Ser Pro-activo (Be Proactive)

pro-activo-buttonEstamos a punto de terminar el mes de acción en contra de la violencia doméstica pero creo que deberíamos seguir siendo proactivos durante todo el año, no sólo en octubre. Para ser proactivo, hay muchas cosas que puedes hacer en este momento, y el votar es una de ellas. Votar es muy importante sobre todo porque éste es un año de elecciones presidenciales. Es cierto que el gobierno por sí solo no va a solucionar o resolver el problema tan fuerte de violencia doméstica y sexual en nuestra sociedad. Sin embargo, la administración que sea elegida tendrá un impacto sobre el financiamiento de los servicios que están disponibles para los sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y sexual. Tu voto cuenta. Tu voto tendrá un impacto y puede hacer la diferencia.

Al final, sea quien sea el ganador de esta elección, nosotros continuáremos trabajando para hacer de este mundo un mundo mejor. Estamos en esto juntos. Vamos todos a asumir al 100% nuestra responsabilidad de poner fin a la violencia doméstica y así crear una comunidad de amor para todos nosotros.

Para hacer tu parte, puedes:

  1. Registrarte para votar―si ya lo has hecho, ¡genial! Entonces ofrécete como voluntario y ayuda a otros a registrarse.
  1. Reta a tus amigos, familiares y a ti mismo―cada vez que escuches algo que no está bien, llámalo por su nombre. Por ejemplo, cuando un niño golpea a una niña en el parque y la excusa es “es niño” o “son niños”, se proactivo y di “Eso no está bien. Esa es una conducta abusiva”. O cuando una estudiante es atacada sexualmente y todo el mundo se centra en lo alcoholizada que estaba, de nuevo, se proactivo y di ” Eso no está bien. Alcoholizada o no, ella tiene el derecho a ser tratada con respeto”. Todos los días escuchamos este tipo de comentarios, por lo que hay muchas oportunidades para iniciar estas conversaciones.
  1. con tus hijos―los niños son muy inteligentes y por lo general están escuchando todo lo que está sucediendo alrededor de ellos así que toma un momento para hablar con ellos, pregúntales sobre lo que escuchan y así sabrás lo que están entendiendo. Luego ten una conversación con ellos sobre el respeto y el consentimiento. Es importante que los niños comprendan que hay ciertos comentarios que no son aceptables. Nuestros niños están siendo influenciados por el medio ambiente. Depende completamente de nosotros si queremos que ellos estén bien informados y conscientes.
  1. Infórmate―La información es poder, la ignorancia es peligrosa.
  1. Ve y vota el 8 de noviembre

 

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proactive-buttonWe are about to end Domestic Violence Action Month but I believe we should continue to be proactive all year long, not just in October. To be proactive, there are many things that you can do right now, and voting is an important one especially since this is a presidential election year. It is true that the government by itself is not going to fix or resolve the pervasive issue of domestic and sexual violence in our society. However, the administration that is elected will have an impact on funding services that are available for domestic and sexual violence survivors. Your vote counts. Your vote will have an impact and it will make a difference.

In the end, whoever the winner for this election is, we will continue working to make this world a better one. We are in this together. Let’s all take on the responsibility of ending domestic violence and creating a beloved community for all of us.

To do your part, you can:

  1. Register to vote―if you have done that, great! Then volunteer and help others to get registered.
  1. Challenge yourself, your friends, and family―every time you hear something that is not accurate, call it out by its name. For example, when a boy hits a girl in the playground and the excuse of “boys will be boys” is used, say “That’s not OK. That is abusive behavior.” Or when a girl is sexually assaulted and everyone focuses on how drunk she was, again say “That’s not OK. Drunk or not drunk, she has the right to be treated with respect.” Every day we hear these kinds of comments, so there are plenty of opportunities to initiate these conversations.
  1. Have conversations with your kids―kids are pretty smart and they are usually listening to everything that is happening around them so take a moment and talk to them, ask them what they are understanding. Then have a conversation with them about respect and consent. It is important for children to understand that there are certain comments that are not acceptable. Our children are being influenced by the environment even if we do not want it. If we want them to be well informed and aware, that is up to us.
  1. Inform yourself―Information is power, ignorance is dangerous.
  1. Go and vote on November 8th.

