself have played an invaluable role in keeping the issue – the important thing – in the forefront of people’s minds.
I suspect that in an area like this, there is no simple right path. One does what one can, accepting that nothing will ever be right for everyone but one should never let the perfect be the enemy of the possible.
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