From Complicity to Courage: Responding to Violence Against Women

 

  • Sexism: (1) prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women. (2) behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. (https://www.merriam-webster.com):

Misogyny: Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)

Many years ago I put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) and created a document that defined my personal vision statement, mission statement, and core values. I used several resources to guide me in this endeavor. I also provided initial drafts to close friends and family for feedback and to keep me honest. It was an eye opening experience that really challenged me to better understand my authentic nature. Of course, if one is awake and aware in this world, who we are and what we value shifts based on our lived experiences. In essence, we evolve. So over the years, I continually review these core values, make adjustments where necessary, and use them as a touchstone as I journey through life.

One of my identified core values is my strong faith in the power of women. Women represent over half of human life on the planet.  Women create life and are central to the well being of families, communities, and nations.  Women are our leaders, mentors, healers, spiritual guides, and confidants.  Women are our partners, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters.  Women are strong, smart, sensitive, sexual, and sacred.  Women are survivors of discrimination, violence, marginalization, exploitation, prejudice, medical maltreatment, and rape.  Women rise, soar, overcome, challenge, and change those barriers imposed by a misogynist world.  Women deserve equality, respect, access to valuable resources, freedom, peace, power, autonomy, choice, and love.  Women uniting are the most powerful and beautiful force in the world.  Women matter!

However, since the November 2016 presidential election, the rights of women are coming under attack in a fierce new way. Most notably, are threats to dismantle the Office of Violence Against Women and defund the many programs across the country providing life-saving services to survivors of rape and intimate partner violence. The effects of losing funding to help survivors would be deadly. Make no mistake, losing support means fewer safe havens for women and their children to hide from an abuser. Victims of rape will have less support as they navigate the criminal court system. They also will have fewer options to get the medical care and counseling they so desperately need. The bottom line is that loss of money means loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for so many women impacted by violence.

Furthermore, the pervasive cultivation of a culture that promotes violence against women is alarming. It cannot be overstated enough that there is a negative impact to women when a country elects a man who was caught sexually harassing women and demeaning a woman’s worth to a body part.  This sets us back…way back. Is that okay with you? Take a look around you. Turn on your computer, your TV, or just listen to friends, family, co-workers, and you will find a myriad of ways women are denigrated on a regular basis:

  • Sexist jokes/humor
  • Stereotyping men and women roles
  • TV, movies, and music that objectify women or use violence against women as an entertainment genre
  • Unequal pay for equal work
  • Denial of inequality
  • Body shaming women
  • Medical research focused primarily on men
  • Interrupting women
  • Unequal distribution of childrearing responsibilities
  • Using derogatory language (e.g. bitch, whore)
  • Lack of funding and fans for women’s sports
  • And the list goes on…

But we are not powerless against this onslaught of sexism and misogyny. Indeed, we witnessed the Women’s March in Washington, DC in January. We are mobilizing in many meaningful ways to support our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters. All of us can participate in every day social justice advocacy, which helps change our culture’s attitude and actions to women. For instance, if your co-worker is telling a sexist joke or calls a woman a “bitch” then speak out and let everyone know that this type of language in not acceptable. Attend a religious service where the head spiritual leader is a woman. Or call God “She” or “Mother”. Take the time to go to a local women’s sporting event. Volunteer or give donations to your local shelter for victims of domestic violence. Don’t tolerate video games that use violence against women. Don’t buy music that objectifies women. Take your sons and daughters to a “Take Back The Night” rally. Name and discuss the many instances of sexism and misogyny recorded in the Bible during your next Sunday school class.  There are so many every day things each of us can do to help. Are you up to the challenge

If so, join me on April 29, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida where I am facilitating a workshop at Intersections Jax (a day-long experience of spirituality, social justice, and the arts). The workshop focuses on identifying factors in our community that cultivate a culture of violence against women and every day social justice advocacy actions each person can take to challenge and change our world. I hope to see you there.

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