 

 

 

 

Dependence, independence, interdependence

A fascinating article in the New York Times describes how some single mothers identify as Republican. Here are people who have not created traditional families, or for whom the traditional family structure has failed, and who are disproportionately in need of government supports like food stamps. And yet, about 25% align themselves with the party of “traditional family values” and small government. singlemom

Why? As a single mother friend of mine says “I am not looking for more independence” as she raises her young son; and sometimes it seems like that’s what progressives/Democrats have to offer. The emphasis on equality in work and educational opportunities leaves some of us feeling as if we should achieve economic success while at the same time providing a fulfilling family life for our kids, too—all by our liberated selves. The bar is just higher and higher, and that does not feel liberating.

My friend knows she needs interdependence—neighbors she can count on to watch her child so she can run to the store or work late (and vice versa); people to bring her food and help care for her little one when she is sick; involved grandparents who will help nurture a strong sense of family. The fact that she has someone dependent on her makes interdependence necessary, and more that that, attractive.

I think mainstream feminism has missed the boat on this point. The emphasis on equality in public life: politics, workplace, finances, on women having access to the social goods and opportunities men have has put the movement at risk of devaluing the work traditionally done by women: nurturing children, caring for the frail and elderly, building community networks. Too often, progressives and feminists have let conservatives “own” these issues in public debates, or make it sound as if prioritizing caregiving and prioritizing women’s liberation are at odds with each other.

A lot of social policy is based on the idea that everyone is an independent, rational adult who can choose whether or when to connect with other people. What a fascinating fantasy. This assumes no pregnancy, no children, no frail elders, no dependents, no dependency. Just as medical research that assumes everyone is a male aged 18-40 isn’t particularly useful to women, social policy constructed on the assumption that we are all independent atomistic individuals doesn’t tend to work too well for infants, single mothers, parents, adult children taking care of elderly parents, and those who need assistance from others to live their lives.

The fact is everyone starts out a very fragile, vulnerable baby. And as parents know, carrying a pregnancy and giving birth is exhausting, challenging and even dangerous, and just about everyone needs help with the process in order to live and have the baby live. And most of us are going to spend the end of our lives in need of profound assistance from the people around us. In between, we may have periods of illness or injury where our survival depends on others.

In reality, dependence and taking care of those who are vulnerable are deeply integral to the human experience and should be finely woven into everything about how we think of organizing every part of our society. For example, this hospital emergency room.

Conservatives claim ownership of “family values” yet their vision involves enforcing traditional gender roles. But liberalism and feminism leave some feeling like they have to do it all on their own, and they are not measuring up if they can’t. So here is the challenge for all of us as we shape public policy:

  • To always keep in mind dependents and the people who care for them. Whatever choices we make or aspirations we hold must take into account and work for them.
  • To find ways to support caregiving that do not rely on oppressive gender roles and do not require caretakers to sacrifice their economic well being, social connections, or status.
  • To realize the deeply human task of caretaking requires qualities and skills our public lives sorely need: patience, thoughtful observation, empathy, and respect for the dignity and value of those whose abilities differ from our own.
  • To keep in mind that liberation actually means that everyone, men included, gets to participate in the important task of caregiving—because it is only then that the full range of humanity is available to them.
  • Not all equality has economic measures—some of it happens in places where the rewards and challenges are immeasurable, yet profound, like parenting or helping an elder die with dignity.

The most recent wave of feminism had many tasks. Two big ones were to secure equality in the public sphere and to redefine the very nature of what it means to be human. To do the latter, we must embrace and affirm the fact that we are all dependent at different points in our lives, and the profound and loving work of taking care of dependents (traditionally women’s work) should be valued and shared among men and women.

To create beloved community, our vision must include non-oppressive, liberatory ways of maintaining connection, dependence, and interdependence.

