AGA Roll Call: Violence & Feminism

"We always knew when we took on the issue of violence against women that somehow our opposition would come after us. " - Patricia Ireland

"[We need to] talk about the root causes of terrorism, about the need to diminish this daily climate of patriarchal violence surrounding us in its state-sanctioned normalcy; the need to recognize people's despair over ever being heard short of committing such dramatic, murderous acts; the need to address a desperation that becomes chronic after generations of suffering; the need to arouse that most subversive of emotions -- empathy -- for "the other"; the need to eliminate hideous economic and political injustices, to reject all tribal/ethnic hatreds and fears, to repudiate religious fundamentalisms of every kind. Especially talk about the need to understand that we must expose the mystique of violence, separate it from how we conceive of excitement, eroticism, and "manhood"; the need to comprehend that violence differs in degree but is related in kind, that it thrives along a spectrum, as do its effects -- from the battered child and raped woman who live in fear to an entire populace living in fear." Robin Morgan, from The Demon Lover

I have dealt with a lot of violence in my life: very directly, as well as indirectly, with people in my life who have been victimized, male and female, and culturally: there is violence around me, as there is with most people, almost every day, and all the more so if I engage myself in media in any way. Over the last near-decade of my life, I have managed -- by both design and by luck -- to both avoid violence done to myself and to construct as many aspects of my life as possible to keep it much further from me than I had been able to in the past, and there isn't a day that passes that I'm not incredibly thankful for that distance. There isn't a week that passes that I realize how much I still need to heal and what hard work that is. There isn't a day that passes that I don't realize that there are thousands of others who have dealt with, and continue to deal with, even more violence than I: thousands of women raped and tortured in Bosnia/Herzegovina, thousands of children molested and abused daily on foster care, women who live for decades with spouses who "negotiate" household decisions with their fists, many of whom are in religions which enable and support that violence, girls forced into sex work before they have even reached puberty, groups who lived in slavery for generation upon generation.

I know that is has profoundly influenced my feminism in so many respects. It's influenced it by the effects it has had on me, especially on me as female, knowing that I was targeted for violence I either would not have been targeted for had I not been female, or would have been much less likely to be victim to had my sex been different. It's influenced it per discussions I have had with both other survivors, as well as with those close to me in my life who have not survived violence to them, but who need to process the violence done to me. It's influenced it in terms of other women's stories of victimization and survival: it's influenced it per those I have cared for who could not survive it, ultimately. It's influenced it per the violence I experience in media, and the effects I see it have on those around me. It's influenced it in how I view and experience the systems which support it, celebrate it, and those who work to eschew or eradicate it. When I put my feminist glasses on, the lenses are often smudged with violence done to women, with violence done to everyone, with the violence people knowingly and unknowingly enable or enact.

It's a HUGE issue in nearly every sort/branch/school/wave of feminism you can think of, for obvious reasons. It's a huge issue, and always has been, in any movement seeking to end systematic oppression of any group. It's a huge issue because it can and often does infect anything and everything: from our childhoods to the sexual relationships we have as adults, from what streets we choose to walk on and when to how we make our living. It finds itself in the words we say and which our said to us, in images we see daily, in how we interrelate with those around us, from our closest companions to our gas stations to entire groups and nations. It's a huge issue, because it is one of the arenas in which we are strongly encouraged NOT to ask questions, acknowledge injury, or seek real change, especially as women.

Let's start by talking about the most overt forms of violence: rape, domestic/familial/relationship abuse, battering, strong sexual harassment, war-related violence.

Some ideas to write on:

• How has violence effected/influenced/shaped your feminism, whether you have been directly exposed as a victim of violence or a close bystander, or whether you've watched from afar? If you haven't had immediate experience with violence, how do you feel about, for instance, violence in media in terms of your feminism, and how you approach, support or protest it? What about growing up with survivors of rape, abuse or wars?

• Given that, yes, the majority of violence is done and has always been done by men (which also means that not only is most violence to women by men, most violence to children and men themselves is, as well), how do you deal with that: in your feminism, in what interpersonal relationships you have with men, in your place in culture and how you view it at large? And if you have had/also had experiences in which you have been violently victimized by a woman, how do you deal with THAT? How does that effect your feminism and your dealings with other women?

• How do you feel about violence, period? Do you ever feel disaffected or like you've been made immune? If so, how do you rectify that with feminism, or in relationships with those who are not disaffected, are strongly triggered, or otherwise very deeply effected by violence? What have conversations/relationships with other feminist women who have had radically different experiences than you have with violence (who have survived rape when you have not, for instance, or who have never encountered any immediate violence when you have) gone like? How have both of your stories/experiences benefitted the other?

• How do you think feminism works/has worked to reduce violence? Do you think it can? What can women do? How can men help?

"In violence we forget who we are." Mary McCarthy

Don't forget: write to remember.

Tag your post with "AGA Roll Call: Violence & Feminism," or, if you're a reader here, leave a letter at the All Girl Army forums, or a link to your letter at your own blog or journal in the comments here.

To read our writer's responses to this call as they come in, click here.