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Women in Barbados March for Respect

Anyone who has worn a pair of leggings knows that they are comfortable and practical items of clothing to compliment any outfit. Ronelle King, a woman from Bridgetown, Barbados, used this as the basis of her social media campaign, which included the phrase #lifeinleggings. The hashtag was understood as a reference to the item of clothing popular among urban women in the Caribbean. “Although they are practical, the leggings are skin tight and women wearing them are often accused of “asking for it” if they are harassed,” King said. This attitude is indicative of the violent culture that King is trying to bring awareness to.

“We were debunking the myth that women attract this behavior because of the way that they are dressed and that men have the right to approach you in this manner,” King said. “You deserve respect regardless.” Her campaign asserts that the way a woman dresses or acts is never an invitation for sexual violence. This belief is central to King’s movement.

It all started when King was on her daily commute to work. A man attempted to grab her and pull her into his car after she had refused to take a ride with him. When she reported the incident to the police, they shrugged it off and took no action. After this experience, King took to Facebook to share her experiences using the hashtag, #lifeinleggings.

The post gained momentous popularity as women from all over Barbados began sharing their own stories of similar experiences of sexual assault. Within a day, the hashtag spread as far as Trinidad, Tobago, and Jamaica, and by Saturday, women from seven Caribbean countries began making plans to hold marches for women’s rights.

King described the experience. “You had women that never met each other, like Trinidadian women reaching out to Dominican women saying, ‘Thank you for sharing your story. It helped me. It touched me. It let me know I wasn’t alone.’” The solidarity and strength that this movement garnered was truly inspiring.

On March 11, hundreds of women marched in solidarity demanding respect. Felicia Browne, a member of the non-profit organization Caribbean Mentorship Programme, talked about the aims of the march. “We have two goals to achieve today, and one of that is to ensure that we stop victim-blaming; that we allow victims … to have the space to speak on their experiences; that we allow victims to speak on the issues that affect them whether it’s in the schools, the church, and even their households, particularly their households, as well as their workplace.”

Countless women marched for these reasons as well as their own personal experiences. King spoke during the march in her own country, saying, “I march not only for myself but for my daughter. I march for the women who can’t march for themselves; women who are not here to march for themselves; the women we remember while we were marching.  I march for the women who are now breaking their silences; the women who are afraid; the women who have been slut-shamed; the women who have been victim-blamed. I march for them.”

This movement of solidarity is an incredible example of the power women can gain by standing together. United, we are stronger than any one person. By standing up for their rights and asserting their strength, these women were a great example of the importance of rising together.

Featured Image by Berit Watkin on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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