Violence Against Women: We’ll Need More than a Hashtag

Not too long ago, about 300 Nigerian school girls were aroused from their beds in the early morning hours. As Nigeria and the rest of the world slowly responded to the horrible news, the crescendo of voices from around the globe was unified in their condemnation of the violent, cowardly act by the Boko Haram. Since then, the clamor has softened; the fate and whereabouts of the majority of children remain unknown.

The so-called response by the U.S., Britain and even the Nigerian government has come up empty, despite their sophisticated intelligence, i.e. drones, etc. Oil is their interest in the region, not little black girls. Let’s not get confused.

Global gender violence is pandemic and comes in many forms, impacting the emotional, social, physical and psychological state of females. When you add race, class and religion to the equation, the scope of the problem becomes painfully clear.

In developing regions such as African and India, violence is especially rampant. However, religious and cultural traditions make it difficult to challenge violent acts such as female mutilation or honor killings. In the U.S., which considers itself highly civilized, a woman is beaten or assaulted every 9 seconds, three are murdered daily by their partners, and every 2 minutes, a woman is raped. The conclusion one draws is that if you’re a female (including transgenders) you are not safe, no where, no how.

In the weeks and days since the kidnapping, additional acts of violence against women and girls have been reported. This includes more kidnapping of girls by the Boko Haram. It includes the horrific rape and murder of two teenage girls in India. Much of the media has moved on and since it often guides what our eyes see and our ears hear, the public has also moved on. We must resist this impulsive character even when our lives are rooted in the day to day struggle of our own survival.

In response to the Nigerian kidnapping, a twitter hashtag (#bringbackourgirls) was created – even First Lady Michelle Obama participated. However, a hashtag and spontaneous rallies are woefully insufficient if we don’t connect the kidnappings to the global problem of violence against women.

We need to expose, challenge and change the heart and minds of people in all sectors of society if we expect to create an environment that respects and protects the aspirations and lives of women wherever they are in the world.

Because violence against women is perpetrated at many levels, it must be addressed on each of those levels. The acts and attitudes are both individual and institutional. Women’s oppression and exploitation are germane to the capitalist system. The system devalues women and attempts to control their existence. There are consequences when women step out of the patriarchal lines.

We must teach our children about the impact of violence with particular emphasis on gender violence. Our homes should be places of safety and security from all forms of violence but they must also be incubators for re-socializing our young who are bombarded with violent messages and images in the popular cultural in particular and in the society in general.

Concurrently, institutions responsible for perpetuating and preserving inferior statuses of females and that allow violence to be acceptable must be confronted. The military and the media, along with schools and churches, immediately come to mind. Our social movements could use some work too. We need to expose, challenge and change the heart and minds of people in all sectors of society if we expect to create an environment that respects and protects the aspirations and lives of women wherever they are in the world.

jamala rogersThere’s no way to keep up with the onslaught of attacks against the psyche and bodies of girls and women. Finding ways to address the systemic acceptance of women’s oppression that is embedded in our laws and policies is reasonable and a good use of our time and energy. Keeping in mind that a female is violated every second of every day should help keep us focused.

Jamala Rogers
Black Commentator

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