What She Said!

The next time some guy asks you where all the female bloggers are,
tell him What She Said!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Defining Violence

Blogging for awareness about Sexual Violence is a good idea. There are many types of violence, some not so obvious as others. If we compare women in Muslim countries to women in the West, you'd say it's obvious that the Muslim women are subjected to violence constantly - war, genocide, systematic rape; punishment for learning to read or wearing anything other than a burka; being sold into marriage or sexual servitude as young children; and the horrible practice of female genital mutilation. Men in those countries won't even shake hands with women sent to represent our government. Women can't leave their homes unescorted because of the possibility they'll be abducted, raped and killed. A woman's own family may murder her if they feel she has dishonored them in some way. A woman's in-laws may murder her if her dowry isn't large enough. No human should live in these conditions for any reason.

Women in America suffer violence as well, though it is rarely as overt as it is in the Middle East. If your husband beats you to death while the police sit outside in their car and do nothing, are you luckier than a woman forced to wear a burka? If you are gang raped and video taped by your classmates and the courts don't punish your attackers, are you luckier than a girl not allowed to go to school? Does it matter if you are raped in Africa rather than San Diego? If you can't feed your children, is geography a mitigating factor? I think not.

The American media likes to minimize the importance of women's rights by focusing on the issues of wealthy women - whether to stay home or work; equal pay for equal work; equal access to places where business is conducted outside the office. These issues are important, but they distract from the real goal of feminism: Survival of Women.

Women in America may have a camera stuck up their skirts and the video posted on the web, and in most places there is no law to prevent it. 2 out of 3 American women will be sexually molested at some point in their lives.(That's what the stats say - I think the number is more like 4 out of 5, because I rarely meet a woman that doesn't have a story of sexual abuse to tell.)The most telling statistic on the state of women in America is that the number one cause of death in pregnant women in this country is murder. It may not be as dangerous to live in America as it is in Iraq, but being female can still get you killed here.

We live in an era when a woman can be raped by a fraternity or a sport team, then be called a tramp by the men's lawyers and the TV commentators. A time when "sports heroes" get away with rape. When people find entertainment in video games that involve killing women, music that calls women "bitches and ho's" and women are sugicaly altered, humiliated or married off for money and TV ratings.

Our media glorifies men for lying to obtain sex. I like to call this "male fraud." It's not overt violence, but it is still a sexual violation. If a woman believes she is in a monogamous relationship, she may be less careful with things like birth control and AIDS prevention. A woman might reject a particular man if she knows that he is married or engaged; she might choose not to reproduce with a man who already has one or more children with other women; she usually considers things like job, relative success, stability, religious and political beliefs, as well as availability when choosing a man with whom she is willing to be romantically involved.

Abandonment is a covert form of violence. A woman who is impregnated and abandoned has been violated, and so has her child. A child whose father walks out on her mother will never recover. Even if a woman is able to meet the physical and emotional needs of her children alone, as many have to do, they are more likely than any other segment in this society to live in poverty. If an abandoned family turns to the State for help, the woman's own president will refer to her as a "welfare queen." When was the last time you heard a politician or a right-wing pundit complain about deadbeat dads? They're more likely to advocate absolving these fathers of any financial responsibilty at all. Deadbeat dads are often rich, white men, too. So are their attorneys.

Poverty is an insidious form of violence. You don't die from bombs - you die from lack of health care, decent food, a safe environment. A bullet in the Bronx will kill you just as dead as one in Fallujah. A poor education won't help you earn a living in America, even if you are theoretically free to apply for a job. And who is going to watch those kids while you are at work, you "selfish feminist?" Poor women don't have the option of staying home. They may not even have the option of working only one job. When George Bush praised a woman with a sick child for working 3 jobs as "uniquely American," he failed to comprehend that it's unique because only America has no safety net for that mother and her poor child. You're either lazy or neglectful - that's some choice. Actually, since Clinton gutted the welfare system, even that choice is not always available. I haven't even touched on the subjects of sexual harassment, discrimination in the work place and the very real threat of child molestation. And they wonder why feminists are angry...

America enjoys another dubious distinction in that we produce more serial killers than any other culture. Quick - name one British serial killer other than Jack the Ripper. Can't do it? I can think of one, but I don't remember his name. Name a Canadian one. A Swede? A German, not counting Hitler?
I'm sure there are some, but even when they have one, they don't make him a star.

Now, name an American serial killer. John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer - that's just off the top of my head. Manson doesn't count - he's a cult leader, and his crew were spree killers. Spree killers happen everywhere now and then. Only America had to develop a professional law enforcement specialty called "Profiling." The word, the practice, everything, started in our FBI by a former Agent John Douglas. The last estimate I read is that there are 150-200 serial killers active in this country at any one time. Did you listen to the news this weekend? Did you hear about the 10 year-old girl who was abused, murdered and was about to be cannibalized by her killer? He even wrote about it on his blog.

What is it that makes America so uniquely adept at producing serial killers - who, by the way, are usually white men between 25 and 35. That's a hint. Yep, it's that white male privilege that says "I am the master of my domain. I can rape, pillage and plunder at will, for all creatures are inferior to me, and I am free to take what I want." It's not a huge step from Manifest Destiny to the Zodiac Killer. Or the Boston Strangler. Or Son of Sam. Or the Green River Killer. The same entitlement that allowed the settlers to commit genocide against the First Nations is the same entitlement that says I can stalk, torture and murder women or children. Not many Killers out there targeting other white guys, are there? They only target those they perceive as "less" - less likely to strike back, less threatening, less human. Now, lets take someone like Ramirez, the Night Stalker, who was charged with 13 counts of murder. These were obviously horrific crimes, and I don't mean to minimize the suffering of those victims. How many people will die because of the sense of entitlement displayed by Ken Lay? He never hurt anyone directly that we know of, but he destroyed life after life of the people who worked for him faithfully and put their trust in his company. Ramirez crimes were immediate and horrible, but had a comparatively small scope. Ken Lay will probably be responsible for 5, or 6, or 30 times as many unnecessary deaths because he stole the life savings people were counting on. Both crimes are unforgivable. Ramirez is in jail. Will Ken Lay ever pay for those unnecessary deaths? I doubt it.

That same sense of entitlement is why women aren't safe in their own homes. You don't have to be a Ramirez to be a danger to a woman. You just have to be in a relationship with her. Women are more likely to be raped by someone they know than by a stranger. They are more likely to be killed by a lover or husband than anyone else. Those pregnant women aren't being killed by other women - they're being killed by the men who impregnated them. How many women have to seek restraining orders against an ex? How many of them are killed or brutalized in spite of them? Too many. That's why we're blogging about this today.

I want an America where women are safe in their homes, in their schools and in their neighborhoods. I want a world where women everywhere enjoy the basic freedoms that any human being should have- control over their own person; education; the ability to support themselves through work other than prostitution; safety from rape, genocide, and war; food and shelter for themselves and their children.

It is absolutely possible. Are we going to make it happen?


At 8:56 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assure you, all of these are well known in their respective countries. And yes, I agree that the threat of direct violence is what enables indirect violence like starvation and subjugation.

At 1:29 AM , Blogger linda said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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