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Posts Tagged ‘gender violence’

Research is in the DNA of AAUW. It’s a big piece of what we’ve based our reputation on, and it influences our programming agenda and public policy issues. Research provides a basis for the organization and a passion that unites our members across the country.

With every new report, we make a big splash. There’s usually a blitz of media coverage at first, and then it naturally trails off. But every once in a while, a year or more after publication, interest in the report is renewed. This happened recently for our 2011 report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.

AAUW’s Director of Research Catherine Hill was featured on Teen Kids News in October 2012. This show is a half hour weekly news program reported by kids for kids. The episode with Catherine’s interview aired on at least 73 stations across the country. In addition, according to their website, “Teen Kids News is shown every week during the school year in over 12,000 middle and high schools across the country reaching over 6 million students. This is nearly 25 percent of America’s teens — and hundreds of thousands of educators.”


To help make research matter in your local area, AAUW encourages members to contact their local schools and see if this episode about sexual harassment has been shown to students. If not, the video you saw above can be accessed online and shared with schools. Other resources that can be helpful when discussing Crossing the Line include the full report, executive summary, and PowerPoint presentations for various audiences.

If you’re planning on using Crossing the Line or other research to reach out to your local schools, please let us know in the comments! We always like to hear about the amazing work our members and branches do with AAUW research.

AAUW Research Assistant Katie Benson also contributed to this post.

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During the March 1999 U.N. video conference A World Free of Violence against Women, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, proclaimed:

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture, or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.

My Voice Counts human rights dayToday, Human Rights Day, is the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign. This year’s initiative began on November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence. This critical campaign shines a light on the activism of thousands of organizations and millions of women worldwide who are committed to ending violence against women. There were many positive acts during the campaign; they defied the myth that negotiating war and peace is men’s domain and emphasized the need for women and men to join together to create a world free from gender violence:

  • During the 16 Days campaign, young activists in China who call themselves the Volunteers “staged playful but pointed public protests for greater rights for women.”
  • Vietnamese musician and gender-rights advocate Pham Anh Khoa was selected as a member of the U.N. secretary-general’s Network of Men Leaders to End Violence against Women, an initiative that supports the work of women around the world to defy destructive stereotypes, embrace equality, and inspire men and boys everywhere to speak out against violence.
  • At the United Nations, attention was on the first draft resolution aimed at ending the practice of female genital mutilation. The resolution was introduced by the representative from Burkina Faso on behalf of the Africa Group and was subsequently approved by the necessary General Assembly committee.

Globally, individuals spoke out and made their voices count during the 16 Days campaign. Now we end the “official” effort but not the activism of millions of women and men. On December 10, we recognize Human Rights Day in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted on this day in 1948 and “sets out a broad range of fundamental human rights and freedoms to which all men and women, everywhere in the world, are entitled, without any distinction.”

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes in his 2012 address for Human Rights Day,

Over the past century, we have made undeniable progress along the path of inclusion. Yet far too many groups and individuals face far too many obstacles. Women have the right to vote almost everywhere but remain hugely underrepresented in parliaments and peace processes, in senior government posts and corporate boardrooms, and in other decision-making positions. Indigenous people frequently face discrimination that denies them the opportunity to make full use of their guaranteed rights or fails to take account of their circumstances. Religious and ethnic minorities — as well as people with disabilities or those with a different sexual orientation or political opinion — are often hampered from taking part in key institutions and processes. Institutions and public discourse need to represent societies in all their diversity.

In order to end gender violence and support the rights of women, and indeed all people, the 16 Days campaign spirit must continue beyond December 10. Violence against women violates human rights, and women’s rights are human rights.

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16 Days bannerWhile devastating, high-profile acts of violence against women — like the reported murder of 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins by NFL player Jovan Belcher — continue to stun the world and receive lots of media attention, women around the world have made a commitment to do something about it. They have come boldly alive through the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign, which encourages participants to raise awareness, speak out, and demand change.

The 16 Days campaign is hosting an amazing array of powerful, transformative events based on the theme From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women. The theme aims to challenge abuses committed by state agents and explore the deep socioeconomic structures that perpetuate gender-based violence.

Events are being held everywhere from Armenia to Washington, D.C., and range from art exhibitions to radio programs, walks, candlelight vigils, film and documentary screenings, debates, theater performances, lobbying meetings with government officials, personal testimonies of violence survivors, interactive forums, and televised roundtables.

