Getting Creative: Women Rise Up and DO SOMETHING!

One action in the U.S., a single mom who decided to put her money where her mouth was.

The other action, more profound, requiring all local women’s cooperation, and with deep historical roots in ancient Greek comedy, in the Columbian town of Barbacoas, South America.

(Decades ago, when I was what I would call now a “violent peace activist,” I dreamed of starting just such a Lysistrata movement. Imagine, if the spouses and girl friends of all the men who love war decided to stop war in its tracks. It wouldn’t be that hard. All we need do is withhold the one thing that men think makes women indispensable.

Unfortunately, such a movement is highly unlikely; not because it’s not a good idea, but because it requires us to shift everything. Deprived of salaries, contracts, research grants, bonuses, etc., all spewed out by the war machine, our entitled way of life would collapse. Who among us is not dependent on the war machine? The circulatory system of our collective enterprise has been jiggered to oxygenate the blood of endless wars.)

Thanks to

I’m not sure whether this woman is a folk hero from the Right, or the Left, or the vast Center, but she’s certainly expressing a sentiment that many Americans are feeling.

Lucy Nobbe, a financial broker and single mom of two ponied up about $900 to have a sign made and then flown by a small plane over lower Manhattan where the Standard & Poors headquarters resides. The banner read: “Thanks for the downgrade, you should all be fired.” Her original target? Washington DC.

Watch this video about Nobbe from KSDK:

Like the SlutWalk protests, the crossed legs movement is a new interpretation of women’s fight for their rights – one in which sexuality is being used as an empowering tool.

by Euclides Montes

August 8, 2011 |

Photo Credit: helga on Flickr
Since 22 June, the women of the small town of Barbacoas in the Nariño province of Colombia have foregone all sexual activity. After years of fruitless pressure on the central government to pave a road linking their town with the rest of the province, they finally reached breaking point and organised what has come to be known as the “crossed legs movement” in protest. The failure by previous administrations to take action has left Barbacoas virtually unreachable by car, leading to scores of deaths.

Barbacoas is a small port town in south-west Colombia, which linked the southern regions of the country in the 19th and 20th century. Barbacoans still proudly claim that every European piano that reached Colombia in the 19th century came through their port. However, the uneven routes that those pianos had to travel a century ago have not changed since.

After years of protest, hunger strikes and unfulfilled promises, the women of Barbacoas took matters into their own hands. They decided that their plight went beyond road construction and that their human rights were effectively being violated by the state. With their town located in a volatile region of the country affected by ongoing guerrilla and paramilitary attacks, women feel they need a safe and direct route into the rest of the province to be able to lead their lives with dignity.

Ruby Quinonez, one of the leaders of the “crossed legs movement”, stated: “We are being deprived of our most human rights and as women we can’t allow that to happen … Why bring children into this world when they can just die without medical attention and we can’t even offer them the most basic rights? We decided to stop having sex and stop having children until the state fulfils its previous promises.” And so like modern day Lysistratas, the women of Barbacoas banned sex from the town. Under the banner of “No more sex. We want our road”, they have been sticking to their guns since June.

At first, the protest met with muted amusement and opposition from the town’s residents. But as the movement grew, the men’s initial resistance quickly turned to support. It easy to understand why their resolve is not faltering: the lack of a paved road means that even the cost of food is five or six times that of other regions of the country. But this isn’t just about the price of goods or convenience: there have been many deaths linked to the lack of adequate infrastructure, as ambulances get stuck in the mud trying to reach town. Judge Marybell Silva, spokesperson for the movement, said: “I personally had to see a 23-year-old pregnant woman die along with her unborn baby just because the ambulance got stuck on the road and could not reach [the capital of the region]. That’s when I knew we had to do something.”

Their efforts are starting to catch the attention of the media and government. Invias, the state department for road development, has already earmarked 40,000 million pesos (roughly £14m) to pave a large proportion of the road. However, funds have yet to be allocated for the last 30 kilometres into town and the women have vowed to “keep their legs crossed” until this changes.

Like the SlutWalk protest last month, the crossed legs movement is perhaps a new interpretation of women’s fight for their rights – one in which sexuality is being used as an empowering tool. Taking direct action with their peaceful protest, the women of Barbacoas are riding a wave of redefinition of what it means to be a feminist in modern times. Thanks to it, they are finding the courage to remain strong in their demands.

Euclides Montes is a Colombian-born writer living in the UK and author of The Brothel’s Doorman. He tweets as @gatulino and a collection of shorts stories can be found at

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