Amor: Un valor fundamental (Love: A fundamental value)

Hace unos días participé en nuestro retiro, un tiempo y espacio donde como organización conversamos sobre nuestros valores fundamentals y cómo éstos marcan nuestro trabajo y decisiones. Un momento inspirador y por supuesto no podría esperar menos cuando el amor fue nombrado como uno de nuestros valores más importantes.

love-graffitti
Cuando uno habla de amor, suele sonar abstracto, o romántico, pero la realidad es que en WSCADV es definitivamente un verbo no un sustantivo y lo digo con toda firmeza pues en cada acción que se lleva a cabo, en cada projecto, en cada palabra, en cada reunión entre nosotros o con nuestros programas miembros, amor es el valor fundamental y el común denominador en nuestras acciones.

 
Para muchos la sola palabra amor no dice mucho, pero déjame te platico como es que personalmente he visto esta palabra en acción: cuando uno de nuestros compañeros esta pasando por un momento difícil y todos los demás ofrecen su ayuda y la organización cambia las políticas internas como el poder ceder tus días de enfermedad para alguien que lo necesite más que tú, eso es amor. O cuando se toma el tiempo necesario para re-estructurar la organización tomando en cuenta la opinión de cada uno y proporcionando el espacio necesario y seguro para procesar cualquier mal entendido, eso es amor. O aún cuando mal entendidos y diferentes puntos de vista surgen, el perdón y la entrega salen triunfantes, eso es amor. O cuando tu directora necesita ese extra apoyo para avanzar como organización donde todos cedemos y nos comprometemos para el crecimiento de nuestra organización, eso es amor.

 
Por que amor, no es solo una palabra, es compasión, es energía, es entrega, es estar presente, es eso que te centra y te impulsa a ser mejor, es apoyo, es entusiasmo, es inspiración, es amistad, es simple y llanamente querer lo mejor para los demás y uno mismo. Aquí en WSCADV cada uno de nosotros pone el corazón en cada acción con la finalidad de algún día erradicar la violencia para vivir en plenitud nuestra AMADA COMUNIDAD, y eso, eso es AMOR.

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Some days ago I participated in our retreat, a time and space where we, as an organization, could talk about our fundamental values and how those affect our work and decisions. It was an inspirational moment and of course I wasn’t surprised when love was named as one of our fundamental values.

 
When one speaks of love, it often sounds abstract, or romantic, but the reality is that at WSCADV love is definitely a verb, not a noun. I say this because in every action that takes place, in every project, in every word that we use, with each other as a team, at each meeting with our member programs, love is the fundamental value and the common denominator in our actions.

 
For many, the word love does not say much, but let me tell you how I have personally seen this word in action: when one of our colleagues was going through a difficult time and everyone else offered support, and the organization changed internal policies so we could give our sick days to someone who needs it more, that’s love. Or when you take the time to restructure the organization taking into account the opinion of every employee while providing a safe space to process any misunderstandings or concerns, that’s love. Or when misunderstandings and different points of view arise, forgiveness and compassion emerge triumphant, that’s love. Or when your director needs that extra support to move the organization forward and each one of us gives something up and commits to keep growing, that’s love.

 
Because love is not just a word, it’s compassion, it’s energy, it’s to be present, it’s what centers you and makes you better, it’s support, it’s enthusiasm, it’s inspiration, it’s friendship, it’s simply to want the best for others and yourself. Here at WSCADV each one of us puts our whole heart into every action in order to eradicate violence someday and to live fully in our BELOVED COMMUNITY. And that my friends, that is LOVE.

I knew this day would come

My 15-year-old daughters reached another milestone yesterday. Experiencing street harassment at the bus stop is not something I wanted to commemorate. I knew this day would come, and I dreaded it. If someone we knew demeaned their spirit or sense of safety, he or she would not be welcome in our lives. But how do you take on the commonplace attitude that men are entitled to comment on women’s looks at a bus stop or during a presidential speech? One of the men said, among other salacious remarks, “oh, if I was 25 years younger, I would have you.” I hate that ownership language. And besides, why would he assume that my daughter would have him? It is one thing to have a theoretical discussion about the objectification of women, but it is quite another to have your kids wondering if it is more risky to get on the bus or to walk back home.

