Do you think it’s even possible to end violence against women and children?
I’m serious. Is it possible for everyone to have healthy relationships, or is violence against women inevitable?
This is a question I’ve taken to posing recently, because as I approach the end of my long career, I want to know.
Maybe people—you, me, the guy sitting next to you—don’t believe this is possible. When I actually ask people, “Is violence inevitable?” there’s often a long pause. Which is interesting.
Now granted, I’m three decades into doing this domestic violence victim advocacy work, so maybe I’m a little slow here, but it’s only now dawning on me that our current responses to violence in relationships are not getting the job done. Not for lack of trying. Not for lack of big-hearted and dedicated people. Not for lack of laws, money, programs, shelters, and jails. We’ve got all that. What we don’t have is resolve. I think maybe we don’t believe it’s possible.
But pretend, just for kicks, we do all believe we could have healthy relationships. I don’t mean perfect, I don’t mean we don’t argue and have hurt feelings. But relationships that are about love and respect.
Pretend we’re willing to think way outside of all the boxes (institutions) we’ve invented and dream up more effective social controls on sexism and abuse and common sense approaches to fostering health and happiness. Could we even agree on what those would be? And if we did all that, would we succeed?
Ilene told me, that her mother told her, that she has a friend who said her husband tells her how to vote.
I have no right to find that alarming. Because if it were legal for me to wed my girlfriend of 26 years and make her my wife, I too would be guilty of telling my wife how to vote.
Basically what I have going on here is a glorious mental gyration where I think a man who tells his wife how to vote will steer her wrong. But a lovely twist of internalized sexism gets me thinking “if he were, by some miracle, a feminist, it would be okay for him to tell her how to vote.” Meanwhile, if I, as a woman, tell my wife how to vote, I’d automatically be casting two votes in women’s interest.
Apparently what is true is true. Women vote all over the map. Men vote all over the map. And if anyone were to parse out the voters who identify as neither a woman nor a man, we’d find out this demographic votes all over the map.
If we plant those facts pretty squarely in our thinking, how would we proceed in the upcoming election to get-out-the-vote? Say we wanted to re-weave the safety net, work for nation-wide and world peace, bring respectful dialog back into civic life, and lots of other things that are good for women and children. How could we attract voters of like mind? And I mean voters who actually, you know, vote.
I would sure love to hear your opinion about that. Could you vote if you wanted to? Do you? Do you know people who care about women’s issues who could vote, but don’t? Shed some light on this.
Recent conversations with friends and colleagues have me thinking about the world of human trafficking out there. Now I’m wondering, how can we develop a curiosity and care about what’s happening right here, right now?
Let’s consider the very small snapshot of runaway youth in Seattle. According to YouthCare, a local Seattle program, many youth run away from home due to abuse, neglect, and rape. Within 48 hours, young women are approached by pimps. And once they are in “the life,” inevitably they experience more sexual exploitation, criminal charges, and isolation from friends and family. Such is this world we live in. It is the world where my parents come from, it is the world where I come from, and it is the world that exists down the street from me.
Human trafficking calls for urgent action.
As Barbara Ehreinreich puts it, “the challenge is: could we stop meanness, the relentless persecution of people who are having a hard time? … We’ve got to stop kicking people when they are already down, and move toward reaching out a hand.”
We need to stop with our judgment and bias, and start being curious about how laws, policies, and attitudes impact poor and homeless people, young people, immigrants, women and children … right here, right now. Because that is the world I want to live in.