After I returned home from The New Agenda’s Violence Against Women Forum last Saturday, I couldn’t stop talking to my husband about it. (I, like one of my favorite bloggers, AnnaBelle P, am extremely blessed to have a husband with whom I can discuss these types of issues.)
Now, I know I’m pretty radical, even for a feminist. I say “Women First,” and women start cringing and backing away – even women who essentially agree with me. The idea that women should be our first priority doesn’t seem fair to them. I say, with a smile, that when there are 83% women in the legislature and 17% men, they can talk to me about fairness. Until then, we have to swing the pendulum radically in favor of women just to force our way closer to equality.
Given my stubborn adherence to this somewhat unpopular point of view, you can imagine how my husband and I can have rather lively discussions at times. And this time, he gave me such a great insight into one reason why the vast problem of violence against women remains unacknowledged and unrecognized by our laws and culture.
It’s called Denial.
After I had spoken uninterrupted for about seven hours or so (okay, a bit of an exaggeration there), we started talking about making people aware of this problem. His reaction was fascinating.
“Well, there are only a small percentage of men who commit violence against women, aren’t there?”
I retorted that according to the statistics I had heard at the meeting, 700 women are raped every day in America. That doesn’t seem like a small percentage to me. Three women are killed every day by an intimate partner. That doesn’t seem like a small percentage to me.
But why wouldn’t he think it was a small percentage? There is a coverup of enormous proportions in our media and in our culture. “The bitch deserved it” rings out when people speak about Rihanna and Chris Brown. A woman who doesn’t leave her abuser is judged by her sisters and found wanting, despite the fact that more women are killed after they leave their abusers than before. Our family court systen puts 58,000 children a year into the custody of their abusers, even when sexual abuse is involved. This problem is made even worse by the fact that 71% of women who are victims of violence at the hands of their partners do not speak out, for fear that their husbands and boyfriends will finally kill them if they do so.
And of course there’s our American exceptionalism to deal with. We Americans love to believe we’re number one in every single way, don’t we? I’ve had people get very angry with me when I say there are better places for women to live than this country we love so much, places where women have more opportunities and better recognition and care. It’s amazing to me that anyone would be so blind as to think that there could not be anywhere else in the world that is more socially enlightened, in terms of women’s rights, than the United States of America. And yet, this attitude does exist, even among those who have been to other countries and have seen the differences for themselves.
American denial is so very strong, and of course it’s encouraged by the patriarchy, because it sure helps keep those uppity wimmins in their place.
But we must break through the denial, so there will be acceptance and healing of this deep, deep illness our society suffers from, but refuses to see.
How do we do this? One way presents itself to me. As an artistic type of person, I would like to suggest that the new feminist movement recruit visual artists, musicians, writers and videographers/filmmakers to educate women and men in an easily accessible and enduring manner. A piece of art really can change the world. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, movies like Wall Street, viral videos like that Hillary 1984 commercial created for the Obama campaign, songs like “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” – they all made such an impact at various times in the political life of America. Why can we not do the same, my creative sistren and brethren – but in a focused and positive way?
I’ve mentioned the radio show I participate in, The View from Under The Bus, and how I and my fellow Viewians always take turns presenting a HerStory segment. This time, it was my turn, and I chose to write about Alice Paul. I admit that I didn’t know anything about this feminist icon until about eight months ago, because, surprise surprise, all I heard about in school was Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. However, as I was doing my research on the Internets, I ran into a little play about Alice created by and for Scholastic, as an educational tool for younger women. I thought, Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. When you tell a story, people remember it, especially if it’s done in an artistic and memorable way.
Right now, the story that American society is healthy for women is being told over and over again. But now, it’s time to tell a different story – one of a society that is sick, and desperately in need of acceptance and healing.
I hope that feminist organizations like The New Agenda will take this idea and run with it. And who knows – I may contribute a play or a song of my own!