THIS WOMAN I KNOW, her name is Farrah. She is a queer muslim woman, an educator, a counsellor, and an advocate on issues of gender based violence, equity and pleasure.
Farrah works daily with survivors of sexual violence at Ryerson University. She provides support, accompaniment, advocacy, education and referrals in this line of work and everyday she faces is different. Farrah also is a feminst mentor and “femtors” young feminist groups including We Give Consent, Project Slut and femifesto. With femifesto they researched and created Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence for journalists that was launched prior to Ghomeshi trial. She believes the mainstream media can be more responsible in its representations of survivors and marginalized communities.
Having women, specifically women of colour, in the violence against women field who believed in her voice, championed her work and opened doors for her had a profound impact on Farrah. She believes strongly in feminist mentoring, as a way to skill share and create meaningful opportunities for young women in the city. She loves learning with and from young women and what their visions are for a safer world.
What the fuck, Australia? Another man killing yet another woman.
What the fuck, Australia? Another day, another woman killed by a man. According to advocacy group Destroy the Joint, as of March 17th, before Masa Vukotic’s death on Tuesday, 22 women had been killed in Australia in the first 11 weeks of 2015. Two every week, and double the average from the past few years. Seriously, what the fuck?
Inevitably, when a woman is killed in our streets, close to home, we talk about women’s safety. Over and over again. Of course safety is important, and must always be a consideration, but where is the discussion about men’s violence and why these deaths are so common? Almost exclusively, when a woman is killed it is by a man. And while killings that are perpetrated by men in our streets in seemingly random attacks grab the attention, overwhelmingly, women are killed by men that they know. They are often a family member or an intimate partner; a man who at some stage has told the woman he has just killed that he loved her.
Why aren’t we talking about this as the national emergency that it most certainly is? Why the hell aren’t we talking about the violence against women epidemic that we currently find ourselves in? Is it because female deaths don’t matter as much as men’s? In 2014, NSW introduced legislation practically overnight following the deaths of two men in Sydney. Sweeping changes were made to liquor laws and sentencing for those found guilty of ‘one punch’ attacks was increased dramatically. Where is the political will, at a national level, to address women’s deaths in the same fashion?
We are in a fortunate position at the moment, particularly in Victoria, where domestic violence is on the public agenda. We have our first minister for the prevention of family violence and there is also a royal commission in to this problem. But still, within all of this, a discussion on men’s violence is largely missing. Today, we’re still talking about why a young woman was walking on her own through a park, or whether it’s safe for a woman to run on her own, or why a woman doesn’t leave a violent relationship. Why aren’t we seriously asking ourselves why men in our community are committing such horrible acts of violence against women?
As a society, we must take responsibility for the culture we have created where to be a man often means to be violent. Where if, as a man, you are disrespected or ignored, you use your masculine power to reassert control and reclaim dominance. Where, if you are viewed to be weak, you are less of a man, and the target of ridicule. We must acknowledge that we all contribute to this in our definitions of manliness and our expectations of men. How many times have you heard someone tell a young boy to ‘man up’, to ‘be a man’, or ‘don’t be a pussy’? Countless times I’m sure. But there is not doubt that every one of these seemingly benign statements contributes to broader culture of violent masculinity.
Every time we hear in the news that a Muslim man has assaulted a woman, or a group of Indian men have raped a girl, we, as the dominant group in Australia point the finger at those cultures as having a problem with women. What’s ignored is that we in Australia also have a culture, and it too is killing women.
These acts of violence, no matter how random or how deliberate, exist within a culture of violence and inequality, where women are largely seen as less valuable and less important. All over the world, research tells us that men’s violence against women is caused by gender inequality; the higher the inequality, the more prevalent and more extreme the violence. Not because of alcohol, not because of mental illness, not because of a ‘bad apple’, but because societies all around the world see women as inferior.
In writing this, I anticipate the usual, ‘but not all men’, or ‘how dare you tarnish us all with the same brush’. If your first thoughts in reading this are along those lines, you are part of the problem. To borrow a phrase someone (apologies, I can’t remember where I saw it), if you’re getting angry about being ‘tarnished’ by this, you’re getting angry about the wrong thing.
Where is your, and where is our collective anger about the women being killed in their homes and in their streets every week? Get over being so sensitive. While of course, the overwhelming majority of men choose not to use violence, men’s violence against women, and also other men, is one of the biggest issues our society faces at the moment. I know that terrorism always scores political points, and should not be ignored, but you only have to look at some basic stats to see that men’s violence is doing the far more damage to our homes, our families, and our communities.
