Concientizándome (Self-awareness)

¿Como puede uno cuidarse a uno mismo, conocerse, y sanar un trauma o abuso del pasado? He estado reflexionando sobre lo que esta pregunta significa para sobrevivientes de abuso y al mismo tiempo lo que significa para mi, en lo personal y como mujer. Como mujeres, el apoyo que tenemos es suficiente para podernos conectar o reconectar con nosotros mismos y nuestro poder interior? Ese poder interior que nos guía, da el correcto balance a nuestra autoestima y nos da paz. Me pregunto, ¿cómo serían nuestras relaciones si estuviésemos conectados a nuestro poder interior y nos diéramos cuenta de que podemos crear y transformar nuestro propio futuro?

Hace unas semanas tuve la oportunidad de atender una capacitación sobre opressión con Leticia Nieto (super recomendable) donde se habló precisamente de nuestro poder interior y lo importante que es estar en contactoleticia-book con él. Durante los días siguientes a la capacitación, procesé mi pensar y sentir al respecto y al mismo tiempo me puse a pensar en la importancia de esta conección para las sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica y sexual. En este procesar de ideas, una amiga me dijo que era un privilegio el recibir el apoyo necesario para tener el tiempo y espacio necesarios para conectarte contigo mismo. ¿No debería este privilegio estar disponible para todos?

Me pregunto si como movimiento en contra de la violencia doméstica estamos ofreciendo ese apoyo de tiempo y espacio a sobrevivientes, especialmente inmigrantes sobrevivientes de abuso que de entrada están lejos de su país, familias y amigos. Ya sabemos, basados en nuestro Fatality Review Project, que sobrevivientes inmigrantes buscan primero a familia y amigos en situaciones de crisis. Entonces, quisiera que creáramos ese tiempo y espacio en las comunidades inmigrantes para que las mujeres, hombres y niños puedan tener lo necesario para conectarse con ellos mismos y su poder interior, recuperarse al abuso, y tener un mejor futuro.

Por ahora, empezaré conmigo misma reconociendo este privilegio y estando agradecida de tener todo lo necesario para desarrollar esta conección interior y al mismo tiempo estar más consciente de mi alrededor y de mi papel para ofrecer ese espacio seguro, ese tiempo y ese apoyo a quien no lo tiene.

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How do we take care of ourselves, be self-aware, and heal from trauma and an abusive past? I have been reflecting on this question on behalf of survivors as well as my own journey as a woman. Are we, as women, supported in being connected to our internal power? This is the power that guides us, brings balance to our self-esteem, and gives us peace. What would our relationships look like if we were connected to our own power and realized that we had the ability to create and shape our own future?

Some weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an anti-oppression training with Leticia Nieto (highly recommended) where we were talking about the importance of connecting with your internal power. In the days following the training, I thought about what this means for me, as well as how it might relate to domestic violence and sexual violence survivors. A friend pointed out that having the necessary support to have the space and time to connect with your internal power is a privilege. Shouldn’t this privilege be available to everyone?

So I wonder whether we, as a domestic violence movement, are offering that kind of time and space to survivors, especially to immigrant and refugee survivors of abuse that are far away from their countries, families, and friends. We already know from our Fatality Review Project that immigrant survivors in crisis situations reach out to family and friends first. I want us to focus on creating that time and space in immigrant communities so women, men, and children have what it takes to connect with their inner power, recover from the abuse, and have a better future.

For now, I am going to begin by recognizing my privilege of having all I need to connect with my internal  power and be grateful for that. At the same time, I am going to open my eyes and be aware of everyone around me, and of my role in offering that safe space, time, and support to those who do not have it.

Leadership

women-graduatingFrom an early age, I always thought to myself that education was “my way out.” I thought it would give me a voice, power over my choices, and freedom. I saw it as a way to equalize myself to boys and men. For the most part, things pretty much worked out how I imagined—I found my voice, I have more power over my choices, and I have the experience of freedom.

But lately I’ve been wondering, what if I focused less on trying to achieve what men have and more on how to develop myself to achieve what is most important to me? What if every girl and every woman did the same? What if each and every community valued educating girls to fulfill their goals?

What would women, as leaders, achieve? How would our communities be different? I imagine a whole new world of possibilities. And I am interested in hearing what you think!

This is what masculinity looks like

Perhaps ill-advisedly, I spent last Sunday afternoon at a dance performance with two of my sons. It was an unusually busy weekend, there was laundry and homework to do, and frankly neither of the boys was wild about the idea of sitting quietly in a theater for two hours. But I persisted, and we went.

The show was Men in Dance—a festival held every two years showcasing a wide variety of dance from classical to contemporary. All of the performers are men and boys. What I love about watching these dances is the sheer range of expression and styles. Some performances are tender and romantic, some funny, some bursting with energy and power.

It is tricky raising boys to be men in a culture that tolerates and celebrates men’s violence, and in which that violence does so much damage. One of the challenges is this: how do we teach boys to be conscious of and critical of violence, and at the same time to love and be proud of themselves, when the culture teaches them that violence is something essential about who they are?

