Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Peter Rothberg at The Nation forgot to tell you about International Women

image is from here
A problem for U.S. reporters and journalists is that they don't know how to understand the plight of women internationally if by international we mean women in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Worlds. What most U.S. writers want us to know is that it is very, very, very bad for those women over there. And that it is "infinitely better" for our women over here. But what is the relationship between what's happening to those women and what's happening to our women? And what is going on globally that isn't named below? Given the ways that various patriarchal systems of misogynist harm are globalised by the Western world, I'd say that we had better take responsibility for the crimes against women and girls globally that are our fault. And this means taking a hard look at what is happening to women and girls everywhere.

Why is there no mention of white U.S. men trafficking women and girls in the U.S.? Why aren't connections made between women and girls trafficked in the U.S. and women and girls trafficked internationally? Rape is a weapon men use against women. It is not a product of other conflicts. It is the defining feature of THE conflict of men's war against women. Why no mention of that war in those terms? When I say "THE conflict" I don't mean there's only one. I mean the one that the U.S. media refuses to name, is the war that men wage, as men, against women and girls because they are women and girls.

Around the world, in many places, but not all places, women and girls are sexxxualised, harassed, incested, molested, pimped, procured, beaten, raped, and enslaved. Around the world in many places, U.S. white het men travel to have unlawful sex with nine, eight, and seven year old girls and will not ever face one day in prison for doing so. In the U.S., white het men will rape one in four women, nationally, but one in three women among American Indians. At least 80% of the rapists of American Indian women are white men who do so knowing they will face no days in jail for committing such racist-misogynist atrocities.

Across the U.S., and elsewhere, men rape their daughters, step-daughters, the daughters of their girlfriends or wives, the daughters of neighbors, and the female friends of their daughters. Why is this not understood as part of the problem of men's war against girls and women? A percentage--who knows what percent--of those girls who are raped at home will run away, and on the streets waiting for them will be pimps and procurers, eager to season them to be prostitutes. This happens in many countries internationally.

Among that population of girls raped at home who are runaways, who are pimped and procured, a percentage--I don't know what percent--will show up in pornography videos and still images with their legs spread for het male viewers to consume as if her open legs didn't tell a story of rape that is on-going. Are men--all the many millions of normal het men who consume pornography, really so callous and inhumane as to not notice an atrocity when it is staring them in the face?

Among that population of girls and women in prostitution and pornography, some will be trafficked, bought and sold into slavery and sexual servitude. This happens to First, Second, Third, and Fourth World women.

What women also face is the patriarchal nature of capitalism and white supremacy, militarism and law, religious teachings and medical invasions. Across the globe, women who are good parents will lose their children to men who are batterers and rapists because the courtrooms where a percent of these women get to testify are told by their attorneys not to mention the violence they experienced by the childrens' fathers. And the judges and juries don't want to know either. They want, instead, to believe the men who beat and otherwise terrorise women and children domestically. And they do. And so women lose their children to rapists, batterers, and incest perpetrators. It happens often. We can leap around from the U.S. to the UK to Australia and see it happening. And in many other countries too.

Women of color, globally, face additional problems created by white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism: poverty, loss of life during childbirth, forced sterilisation, assault by U.S. and NATO military weapons and by U.S. male soldiers--who also systematically rape U.S. women soldiers. When will The Nation make the connections explicit among those systems and the above practices of gross violence, exploitation, and subordination of girls and women, by men?

Mr. Rothberg, the women of RAWA are not fighting for "gender rights". They have been fighting, militantly, since the 1970s, to end patriarchal atrocities: men's violent assaults against women and girls. There's quite a difference there in language and meaning, don't you think? Please start talking about patriarchal harms that men do to women, domestically, nationally, and internationally, in those terms. And don't forget to mention the region of origin, race, sexuality, and gender of the predators and perpetrators--particularly when they are U.S. white heterosexual men. Because that group of men, unlike all men of color and all gay men, are not stigmatised as dangerous predators.