Selected events from the 16 Days website include

  • The seventh annual March against Violence, a street demonstration in downtown Yerevan, Armenia. Many organizations, including a group of women with disabilities, joined the march to raise awareness about the specific issues they face regarding violence.
  • The 10th annual Shoe Memorial in Vancouver, British Columbia. Pairs of shoes will be displayed to remember women who have been killed by violence in the province. Sadly, this year the list contains 869 women and girls.
  • A debate on gender-based violence at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The event also includes a special performance by Uganda’s Rafiki Theatre, famous throughout Kampala and beyond for confronting difficult but pertinent issues in Ugandan society and culture. Partner organizations will also display works on gender-based violence.
  • The Home is Where Our He-ART Is exhibition at the Haven Wolverhampton and the Haven Way in the United Kingdom. The anti-domestic violence organizations will present a unique and inspiring art collection produced by women survivors of domestic violence.
  • A moderated panel event in Washington, D.C., Ending the Dual Epidemics of HIV and Gender-Based Violence, to commemorate World AIDS Day and the 16 Days of Activism. The event will feature a keynote address by Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.
  • The SpeakUP Say NO to Violence against Women social media campaign and the Say NO to Violence against Women Seminar and photo exhibit, sponsored by the Philippine Senate.

Have you found your 16 Days activity yet? The campaign runs until December 10. Follow #16Days on Twitter, visit Women and Girls Lead or the official 16 Days campaign website, or post and search for events on the 16 Days campaign calendar.

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The other morning I was chatting with my friend and colleague here at AAUW, Alli, about a recent posting she read on Feministing about female comic book and graphic novel characters. While some argue that strides are being made for better representation of women in this particular medium, many comics and graphic novels still lag behind.

The Feministing post highlighted Power Girl, a female superhero with powers that rival Superman’s and an alter ego who works as a female CEO. While this all sounds well and good, comments on the post discussed other issues such as the extreme sexualization of the character.

Alli pointed out that the author makes an interesting note at the beginning of her post about the “women in refrigerators” syndrome, which refers to the de-powering of female superheroes. Generally speaking, when a female character loses her powers or is injured or attacked, she is less likely to bounce back. Being a Batman comic fan, I thought of Barbara Gordon: After being paralyzed from the waist down, she gives up going out on the streets to fight crime as Batgirl and takes up the role of Oracle instead (whereas in Knightfall, Batman recovers from a broken back and continues fighting crime as Batman).

But how does this all relate to gender violence, specifically? An image that comes immediately to my mind is the attempted rape scene in Watchmen. (It is present in both the graphic novel and the movie, but I’ll just discuss the graphic novel depiction here.) While the sequence does not glamorize rape, it does contain victim-blaming language. The Comedian (a.k.a. the perpetrator) justifies his attack by saying, “C’mon, baby. I know what you need. You gotta have some reason for wearin’ an outfit like this, huh?” Of course, he is referring to the Silk Spectre’s revealing costume.

Another member of the superhero group walks in after the Silk Spectre has been beaten to the ground and stops the attack. Even though he helps her out, he says to her as she’s bleeding on the floor, “Get up … and, for God’s sake, cover yourself.” This solidifies the victim-blaming justification used earlier and reinforces the notion that, even though she’s a crime fighter, she can still be degraded, overpowered, and controlled by men. Even though she is strong, her power as a superhero — and as a woman — is taken away.

What do these depictions of female superheroes and comic book characters say about our society? How do they influence how the audience perceives women in real life? Even if these women are powerful in fighting crime and in their personal lives, they are objectified. Even when they are a contributing member of the team, they are sexually violated and abused. When there’s room for so much growth and better representation for women in this medium, why are these recurring themes and plot devices still prevalent? Perhaps the answer is that with all the sexual violence that exists across the globe, these themes just mirror real life.

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Perhaps you have heard about Hiram Monserrate, the New York state senator recently convicted of brutally assaulting his live-in girlfriend? According to reports and video surveillance footage, he cut her face with broken glass then violently dragged her through their building while she called for help. The laceration near her eye required 40 stitches. For these acts Monserrate has been sentenced to three months probation and will not serve time in jail.

Monserrate must be relieved that he wasn’t convicted of a felony and won’t have to spend time in prison thinking critically about the night he cut his girlfriend’s face. After all, as he explains, “A terrible accident occurred to my girlfriend.”

Yes, you read that correctly. He contends that what happened that night was an accident. He speaks of it almost as if he wasn’t present when it occurred, as if his hand was not the one that wielded the broken glass that slashed her face. He describes it as if what he did wasn’t that big of a deal because, ya know, accidents happen.

But here’s the thing. This was a big deal, it was not an accident, and he is to blame. Domestic violence is, in fact, a really big deal. The CDC estimates that a quarter of all women in the United States are abused or battered by their intimate partners. Attacks against women are a big deal, and they don’t happen by accident.

Right now, advocacy groups across the globe are organizing and bringing attention to the rampant problem of gender violence. The 16 Days Campaign is working to shed light on an issue that is often brushed under the rug or dismissed quietly. One huge way that we can help stop violence against women is to speak about it honestly and call it by name. Assaults aren’t accidents. So, Hiram Monserrate, please stop talking about your attack on your girlfriend as if it were something over which you had no control.

To learn more about the 16 Days Campaign, check out this website.

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