I think what moves me about watching these dances is that it feels like a glimpse of liberated masculinity, what men can be outside of the “man box.” And I don’t mean just because men are defying macho stereotypes by dancing. That’s true, but it is only the surface. The dancers embody masculinity that stretches into a wide expanse of human experience, far beyond that narrow range of emotion typically recognized as manly. It is a celebration of men and male bodies. A display of strength and beauty without domination or objectification. Athleticism and skill without winners and losers. I want those models of manliness for my sons, but they are not easy to come by.

I’m leaving my boys for a few days later this week to join in a series of conversations about healthy masculinity. The Healthy Masculinity Action Project envisions a world where “Every man can be strong without being violent. Every man can make the world a better place.” Rejecting violence is only a first step. The conversations I hope to have are about how we get beyond that to a kind of masculinity that is worth celebrating. How we embody it an authentic way, recognize it in each other, and make it accessible to everybody. I know what it is like to grow up with no visible image of the kind of man I wanted to be, so I know it is possible to make it up on your own. I don’t know yet how to make that vision real for my boys and all of our sons, but I am excited to be with other people trying to figure it out.

Well, can you?

I got to musing about the title of our blog…

One angle goes like this: Can you relate to what we’re writing about? Are you also worried about losing pay when you have to take sick leave? Do you wonder whether your voice is heard by politicians? Or what your kids are up to online? Do you get all fired up about celebrity hook-ups and break-ups?

Alternatively, Can You Relate? asks: Do you see how domestic violence is woven into our culture? Do you see the interconnections and the complexities? And will you help us analyze and untangle all the knotty threads?

But in a third—and equally important sense—Can You Relate? challenges all of us to ask ourselves: How are we at relationships? Are we tending to our friends and loved ones well? Are we nurturing our kiddos along? Are we good lovers? I mean: are we good to our dates, our boyfriends & girlfriends, our partners, our spouses? And do we expect the same of them? Who helps us sort out what’s a blunder and what’s abuse?

Talk to a victim advocate, a police officer, a faith leader, a hairdresser, a coach, and you’ll start to see that we still have a real problem on our hands when it comes to relationships, power, and abuse. Thankfully, there’s been a long standing effort to tear down the old model that sees this stuff as a private matter, and a new model is under construction. Over 1,000 of you will literally run and walk alongside us this Saturday to show your support for healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention. We are on our way to a better world, and I hope you can relate to my excitement about that!

Honoring Adrienne Rich

Photo by Léna

When Adrienne Rich died last month, it made me think back to my twenties when she rocked my world. Ms. Rich wrote incisively and shockingly about the complexities of women’s lives. She dared us to use our power (personal and political) to upend everything that was understood or accepted as ‘for women.’ It was the early 1980’s and I was trying to figure out the mundane stuff like how I was going to pay the bills. I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted a future that was rich in creativity and productivity―not just marriage and motherhood.

I wanted to live a ‘feminist worthy’ life but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Adrienne Rich is one of the women’s voices that made a searing impression. The essay titles in her book of nonfiction, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence were provocative : “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying;” “Motherhood in Bondage;” “Conditions for Work: The Common World of Women.”

She held up a vision of a social movement that I wanted to be a part of “a politics of asking women’s questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women―not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every aspect of culture.” I wanted to find a community of women (and later men) who shared my aspirations. Without the dreaming and writing of women like Adrienne Rich, I would not have known what I was missing or what was possible.

I and all the women and girls I hold most dear owe a debt of gratitude to Adrienne Rich because she made me brave, and encouraged me to question and think. And now I’m teaching my girls to do the same; Ms. Rich would expect nothing less.

We need to talk

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a policy nerd. I’ve been watching the GOP primary extravaganza and heard something a couple of weeks ago that made me mad. (OK, there was more than one thing, but I’m only talking about one here). Mitt Romney went on the Today show and said that the increase in income inequality in this country is not a topic for public debate, but that it should rather be discussed in “quiet rooms.” And anyway, those that complain about the super-rich are simply envious. WHAT?!?

Don’t talk about it? What a blatant attempt to maintain a position of power and control. Hmmm, power and control―where have I heard that before? Now, I’m not saying that Romney is abusive because he said this (so shoo that bee away from your backside). But I would like to point out how insidious the desire to maintain power for the few is in this country. Whether or not this was intentional or naïve on Romney’s part, I don’t know. But the fact that he said he doesn’t want us talking about our growing economic divide AND that there hasn’t been a bigger showing of public outrage, point to how tolerated this kind of silencing is in our society.

Those experiencing abuse at the hands of their loved ones have for decades been told that it is not something to be talked about in the open—that it is “family business.” And this gives abusers a tremendous amount of control. Silence protects their power.

So what have we been doing to stop domestic violence? Talking about it. Talking in communities, schools, public forums about what domestic violence looks like, why it happens, how we can change it. The shrinking of the middle class is impacting survivors of abuse too, because less money means fewer good options for staying safe. Let’s start talking about that too.