February 19, 2009 / Uncategorized

Women’s rights and culture

by

Aasiya Hassan

Aasiya Hassan

Earlier this week I wrote about the horrific murder of Aasiya Hassan, whose husband beheaded her in what may have been an honor killing. For many commenters on the web, it is apparently impossible to condemn this nightmare without hastening to add that American culture has plenty of its own home-grown brand of misogyny, and it’s therefore “intolerant” to notice the particular lethalness of the honor-shame paradigm in some non-Western cultures. You know the argument: America is full of sexism and the commodification of women and our own gendered violence, so we have no business even talking about women’s rights.

If you’re a habitué of the progressive blogosphere, this line of thought is probably so familiar that you take it in without blinking. But let me ask you a couple of questions. Remember during the Beijing Olympics, when many people sat out the proceedings to protest China’s human rights record? Did anyone argue that because the West has some problems of its own in that regard, protesting the Olympics amounted to nothing more than “intolerance” of Chinese culture? Here’s another example: in the final years of apartheid, South Africa was the world’s pariah. Did anyone argue that because the West has its own history of racial discrimination, it was “intolerant” to condemn apartheid? Did anyone claim that we should accept South African culture on its own terms and keep our noses out of other people’s business?

Of course not. And I’ll tell you why: because in China and South Africa and every other setting where men are or have been oppressed, the issue is seen as one of universal human rights. It’s not a question of culture or of tolerating each other’s customs; it’s a question of fundamental rights to freedom and bodily integrity. Abuses in one society don’t somehow mitigate the failings in others, because human rights are couched in terms of universal standards. Either you measure up or you don’t.

Yet when the issue is women, somehow the commitment to universal rights evaporates. When Hillary Clinton said that “women’s rights are human rights,” she was articulating an ideal, not describing a reality. The fact is that women’s rights aren’t considered human rights. The status of women is treated more like a cultural quirk, part of the collection of idiosyncrasies that define a given group. “It’s just the culture,” people say, as if they’re describing the cuisine or the architecture. Women are furniture.

But for me, as a feminist, women’s rights are human rights. I am not an apostle for American culture, which is certainly far from perfect; I am an advocate for women. When I criticize honor killings or sharia law or any of the other non-Western abuses of women, I’m not speaking from a standpoint of cultural chauvinism. The ground I occupy is one of fundamental human rights for all women: freedom of action, of self-determination, of bodily integrity; freedom from violence and oppression and subjugation; freedom to be educated, to work, to love, to have children (or not); freedom to participate fully in life as first-class citizens. I view and judge every society on earth through that lens, including my own.

But by the same token, it doesn’t work to simply advocate for a universal ideal of women’s rights without inquiring too closely into the specific cultural obstacles to achieving that ideal. The devil, as ever, is in the details. We cannot unpack the situation of an abused wife in a conservative Christian community, for example, unless we understand the particular social and religious codes at work. We can’t stop honor killings unless we know why they happen — and I mean exactly why they happen. What are the social and religious codes at work there? What is the psychology of the people who do this? What drives them, what sustains them, what potential punishments and rewards are in the offing? I wrote on Tuesday that “we must be like doctors fighting disease, seeking to identify precisely the pathogens involved.” If we’re serious about ending the oppression of women, nothing less will do.

None of this should be misconstrued as an argument against multiculturalism. There is remarkable beauty to be found in almost every culture, and people all over the world have created wonderful and compelling traditions that are worth preserving. But just as the individual’s rights end where the other person’s nose begins, a society’s right to its own customs ends at the point where human rights are violated. People seem to have little trouble applying that calculus when the rights of men are involved; it’s past time for women to be granted the same consideration.

Join Our Email List

Be the first to know the latest initiatives from The New Agenda to improve the lives of women and girls.

Thank you for joining our list! Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.

  • Cynthia Ruccia

    well put Violet. There is truth in every sticky subject, and it must be addressed. You have done so quite ably and honestly, quite nobly.

    In the end, murder is murder. In most religious and cultural traditions I’ve heard of, murder is forbidden. Period.

  • Halane Hughes

    What a refreshingly brilliant post! Thank you Violet! You have really hit so many nails on their heads.

  • Halane Hughes

    You have defined feminism so well.

    Feminism: The movement seeking “fundamental human rights for all women: freedom of action, of self-determination, of bodily integrity; freedom from violence and oppression and subjugation; freedom to be educated, to work, to love, to have children (or not); freedom to participate fully in life as first-class citizens.”

    I’m proud to say I am a part of this movement. I’m a feminist.

  • Delphyne

    I love this post, Violet – and hope you’ll post it over at your place, too.

  • Violet– Is it possible when you examine abuse of women, you are conflating two separate separate issues? This paragraph particularly caught my attention:

    ” We cannot unpack the situation of an abused wife in a conservative Christian community, for example, unless we understand the particular social and religious codes at work. We can’t stop honor killings unless we know why they happen — and I mean exactly why they happen. What are the social and religious codes at work there? What is the psychology of the people who do this? What drives them, what sustains them, what potential punishments and rewards are in the offing? I wrote on Tuesday that “we must be like doctors fighting disease, seeking to identify precisely the pathogens involved.”

