By Ellen Snortland
Pasadena Weekly Columnist

I wear orange for 16 days in a row to stand in solidarity with other activists committed to ending violence against women,” I said, between mouthfuls of ceviche.

I was in the tropical paradise of Puerto Vallarta. My friend Anne Peterson had been grappling with how to ask me why I was wearing orange, day after day, often from head to foot. We were at a luxurious resort to launch an inquiry with other women about what it means to be female in these times.

Anne, who is intellectual and full of fun, said, “I’m glad you said something about the orange. I was wondering if you were in some kind of cult.” “Norwegians don’t join cults. Although if you count melted butter worship… yes, I am in the melted butter sect,” I said. I digress.

In 1995, in the last paragraph of my book “Beauty Bites Beast,” I wrote: “My commitment is to make self-defense just as accepted, inexpensive and accessible as a vaccination or swimming lessons. Eventually, the world will be made up of women who resist being oppressed emotionally, physically and spiritually as a matter of course. And that will be a better world for everyone.”

So yes, I wear orange every year from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 in solidarity with other women’s rights activists as a symbol of the vision to end gender-based violence. (I’m also firmly in the “against violence in all forms” camp, but I can only take on so much.)

I have been on a long-haul journey, made even longer since 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. I wasn’t thrown by it, however, as I have experience with such things. For decades I have linked arms and hearts with intrepid women all over the world who have wrestled with an even more pernicious and deadly pandemic: violence against women and girls. I want to yell, any chance I get, “Don’t you understand the sheer waste of human potential that’s committed every time a woman or girl is assaulted or beaten, sometimes to death?” What could possibly be gained by allowing mainly men to systemically squelch the other half of the world?

In 1995, I attended the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. I saw how the world’s women have a lot in common, but the experience they shared the most was fear of men’s violence directed at them and their female loved ones. Stranger-on-stranger violence is less common than violence from family or acquaintances. Ho-hum. Whenever I mention this, the typical reaction I get is either a deer-in-the-headlights look or a shrug of resignation.

But wearing orange?

Starting in 1991, the U.N. Women group launched a public awareness campaign to “Orange the World” — orange being used as a verb — as a reminder that violence against women and girls continues to be the deadliest pandemic globally. It is now supported by the U.N. secretary general’s “UNITE by 2030” campaign to end gender violence.

Why those dates of Nov. 25 to Dec. 10? In 1999, four years following the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, the U.N. General Assembly proclaimed Nov. 25 as the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. And Dec. 10 is the day in 1948 that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations. This is significant because the UDHR was the first international declaration to specifically acknowledge women as deserving of human rights.

Never heard of either of the events those days represent? Don’t be surprised: The mainstream media loves ignoring most things to do with the United Nations, especially anything involving women and girls.

I am so proud to be part of my Empowerment Self-Defense family, who are really into Oranging the World! They are a group of people devoted to a global approach when empowering women-identified folks to stop violence as it is happening. Last week, I was honored to attend the launch of a coalition of these organizations, now under the umbrella of IMPACT Global. We empower women and girls by teaching simple yet effective emotional, verbal and physical boundaries. Watch this column for further developments, including a genuinely groundbreaking smartphone app that teaches women to empower themselves at their own pace. They get to practice safety, boundary-setting, what to do in dangerous situations, and much more; it’s in the testing phase now.

Speaking of digital natives, there’s a recent success story on TikTok that went viral. A 16-year-old had been kidnapped, and she knew the hand signal for “Help! I’m in immediate danger!” It’s holding up four fingers, palm out with the thumb across the palm, and then closing the fingers over the thumb, like trapping the thumb. While in the kidnapper’s car, she gave the signal to another car, and the person who saw it also knew the code! Police were called, and the girl was freed. Now that’s grace under pressure!

Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book authors! Contact her at