On Valentine’s Day I joined a group of old, fat,…..no I mean I joined a group of harridans…..no, I joined a group of women and some men in Picadilly Gardens, dancing as part of the Billion Women Rise against violence against women.
Then a week later I joined a group of younger women and men along Oxford Road Manchester, as part of a parade to Reclaim the Night, challenge rape and sexual harassment and reaffirm equality and dignity in relationships.
Last night I watched Channel Four News and saw U-Tube clips of group of activists and dissidents in Tunisia doing the ‘Harlem Shake’ as a form of protest. Dancing in the streets as dissidence again.
In the first two places I was there in my own person and connected through friendship, through being a tutor and by thirty years of activism with others who were there too. In the third case I was connected by a sense of spirit and solidarity and moved by what I saw.
The Shakers were a group of Millenarian Christians/revolutionaries who believed in radical equality and openness and that the ‘end times’ were with us now. They are best known now for their furniture. But their ‘shaking’ was an ecstatic dance, perhaps like that of the Sufi mystics. I do not know.
All of this is by way of reflection on the importance still of women occupying public space in order to dissent. One I had become used to being with my friends of a certain age dancing at eleven o’clock in the morning as if we were in an aerobics class in which I had – as usual- failed to learn the steps, I thought: why not! Maybe we needed a reprise in our sixties and seventies of the dancing that accompanied some of us in the Women’s Liberation marches: the dancing in the street to ‘Keep Young and Beautiful. It’s Your Duty to be Beautiful. Keep Young and Beautiful If you want to be loved.’ And with the student/youth ‘Reclaim the Night Parade’: I revelled in the face paints that glowed in the dark and the animation in young people’s faces. And yes,Amelia, it is very contained. Maybe we should go and do our dances and our songs outside the Headquarters of L’Oreal!
As for what we imagine and work for? Well, the young shall see visions and the old shall dream dreams. Here’s an old one, a very old one. Peaceable relations between humans, based on civility and mutuality, based on equality and fair treatment, and between humans,other species and the earth. No exploitation of people’s work for the gains of a tiny minority. Satisfying and creative work. Access to beauty. Freedom to worship and to play. A sharing of the work of care for the old and young between men and women and across generations. An education system geared to these ends. So all we need to know is: what’s stopping us? And why do mainstream politicians seem to find it almost impossible to talk about these things. On the day the EDL are messing about in Manchester and after the UKIP ‘anti-immigrant’ vote in the Eastleigh by-election I haven’t heard a single politician on TV discuss the reality that blaming and fearing immigrants in a time of economic crisis is an old and dangerous trick that leads only in the direction of cruelty and massacre. We do need to keep taking and reclaiming the public spaces, including these virtual ones.