Seeing Red at the “Madison Rising”

Hurried across town. Got stuck in traffic on University Avenue a mile from Hilldale Mall, wondered if I was going to miss my 4.15 minutes of…fame? But I got there, 8 minutes to spare.

We were told at rehearsal to wear red and black, the colors of the V-Day movement. Red is my least favorite color. I only own one red shirt so that’s what I wore. I’m in a mall on Valentines day. All around me I see red, what else? Store window displays. Store clerks. Shoppers. Ugh.

We were told at rehearsal to window-shop, just mingle, blend in, until we hear the music start. At 5:25 there is an unlikely number of window-shoppers in the entry area of Macy’s. You know how department stores put the make-up at the entrance? The clerks are finishing a last few free-try sessions, handing out a last few goodie-bags. They’re starting to look puzzled at the sudden rush of interest in lipstick.

Here we are, mostly women, mostly older, and by appearances,  not a big lipstick-wearing contingent. Those little red tubes are lined up in erect and orderly phalanxes to greet us. We are lined up around their counters, feigning interest.

We’re making eye contact here and there, we women who don’t look like we buy much lipstick. “You’re one of us, aren’t you,” those eyes say.


What’s that feeling? I think it’s empowerment! We are an army, deployed like those militant little sticks of red. What is lipstick about, anyway? Making oneself attractive to men. Men, some of whom are violent against the women. My aunt called her makeup “war paint.” I’m not liking this train of thought.

Music starts. It’s showtime.

Macy’s make-up department empties, the lobby fills, women (and a few men) in red and black separate themselves from spectators. Our opening movements are like the yawn and stretch of a new morning as the invocation plays–

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise…

Now we’re a marching crowd and into the boxstep and boom! Dancing fools! Having fun with it! Eye contact with each other, with the watchers, who seem delighted. Cell phones are out, videoing us.

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

We’re doing a pretty good job of following Dianne through the choreography. This is great! TV cameras are somewhere; I caught it on the 10:00 news later.

Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain.

That felt good. But Dianne said no lingering! Just move away like nothing happened.

I go back to my car and drive away.

Okay, you have to ask, really? Does this accomplish anything? I’m glad I viewed Eve Ensler’s take on that.

“Imagine, when you dance…that we are literally dancing up the will of the world to end violence against women and girls… I really believe this day will change the mindset, the paradigm, and the energy of the planet. And when we wake up on the 15th, we will not be finished with our efforts. We will begin the next stage of our efforts, where violence against women and girls will never be marginalized again.”

I drove from the Rising to my writing class. I watched Eve say that while sitting in my parked car outside, killing time. It was just the message I needed at just that moment. Otherwise, I’d have kind of a depressed, morning-after feeling right now. Instead… this is what empowerment looks like! (WISC-tv3 video of our Madison Rising. See also this news article.)

-Sarah White

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
This entry was posted in Call for action, Sarah's memoir and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Seeing Red at the “Madison Rising”

  1. brianlavendel says:

    Sarah, you inspire me. You and all women and girls rising up against violence against women and girls. Thank you and congratulations.

    I hope and believe we can and must get men and boys to take this on with as much commitment and conviction as you and your sisters!


  2. ozzietales says:

    Brothers, join your sisters and help stop the violence – and thank you Sarah –


  3. Pingback: 2013 in Review: How My Personal Got Political Again | True Stories Well Told

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