If you are a man who cares about this, speak up about it, and don’t get defensive. We need to shift the focus from what women are doing, to what men are doing, and we need to acknowledge that while this issue effects everyone, it is primarily men who are violent. Understand that these acts of violence don’t exist in a bubble, but within a larger society that often encourages, condones, or excuses violence. This has to stop.
Unfortunately, men will often only listen when other men speak up about this issue. While we as men don’t have all the answers, we definitely can have a lot of influence. We need to harness this power and use it for good, to promote gender equity, to denounce violence, and to challenge traditional notions of masculinity.
To borrow yet another phrase, if you are a man who cares about this problem, and you do have the ear of other men, tell them to listen to women. We need to create a space for women’s voices to be heard, so that young men respect women, will listen to women, and will see them as their equals. Only then will this epidemic of men’s violence against women begin to shift.
“Violence against women is difficult to talk about, but for those who find it difficult, let us be clear, however uncomfortable it is to talk about, it is degrading and damaging to experience,” London prosecutor Nazir Afzal writes in an Op-Ed for Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Afzal believes we need to change the attitudes of men, redefine masculinity and serve as better role models in order to effect change. “We need to demonstrate that violence is not manly, it has nothing to do with responsible masculinity, it is not the identifying feature of a male grown up,” he says.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Why November 25th?
The date was chosen to commemorate the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic, who were brutally assassinated on November 25th, 1960 during the Rafael Trujillo (aka El Jefe) dictatorship (1930-1961)
One of the Trujillo’s most heinous traits was his insatiable sexual appetite where he raped “very young” women supplied and procured by many who sought his favors. If women resisted, Trujillo would apply pressure on their families to get his way.
The Mirabal Sisters, along with their respective husbands, spent much of their lives opposing El Jefe’s rule through their group Movement of the Fourteenth of June. However, on 25th Nov, 1960 Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, were brutally clubbed to death while driving home from visiting their husbands in prison.
One year later, Trujillo himself was successfully assassinated ending his 31 years of tyranny.
The Nigerian military says it has rescued 293 kidnapped girls and women in the Sambisa Forest, a stronghold of Boko Haram fighters. The hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok last year were not among those rescued, says an Army spokesman. #BringBackOurGirls
Happy (almost)International Women’s Day! We thank you for being part of a generation making the world safer for women and girls. Like many of you, Karalyn rang the bell and stood up for her neighbors facing violence. Watch and share her story today! -Dana
According to UN Women, Particular groups of women, including women and girls living in poverty, face multiple forms of discrimination, and face increased risks of violence as a result. Studies show that poor girls are 2.5 times more likely to marry in childhood than those living in the wealthiest quintile.
Women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, including trafficking. And those who experience domestic or intimate partner violence have fewer options to leave violent relationships, due to their lack of income and resources.
To address such issues, UN Women runs programmes to empower women economically and lift them out of poverty, as well as strengthen social services for survivors and increase awareness of their rights.
The Beijing Declaration states “Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. Literacy of women is an important key to improving health, nutrition and education in the family and to empowering women to participate in decisionmaking in society. Investing in formal and non-formal education and training for girls and women, with its exceptionally high social and economic return, has proved to be one of the best means of achieving sustainable development and economic growth that is both sustained and sustainable.”
The 9th day for the 16 days of activism, and the theme for is Women in Power and Decision Making.
UN Women explains that women are often subjected to violence, or threats of violence, when they exercise their political rights or when they are actively engaged in politics. Studies show that female voters are four times as likely as men to be targeted for intimidation in elections in fragile and transitional States. Moreover, a 2014 study by the Centre for Social Research and UN Women revealed that more than 60 per cent of women in parts of South Asia do not participate in politics due to fear of violence; and 45 per cent of women candidates in India faced physical violence and threats.
Violence and sexual harassment also affect women’s ability to take full part in other spheres of power and decision-making, be it in banks, corporate boardrooms, mass media, academic and scientific institutions, and regional and international organizations.
Day 7 of the 16 days of Activism the theme is Women and Health.
I wanted to specifically focus on women and health during pregnancy.
The Beijing Declaration states “Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law, and the right of access to appropriate health-care services that will enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.”
For the 8th day of the 16 days of activism and the theme is Women and the Economy.
According to UN Women, women experiencing violence, especially at the hands of a partner, are less likely to be economically active or very productive. Women and girls experiencing sexual harassment and sexual violence in public spaces such as in public transport, on the way to school, work or markets will also be limited in their mobility and job prospects. Addressing women’s economic inequality is also of particular importance in reducing violence against women in the long-term.