Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ending Violence Against Women

Last month, Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now! spent an hour with two remarkable women: Eve Ensler and Kimberle Crenshaw. Ensler is the author of The Vagina Monologues and Necessary Targets, as well as the founder of V-Day--an important compent in the growing global movement to end violence against women. Crenshaw is a trail-blazer in the area of black feminist legal theory and Critical Race Theory.

Ensler tells us:

V-Day began essentially almost nine years ago. When I started doing The Vagina Monologues, at the beginning, I kind of was brought to very arbitrary places; just brave people would bring me to their communities. I performed in these kind of warehouses with light bulbs over my head. And what would happen, invariably, after those performances is, women would line up to talk to me.

And at the beginning, I thought, “Oh, great, they'll be telling me about their wonderful sex lives.” And, in fact, what 95% of the women were lining up to tell me was some story of how they had suffered abuse, whether they'd been raped or gang-raped or incested or beaten, and they had never told anyone before. The play had kind of opened that up and just kind of released memories and thoughts.

And after about five cities, I started to think, “I can't do this. I
can't --” I felt the way a war photographer feels when you're witnessing something terrible and doesn't intervene on a person's behalf.

Ensler demonstrates that the women of America ache for opportunities and spaces to break the silence surrounding their abuse. I think her analogy is right on--she is a observing a war on women.

Crenshaw adds:
Eve is bringing to our attention is the relationship between violence and incarceration. I like to call this a tale of two movements, because, frankly, there's been an anti-violence movement that really hasn't dealt with the consequences of violence for women who are incarcerated or how incarceration is often a precursor to violence, so that whole relationship hasn't been explored. There's also an anti-incarceration movement that more or less just focuses pretty much on men, how men wind up being incarcerated, some of the consequences.

So this is an opportunity to actually look at women who fall between the cracks of both movements, who are the women who are both victims of violence, but also are victims of state violence, namely, because they have been subject to rape, battery, incest, a whole range of other things that happen to
women in society, are more likely to be incarcerated, right? And once they are incarcerated, they're subject to a whole range of consequences that are sometimes particular to women, so this is bringing attention to women, to issues that really haven't come up on the agenda of either the anti-violence movement or the anti-incarceration movement, so it's a dramatic radicalization of both of these movements.

It's a fascinating conversation with incredible music during the breaks (at one point they have Sweet Honey in the Rock singing "The Women Gather").


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