I've just started a pledge to end gendered violence (violence against women and non-normatively gendered people) at PledgeBank. This is the pledge:

"I will commit to struggle to eliminate violence against women in my community; formally or informally support women in my life or in my community who are in abusive situations to escape them; and help to create a culture of non-violence and respect for women, starting with the way I interact with acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family, children, and my partner(s). but only if 100 other people from anywhere in this dangerous world will commit to do the same."

Be the first to sign it. Link to it on your blog. Or tell your friends about it. The point is to stimulate public discussion about gendered violence, the ways in which we participate in it or endorse it through inaction, and the ways in which we can commit concretely to eliminate it.

(The "...but only if 100 other people do the same" bit is merely strategic...)


Blogger Christopher Trottier said...

Why not just pledge end all violence? Violence affects all of us -- no matter how "weak" or "strong".

1:08 p.m.  
Blogger a.c. said...

Particular forms of violence target particular groups of people. In Canada, where I live, 86% of people sexually assaulted are women. Over half (51%) of Canadian women have been the survivors of at least one act of sexual or physical violence. That's 25% of the national population: those are epidemic proportions. In any single year, women under the age of 18 years are the group most likely to be sexually assaulted (54% under age 18 in 2000; of these, 20% under the age of 12). Every week, a woman in Canada is killed by her (male) partner, while the reverse is not true.

Feminist theorists have suggested that this epidemic of violence against women, at the hands of men, is productive of femininity (and, not incidentally, also of masculinity). That means that women learn to be women as a result of, and in this context, of the violation of the integrity of their bodies. Femininity is constructed as violability. And men learn that they can have power over women by assaulting them, assaults which are effectively sanctioned by society, given the low rates of arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault. As I see it, it's not a question of "weakness" or "strength"; it's a question of who has social power, and who doesn't. Who is supported by legal institutions and who isn't. Who has the resources and the social support to determine the conditions of her or his own existence, and who doesn't. Violence against women (and gendered violence more generally) effectively polices women's behaviour and delimits their life-chances. It's a warning to "uppity" women who choose to walk outside at night by themselves; to study engineering (fourteen women were murdered in 1989 in Montreal by a misogynist man, resentful of feminism); to have their own dissenting views and articulate them. It's also a weapon of war, and a way of producing war-time conditions for half of the human population during "peace".

If you're interested in reading more about violence against women as a political problem, I would suggest the book of essays and speeches Letters from a War Zone by Andrea Dworkin. Take a look, especially, at "Feminism:An Agenda" and "I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape."

[Source of statistics is the Canadian government]

P.S. I am, of course, not opposed to ending all violence, especially state-supported, imperialist forms of violence. I also think we need to transform our discourse on violence to include phenomena like poverty, famine, drudgery. And to correct imbalances in the kinds of responses that forms of violence elicit (e.g., the difference in the reaction to 50 people killed in London by "terrorists" vs. that to 23,209 people killed in Iraq by "military" forces).

2:32 p.m.  

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