Category Archives: Women and Violence

Preventative measures against violence [Women and Violence, Part 9]

[This is the final part of my series on Women and Violence, which I wrote as a project for a Women Studies course I took this quarter. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

I realize that a quarter-long series of articles about violence against women can be depressing, and I’d like to end this on an optimistic note.

Unfortunately, I don’t have The Solution to violence against women. Even I don’t have delusions of being that wise. ;) But – and here I’m engaging in a bit of hubris – I believe in the power of language to educate and agitate for change. That’s one of the reasons I chose to undertake this project, and why I choose to blog in general. Writing and dialoguing is important. It’s powerful. It’s consciousness raising in cyberspace. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Feminism, Women and Violence | 4 Comments

Voice and silence [Women and Violence, Part 8]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

In “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” Audre Lorde writes the following description of her thought process when faced with a potential diagnosis of cancer:

[…] and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.

I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” (41)

Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Gender Caste, Women and Violence | 3 Comments

Policing women through violence [Women and Violence, Part 7]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

In an article titled “‘Femininity’ and women’s silence in response to sexual harassment and coercion,” Kathleen V. Cairns describes how harassment of women functions as a method of social control over women’s behavior:

[O]vert practices include the public, ritual shaming of women in the form of catcalls, lewd remarks and so on which serves to demonstrate the fact that ‘any man or group of men feels entitled not only to pass judgement on any woman walking along minding her own business, but also to announce it to her‘ [Kotzin 1993: 167]

[…]

In patriarchy, women are taught to accept that their femaleness, their simple presence, are responsible for men’s behavior towards them […] It becomes women’s responsibility to police themselves, to keep their dress, comportment and presence within approved limits to avoid ‘provoking’ harassment. (96-7).

This dynamic – of men acting with impunity to judge women, and women shouldering the blame for men’s actions towards them – can be applied to other forms of gender violence as well. What it comes down to is the way that negative reactions from men – or even the anticipation of those reactions – function to police women in everything from their appearance to their behavior. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, The Beauty Myth, Women and Violence | 4 Comments

The obligatory FGC post [Women and Violence, Part 6]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

Yesterday some of my classmates gave a presentation about female genital cutting (though the terminology they used, and which is probably more familiar to people, is “female genital mutilation” – a difference which I’ll address later on). It’s an important, worthwhile issue, and I’m glad our class is addressing it.

Still, every time the topic comes up in conversation I cringe inwardly. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Feminism, Racism, Women and Violence | 5 Comments

The violence beneath 'beauty' [Women and Violence, Part 5]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

Next week I’m giving a presentation in class on cosmetic surgery in regards to women of color. Now, cosmetic surgery does not readily fall under most common definitions of ‘violence,’ and I find myself hesitant to categorically label it as such.

On the one hand, while cosmetic surgery does involve bloody alterations on a person’s body, so does surgery in general, and we generally don’t label that as violent – especially when voluntarily consented to by the patient. The fact that cosmetic surgery is often (though not always) agreed to by an autonomous individual does mitigate the physical damage it brings.

Of course, we are all aware that ‘consent’ is a sticky issue, and that we can’t ignore the pressures that can constrain a person’s ability to make a choice – particularly in the case of women facing pressures to be ‘beautiful’ in a certain way.

Furthermore, the same level of physical damage can be construed as ‘violent’ or ‘non-violent’ depending on the context. Full-contact sports can be performed just as ferociously as a street brawl, yet not be uncontrolled and violent. What’s more, a session of safe, sane, and consensual BDSM can be non-violent, while the quietest rape perpetrated under clearly communicated threat is clearly not. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Racism, The Beauty Myth, Women and Violence | 9 Comments

Tradition and the obscuring of gender violence [Women and Violence, Part 4]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

One of the most insidious ways of normalizing and justifying gendered violence is by tying it to tradition. By portraying perpetrators as if they were enacting the accepted practices of a culture, those in power position victims of violence not only against their victimizer, but also against the weight of a culture’s history. Additionally, “tradition” is a popular buzzword that protects a practice from interrogation, hiding it behind a shield of maintaining history or honoring ancestors. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Racism, Women and Violence | 11 Comments

Discursive patterns regarding sexual violence [Women and Violence, Part 3]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

A couple of disclaimers, to start:

-First, this is not about me being angry at, or blaming, any particular individuals. This is also not about placing the responsibility for a society-wide problem on these particular individuals.

-Second, this entry is for everyone to read, even though I refer to a specific example in which only a few people were involved. The point of this entry is, again, not to pin the responsibility on anyone. The point is to raise awareness of a common, problematic pattern that we all engage in.

The other day I posted this rant to my journal concerning an incident at work. I was disturbed and angry about what seems to me an instance of sexual harassment (not because it was necessarily aimed at women, but because it was sexual and it was harassment). I was also aware of the ways in which sexism played into my reaction: my first instinct was to minimize my own discomfort and stay quiet about it, though in the end I realized what I was doing and spoke up.

Several people commented on that entry (though I have since screened the comments – again, so that attention or blame is not focused on one or two people). Here is the layout of the comments as of today, April 14:

-One short thread (one person’s comment and my reply) expressing sympathy about my experience.
-One long thread that begins with a person expressing sympathy, then suggesting an alternate explanation that would excuse the anonymous man’s actions as being something other than sexual harassment. The thread continues with two other people joining in to support the idea of an alternate explanation, and the topic of my distress leaves the conversation.

Why did the conversation end up like this? Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Women and Violence | 14 Comments

Denying responsibility for sexism [Women and Violence, Part 2]

[This is part of my series on Women and Violence, which I am writing as a project for a Women Studies course I’m taking. For an explanation and information on my intentions with this series, please see the introduction.]

One of the first readings assigned for this class has been Albert Bandura’s “Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control,” published in volume 46, number 1 of Journal of Social Issues. The purpose of the article is to examine how, in normal and everyday circumstances, people can commit actions that they typically consider immoral. Most of the time, barring deviant individuals, we keep ourselves in check. We decide not to commit immoral actions according to what we understand as ‘moral,’ without needing other people to force us to do so.

According to Bandura, we regulate ourselves through the use of “self-sanctions.” I guess it’s like the superego, but without dealing with issues of the unconscious. For a psychological layperson like me, it’s useful just to think of it as a conscience. Basically it means that we watch and judge ourselves, and that is what determines our behavior. So if those judgments are somehow deactivated, then we can engage in behavior that we would normally consider wrong, but without making ourselves feel shame.

This is a pretty useful concept for a class on gendered violence, because it helps explain why something normally heinous (violence, particularly sexual violence) has become so common against women. I also find it useful for wider discussions about sexism in general – why something as awful-sounding as discriminating against people based on their sex is nonetheless such a widespread part of our societies. Not by a few of the absolute worst people. Not by the people who mean to do it. But by everybody. Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Women and Violence | 13 Comments

Introduction [Women and Violence, Part 1]

This is a bit of an experiment. This quarter I’m taking a Women Studies course titled “Women and Violence.” The final project for this class is open to creative interpretation, and so I’m attempting to bring together my academic feminism … Continue reading

Posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Feminism, Women and Violence | 13 Comments