Back when I was a young hippie and dabbled in Wicca, Imbolc (February 2) was one of my favorite holidays. After all, this holiday (which has come down to us as Candlemas and Groundhog’s Day) featured traditions that give young women the central role.
Then I got a little older, put my inner witch undercover to blend into the business community, and International Women’s Day (March 8) became the holiday that mattered to me. After all, it originated with working women’s struggle for equality.
I plan to run a short special-focus series of posts between now and March 8, from Imbolc to International Women’s Day, focusing on the problem of violence against women.
The impetus for this came out of a writing class I led last fall. Most of the writers were continuing students with me, and so the level of trust was there in the room from the first night.
One woman read her story of abuse by a “funny uncle” as a young girl. The next week, two women read their stories of abuse by bad boyfriends/husbands. The next week more. You get the picture.
By the end of our six weeks together, I felt politicized about violence against women. And shocked and traumatized. As a facilitator, it was quite a challenge. I’ve been stewing on it since, wondering what one person can do.
One in six women will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Two thirds of those acts will be committed by someone known to the victim. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
Thus the brainstorm came to me to use True Stories Well Told to start a conversation about this issue.
I want to illustrate the severity of this issue, but I don’t want to use a storytelling approach in this case. Why? I don’t want to provide prurient fodder for all those people who google “true sexy stories” and find their way here. (Yes, that’s consistently been the leading search term.)
Instead, I will be posting guest essays exploring how the abuse of one affects us all. I want a conversation about what we are doing to change this culture of violence.
During this Season of Women I will ask you to donate to causes that support prevention of violence against women and girls. I’ll offer one local and one global option, to reflect True Stories Well Told’s reader distribution.
You could start by reading a post in which I reviewed the book If I Am Missing or Dead. I invite you to send me your thoughts, or comment on the posts you find here.
If you’re in Madison, you could make a donation to a cause that celebrates women, such as A Fund for Women. AFFW was founded in 1993 by 100 women at the Madison Community Foundation, motivated by research that indicated less than 5% of all grant funds given across the United States went to projects for women and girls. Today the Fund has a $1.4 million endowment and has funded more than 90 projects like Project Bold, which helps girls live free from violence.
If you’re elsewhere around the globe, consider giving to a cause like Half the Sky, which uses the power of media to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide.
In this season of lengthening days, we ready ourselves to awaken from hibernation. Yawn, stretch, and find your power. We CAN change the culture we live in. Let’s get started.
Thanks, Sarah, for raising this important issue. Violence against women and girls must end. I, too, have heard far too many stories about abuse and the intergenerational cycles of abuse. It needs to end. And the truth is, as valiantly and tirelessly as women work to end the violence, men also need to take responsibility for our actions and the actions of other men around us. Yes, you are so right that “the abuse of one affects us all.”
A group of men in the Madison-area meet occasionally to learn more about ourselves, our culture of violence, and to explore steps we can take to change it. I’d love to hear what other men are doing or have done to address this important issue.
Sarah, thank you for this post. I look forward to contributing. Learning to care for our girls and women is a prerequisite to hope for humanity. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. How can we even pretend to have hope for our future under these circumstances? My wife and I decided to bring a 6 year old girl from India into our family as one of the most direct ways we could bring this issue into our hearts and lives. You can see pictures and read our story at photoblog.com/indiatrip. It has changed our lives in more ways than I imagined, not the least of which is the love it has brought into our home.
I worked at the World Bank for 13 years where I was proud to support initiatives that directly addressed women and girls in poverty. Lack of education, recognition, and violence are endemic in society, a horrible condition. And not just in the third world, but right here in the most powerful country on Earth. Thank you for presenting some options to us. I will submit a longer piece to support your effort and then share a particular initiative I support with donation$. In the meantime, I look forward to reading others’ responses and keeping up with this blog series.
How wonderful that you adopted a girl from India. How long has she been in your family? I imagine it has been an incredible learning, growing and loving experience.
The statistics you cite about women’s contribution to our society and their miniscule portion of societal wealth are shocking and show how far we have to go to achieve gender justice and equality.
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Thank you, Sarah, for being willing to work with this most difficult and complex issue. When I hear about continued violence against women (and by extension, often against children) I just shut down. It’s too difficult to face. When I recently read about the young woman burned alive (New Guinea?) because she possessed “witchcraft” powers, I couldn’t breathe. The biggest question that pops up for me is: why are men so afraid of women they have to beat and kill them?