2012 ended with too many stories of violence against women making headlines. An unnamed woman in New Delhi, India, was brutally raped and died of her injuries. The NY Times took national a story of a rape that appears to have been documented on social media.
These tragedies have left me so utterly pissed off that I can barely form words. Thankfully others haven’t been so quiet. Lauren Wolfe, director of Women Under Siege, reminds us that violence against women is not just an issue for the Indian government. It is depressing that Wolfe needs to also remind us that rape and violence against women is not about sex, rather it is about power and she quotes Gloria Steinem in saying violence is about “proving ‘masculine’ superiority.”
As E.J. Gaff summed up in her always brilliant way, there was a War on Women in 2012. We had U.S. Congressmen talking about rape as gifts from God (that’s a pretty messed up God, if you ask me!) and totally not understanding how women’s bodies work. Seriously, the whole “women’s bodies know how to shut it down” explanation was akin to “if the woman drowns, she’s not a witch!”
So that leaves us in 2013…and thanks to Congressman Cantor, we do so without a Federal Violence Against Women Act. And what was his issue? The idea that non-Native American men be held accountable for violence perpetrated against Native American women on tribal land.
Yeah, I know…speechless.
How do we do anything to end violence against women with so much going against us?
For one, we need to raise our sons right. Sadly, the fact is that almost all of the violence against women in the world is done by men, let’s focus on our sons.
Yes, I know, you are teaching your sons to not rape and “Don’t hit a girl!” But we need to go much further than that.
We need to teach our boys that girls and women are not things. They are human beings. They were not put on this earth for their consumption. If you believe in the Bible, women are helpmates. Not playthings.
I visited my dad over Christmas and on our Southwest flight home, a woman flight attendant asked very politely to borrow the guy-next-to-me’s safety brochure. She was prepping for the “safety talk” most people ignore. He responds, “Of course, but afterward, come sit on my lap.” I assume she can’t slap him across the face or toss him right off the plane, so she smiles and laughs it off. I responded with, “Dude? Really?” I then got to hear him, for the entire flight, give the younger man next to him lessons on how to get away with that crap. “Oh, sure, some people find it offensive, but I just laugh and get away with it.”
OK, OK…he did not touch the flight attendant, but he objectified her as if he thought he was living in “Mad Men” time. And I honestly, dearly believe that is the first step to violence against women. Some men won’t go further than the jerk on the plane, but some will go much further. The objectification of women in our society is dangerous. When men see women are mere objects, they feel ownership and the need to protect their property. This can result in boyfriends texting & harassing girls to make sure they know where they are night & day. The sense of ownership plays a big role in jealously, which can lead to physical and/or emotional violence. And in the extreme case of gang rapes, I don’t know the research, but for a group of men to assault a woman over and over, they must see her as an object and not a human being.
I do not advocate or want us to move towards a society where women are covered up. It certainly does not stop violence against women in communities where women are modestly dressed. Rather, I want us to move towards a society where we respect women’s dreams and choices. Where we treat all our daughters as human beings and not objects.
What will you do in 2013 to help?
About the Author: Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist, a mom and a writer. She blogs about the intersection of feminism and motherhood at VivalaFeminista.com. Veronica lives on the north side of Chicago with her husband, their spunky daughter and doxie named Piper. You can connect with Veronica at Facebook or Twitter.