CDi - Community Development International | Miles of Trees Message Board › Vagina Warriors, Local 409
New York, NY
Of the seven billion people on the planet, about half are women, naturally. Fully one third of those will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity.
Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, has inspired a monumentally ambitious project for this coming Valentine's Day/V-Day, February 14, 2013: ONE BILLION RISING. The call is for one billion women, and the men who support them, to leave their workplace, take to the streets and dance in protest of violence against women and demanding that it end finally and forever!
One section of the V-Day website is devoted to V-Men, guys who want to support women and are willing to work to end sexual violence. It asks men to articulate how these issues have impacted their lives, and what they have been able to do about it. This made me think about the roots of my own feminist thinking:
Tough Guys Support Women...
My father was a tough guy. Taught boxing to immigrant high school kids that were getting beat up. So picture him standing at the kitchen sink in his boxer shorts, cigar stub in his mouth, doing the dinner dishes. By example, he taught my brother and me that there was nothing unmanly about helping our mother. There was no such thing as 'woman's work'. There was only work that needed to be done and we were expected to pitch in. My father taught us to respect women. He would never stand by while a woman was being hurt, or shamed or degraded. These are values that were instilled in me, which I hope I have passed along to my son.
In today's culture little girls are hypersexulaized, pole-dancing is taught in gyms, kids are 'sexting', and women are offered for sale in the back pages of your local newspaper and on page after page of your telephone directory. When did buying and selling women become normal and acceptable? This is something I can't observe without voicing strong objections.
I am often embarrassed by the behavior of some men. What did their fathers teach them? While I am sometimes angered, I am more frequently saddened. This pimp culture seems so pervasive. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with phony sexualized images of women selling everything under the sun. Women are objectified and reduced to window dressing. Violence against women is increasingly normalized in advertising. Subservient posturing in ads is not accidental. It is part of the propaganda in a war on women. While this certainly affects men as well as women, it is largely women who are the targets and victims of messages that capitalize on human insecurity and vulnerability. Sexuality is simultaneously expected of them and then judged by skewed and artificial standards.
Both femicide and genocide begin with the dehumanizing and degrading of "the other". We saw this in Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, and now in central Africa where rape is increasingly used as a specific instrument of political terror. Female genital mutilation remains prevalent. The porn industry is increasingly sexualizing violence and degradation as evidenced by a growing body of 'torture porn'. Human trafficking is becoming the world's leading moneymaker. Juvenile victims of sexual abuse are sent to jail for prostitution while johns, pimps and traffickers rarely face prison. The U.S. has more women locked up in its prison-industrial complex than any nation on earth.
Meanwhile those paragons of patriarchy, the Church and the State, are colluding to roll back forty years of progress in women's right to some measure of reproductive autonomy. An avalanche of laws have been passed in recent years that restrict not only access to abortion, but to contraceptives and even to impartial information about reproductive health issues and options. Right now, in 90% of U.S. counties, a woman does not have access to any abortion provider. Yet some would roll us right back to the coat-hanger days when young women were commonly found exsanguinated in stairwells and alleyways, the result of botched abortions. I remember such events being barely newsworthy unless the victim was white and middle-class.
So how do we change this cultural landscape? How, as men, do we confront entrenched patriarchy? How can we resist media manipulation? Silence is not an option. We need to stand up, speak out, and ACT to renounce porn-culture. We need to support women in every way we can. Have those difficult discussions with friends and family about derogatory language. Write to politicians, newspapers, advertisers, manufacturers. Teach your sons and daughters by example. Use your social networks for something important: blog, march, protest, vote. Become a radical feminist activist!
This is everyone's work. Tough guys stand up for women. We all should.
Peace, Justice and Freedom...