The problem isn't "gender violence", Mr. Rothberg. It's MEN'S violence against human beings who are female, of all ages. It is not until the next to last paragraph that you mention the perpetrators' gender at all. Why do you keep hidden the fact that all of the atrocities you name are men's? White men's. Heterosexual men's.

You mention fashion parades as something women do to celebrate. But women also take up arms against men, Peter. And more women probably should. Because unless and until men start fearing being held immediately and directly accountable for the violence that men--including rich, white, heterosexual men--do to girls and women, unless men are terrified, collectively, of being shot to death, point blank, by any woman who attempts to rape, beat, pimp, or sell her, we likely won't see much change in the condition of women globally. And you can bet that any woman who kills more than one male predator will see the inside of a jail cell. But men rape hundreds and girls and see little to no time. Why do you think that is? And what is The Nation going to do about it?

Will your magazine support laws that make it not a crime for women to shoot to kill any man who is raping, beating, pimping, or selling her? Would you see such a law being more inhumane that all the rapes, beatings, pimpings, and murders of women men commit with impunity? If you would not support making women's self-defence when attacked or enslaved by a man not a crime, what solutions to patriarchal men's against women and girls, right here in this nation, do you propose?

image is from here
What follows is from *here*.

100 Years of International Women's Day

The world has been celebrating International Women’s Day since 1911 when it was established thanks to the efforts of activist Clara Zetkin. The idea was to create a global forum for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women and provide a forum for women's issues to be raised, discussed and addressed. This video offers a nice capsule history of the occasion.
Today, the occasion is 100 years old. Yet, women around the world still face a phalanx of abuses ranging from wage inequality to femicide. The most urgent cases are those of women in war zones; seventy-five percent of people killed in war are women and children, and places like the Democratic Republic of Congo where tens of thousands of females have been terrorized by the widespread application of rape as a weapon, are downright horrific.

To help women living in the most blighted and war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, Women for Women International have started the "Join Women on the Bridge” campaign, which will bring women from Rwanda and Congo together in peace on a bridge between their countries to demand an end to war and to demonstrate that women can build the bridges to peace and development.

In Guatemala, women also have it rough; more than 4,000 women and girls have been raped and murdered in the past decade. In response, Guatemalan-based Women Worker’s Committee, a sister organization of the international women’s human rights group Madre has organized neighborhood watch groups. Flashlights and whistles -- inexpensive asks -- are essential for this project.

In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, although no accurate statistics are available, almost 500 women have been said to have been tortured, raped, murdered, and dumped onto the streets since 1993. Groups of women have been demanding justice, yet despite international support, the majority of the cases are still “unresolved.” The “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” project, part of the civil organization Las Hormigas, is trying to raise awareness about gender violence and discrimination by supporting a female cooperative that promotes women’s rights while providing a safe space serving hot food.

The plight of women in Afghanistan has been well documented, as has the role of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) in fighting for gender rights since 1977. Yet the group still faces many obstacles, compounded by a lack of international support. Despite a struggle with finances, RAWA is helping female Afghan refugees in Pakistan by running schools, mobile health teams, and handicrafts workshops among other things.

And though conditions are infinitely better for women in the United States than the aforementioned nations, 1,181 women were murdered by their intimate partner last year; reproductive rights are still practically restricted through both state and federal legislation, and women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Annually on March 8 and throughout the month, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Find an event near you and help spread the word.

Peter Rothberg

Associate Publisher, Special Projects
Peter Rothberg, the Nation's Associate Publisher for Special Projects, has been writing the Act Now blog covering the world of activism since 2003. His previous positions with The Nation  include publicity director, web editor, special projects director and intern. A former contributor to Air America radio's daily Nation Minute commentaries, Rothberg is also a former speech-writer for civil rights leader Julian Bond. A member of the Brooklyn Literary Council and the board of Living Liberally, Rothberg lives in Brooklyn, where he was born and raised.