My twin daughters, raised in the same environment, reacted very differently to the harassment. One said “you can’t show them that you are scared.” The other was more unnerved. Another woman at the bus stop yelled out “What did you say?” which made my daughters feel less alone. (Bless you bus stop ally.) teen-girls

I didn’t want to end the conversation with my daughters feeling powerless. We talked about noticing people around you, hanging back if you are uncomfortable, going into a store—really trusting your gut if something feels off. Don’t be afraid to yell out that someone is bothering you. I also had to tell them that this will probably happen again, and it is not about what you are wearing, how old you are, or what you look like, it is about being seen as less than a whole person.

At home, I talk about building a beloved community with each other, among our friends and neighbors, and in my work. How do we build a beloved community that is a big enough tent that this wouldn’t happen again? Emily May, co-founder of Hollaback, thinks we can end street harassment by  documenting each incident and sharing it with the world to shame harassers and build public understanding about the harms of it.

One of my daughters asked for a ride today instead of taking the bus. I gave her a ride, but I also told her that I don’t want her to be afraid to take the bus. I still have some work to do to help repair her sense of self.

I married my partner

I married my partner of 20+ years December 9th, at Seattle’s joy-filled city hall. Families, friends, and friendly strangers gathered to cheer on the newly married couples as they descended a grand staircase. It was quite a party.

Getting married is an ambivalent thing for me, as I have been shut out of that institution for a long time. And I’ve seen the very painful, dark side of marriage in my professional life. Let’s face it, the history of marriage is one of women giving their bodies, emotional support, and physical labor to men. And still to this day, this idea and the support it gets in society narrows women’s choices and harms children—in some marriages. So why would I want to participate?

Photo by  joseanavas
Photo by joseanavas

It’s complicated, because marriage is complicated. Our society uses marriage in multiple ways: as a symbol of love and commitment; as a way to access certain legal rights; and to define an economic relationship and expectations. And, historically, as a way to enforce gender roles that give men/husbands the upper hand in decisions about money and priorities in the family. At the same time, marriage is evolving, and extending marriage to same sex partners is part of a long history of changes we’ve made to marriage so that it reflects our current reality.

Since I’ve been in my relationship for over 20 years, getting married didn’t carry quite the same weight as it did for my parents. They were excited to live together for the first time, be independent of their parents, and finally “go all the way.” Um, that all happened a long time ago for me. What motivated me was something my parents and straight friends didn’t give much thought to: having protections and rights that only come with marriage. I wanted to be ensured I could be at my partner’s side if she should end up in the hospital; have the ability to make medical decisions if she were incapacitated; and know that if one of us dies, our assets will transfer smoothly to one another. Marriage makes the legal world out there safer for us and our daughter. So our marriage was a pragmatic decision.

But I was surprisingly moved as well. I think I had willfully ignored all the ways in which marriage symbolizes positive things in our culture: love, hope, the caring and kindness between people. My jaded cynicism was tempered by the joy that broke out when the voters legalized marriage equality. Watching LGBTQ couples celebrating their marriages gave me more hope for all of us, because it happened in spite of the challenges a homophobic culture places in the way of LBGTQ people creating healthy relationships.

For that reason, I think my marriage and other gay marriages may have something to teach everyone. They are part of the ongoing evolution of marriage from a system of ownership and entitlement to an institution that nurtures healthy love, human potential, and beloved community. As a very wise friend of mine (who married her beloved of 40 years) says, “everyone benefits and is honored by extending civil rights for all, and from recognizing and embracing the power of love and justice.” We are all uplifted when we extend dignity to those who have been denied rights.

Of course, and very importantly, the other thing that gay marriage gets us is gay divorce. This is a good thing because no community is immune to violence, control, and just plain old dysfunction. Ending a complex and long term relationship requires assistance, protection, and justice.

I’m happy to be married. I am moved to have my state and city celebrate and recognize my relationship and those of all my LGBTQ friends. I am relieved to have the rights and protections that come with marriage. And I’m glad to know that if I should need it, I can get a divorce as well. Because no one’s marriage should take away a person’s ability to make their own choices, follow their dreams, or protect themselves and their children.

High school football highlight

Did you happen to see that Ike Ditzenberger was hospitalized with severe pneumonia? For those of you who don’t know Ike, he is a local teenager here in Washington State who attends high school in Snohomish. The video of his touchdown during a high school football game a couple of years ago went viral, and he won the Seattle Children’s Inspirational Youth Award. Check out his acceptance speech—it’s well worth the 5 minutes of your time.

What caught my attention with his recent near-fatal health scare, was how his teammates have been with him every step of the way. Ike experiences the beloved community—with his team and their opponents, in his school, and with family and neighbors. Imagine if every teenager had this. Imagine.

True grit meets beloved community

I’m just back from our smashingly successful annual conference, entitled Beloved Community. We had a great vibe—lots of joyful tears and laughter—new ideas and thoughtful conversation. 2012 might have been our best conference so far.

Buried in the stack of junk mail when I walk in my front door is a thank you card from my neighbor for her birthday present, and a long thin envelope. From the minister of my church. Explaining the church’s position on, and the current status of, our music director who is under investigation for possession of child pornography.

Nothing like going from all the warm fuzzies of beloved community to the true grit—where the rubber meets the bumpy beloved boulevard.

Me personally? I have men in my life who have perpetrated horrid acts. And I struggled for years to figure out where to put John (my brother-in-law/murderer) and Joel (my long-time-and-still-good-friend/pedophile) in my world view. And, more importantly, in my heart. I bet anything that you too have people you care about who have done terrible things.

Let’s face it. We do not have a sophisticated way of dealing with this. And I am NOT talking about a criminal justice response—or rather ONLY a criminal justice response.

Beloved community calls upon us all to respond in a much broader assortment of ways—to every street harasser, rapist, and batterer—whether the criminal justice system ever touches them or not. To be kind, assertive, and persistent. To see it through until the victim is made as whole as possible, and only then attending to the perpetrator and seeing that he is made as whole as possible too.

Beloved community can be messy and demanding. So I guess we’re just going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

What next? Part 6

Earlier this year, our executive director, Nan Stoops, was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Hawai’i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Her assignment: outline a five-point plan for ending violence against women and girls.

Here is the final installment of her speech. (Or jump to: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Point #5: Recognize the beloved community

I want to close by talking about the beloved community. I was recently re-introduced to the concept of beloved community, and I had two instant realizations: one was that beloved community describes what I have always hoped we can achieve, and the second was that the beloved community is something I have already experienced.

For me, the beloved community is characterized by integrity, respect, openness, kindness, honesty, curiosity, authenticity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, hard work, fair play, good humor, and a belief in the abundant possibilities of our humanity.

I experience the beloved community in different ways with my co-workers back home, with friends, family, my softball team, and neighbors. Almost always, food is involved. Laughter too, and, sometimes, tears. We acknowledge that we are in community with one another, we work together to sustain it, we appreciate the privileges it represents, and do not take it for granted.

At certain times, I expect to be in the presence of beloved community. But it is the unexpected moments that take my breath away. Like when the driver of elementary school bus #4 told her riders that she would drive her route for as long as she could while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, and that night the children shaved their heads in solidarity.

Or when 16-year-old Isaiah T. read his poem entitled “It was taken some time ago” about the many losses in his life, and about staying with his homeless mother, and staying in school, and staying with the memories of all that was taken some time ago. The standing ovation Isaiah received was our wish for a beloved community for him.

Or when a 62-year-old woman marched in Seattle’s “Slutwalk” to protest against the Toronto police officer who said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This particular woman marched in grey pants, a red sweater, a scarf, and brown loafers. She had bought them 40 years ago to replace the same outfit that the police had bagged as evidence after she was raped. She had never planned to wear the clothes, but she just wanted to have them. As she marched, she carried a sign that read “this is what I was wearing.” Beloved community.

Each of us might think of beloved community differently. What’s important is that we know it when we see it. And that we work today as if we plan to live in it tomorrow. Beloved community. Freedom, now and always.