    Abuse of females does occur across all cultures, although some cultures have a stronger inclination to ignore abuse of females. Having been severely abused myself within a marriage, I have a high level of interest in the reason[s] for such abuse. I am inclined to think the “pathogens” are genetic, in much the same way substance abuse or overeating appears to be genetic or in some way “hard-wired” into the brain. Overeating and drug use calms an area of the brain in some people. The act of abuse may calm an area of the brain seeking a sensation/feeling of, perhaps, relief. The cultural aspect of severe abuse of women may rest only in the cultural permissiveness for men with such pathologies. Not all men in such societies abuse women but men seek out women from such cultures. I recall a woman living in Honduras, a culture that is permissive regarding violence against women, who was writing to a prisoner in the US and out of the blue he assured her he would never hit her if they got together. He appeared to believe she would be more vulnerable and perhaps hoped she would match his propensity for violence (just speculation on my part). Abuse of women occurs across all cultures and social levels of society. What is the common element? I am inclined to believe it is hard wired in some men.

    I very much want an answer to why so many men seek out physical violence against women. Once we can get a better grip on this issue, we may find a relationship between such violence and other issues–war, greed, and who knows what else.

  • great post – I looked up the history of women’s rights under marriage and the laws around “domestic” violence and “marital” rape and found this on wikipedia

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spousal_rape

    apparently the laws saying that forced intercourse in marriage is an exception to rape have only recently been repealed in the US – in the past 10-15 years!!! And globally, these laws still exist in many countries.

    and even in the US today, assault and rape in marriage carry a lesser penalty than if they had been done by a stranger.

    Perhaps this is something the New Agenda can lobby for – changing the laws so that violence is violence no matter what the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.

  • Constance

    I apologize for being off topic especially considering the importance of this topic. But check out this link to CNN. Does this shed light on the portrayal of women by the MSM? I am sure this story will disappear soon.

    http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20259843,00.html?cnn=yes

  • Lisa

    Violet you are one of the most brilliant minds of this era. I know you will be read and studied for decades to come in feminist classes.

  • Great post. I read that the husband in this case is being charged with SECOND degree murder. Sounds premeditated to me. Does anybody know the logic for not charging him with first degree murder?

  • Violet: I absolutely agree that one can not excuse murder or any violence on any cultural basis, or familial relationship; insanity may be acceptable and premeditation must be considered. Beyond that, however, a crime is a crime and if it is committed in this country ought to be judged against our laws.

    This is not to say that culture does not offer a way of understanding the motivation, but that it does not change the outcome.

    Feminists must demand that ALL crimes against ALL people be treated equally.

    That being said, Marjorie is right in suggesting a “hard-wiring” of the human brain. My own suspicion is that it was necessitated because we had no natural tools for survival and once we separated from the chimps and moved on to the savanna, we had to develop a new way of coping. The world is and always has been a dangerous place to live….millions of years to evolve to modern day humans and only a couple of thousand to adapt to large stationary, industrial, church driven, money driven life styles – not enough time to undo the hard-wiring IMHO.

  • Here’s a statement from the Islamic Society of North America:
    http://www.isna.net/articles/N.....MUSLI.aspx

  • Artemis March

    Excellent post, Violet. One of the things that became clear to me during this campaign season is how pervasive “multicultural relativism” (MCR) is, and what a significant barrier it poses for women and for feminism. It asserts that all cultures and all views are equal. People from one culture, especially if they are from the West, should not criticize practices of other cultures, especially if they have been subjected to colonialism. MCR has such an enlightened ring to it.

    But when applied to the ill-treatment, subjugation, abuse, and killing of women in nonWestern cultures, this relativism taboos our naming and condemning these practices and understanding what is behind them. To break the taboo virtually guarantees being called “racist.”

    Feminists cannot be intimidated by this “progressive” view that trivializes and erases the subhuman treatment of women in other cultures. We must call it by its right name(s) wherever it occurs. Feminism stands on higher, universal, moral ground that supercedes a relativism that condones, perpetuates, and even celebrates the under-realization and destruction of women’s lives.

  • I just read the response from the Islamic Society of North America (link provided by “Where’s the Line”) – how different it is from the preachings of our very own Inaugural Preacher Rick Warren who says that women should submit to the will of her husband and that violence in marriage should essentially be accepted (and that she should figure out what she did to provoke it). So kudos to the ISNA for publishing such a letter condemning violence against women.

  • Kris

    The Jon Favreau in the link and the Obama speechwriter are not the same person…

  • Gayle

    “That being said, Marjorie is right in suggesting a “hard-wiring” of the human brain. My own suspicion is that it was necessitated because we had no natural tools for survival and once we separated from the chimps and moved on to the savanna, we had to develop a new way of coping.”

    This sounds like a variation on “boys will be boys.” It ignores how boys are taught to be violent, to resolve conflict with fight fights, etc. It ignores a media and culture that tells men “might equals right” and it certainly ignores inequality between men and women and how that trains men to believe a woman who disobeys or dishonors a man deserves to be punished.

  • Constance

    As far as violence being hardwired into the brains of some men. Yes this could be true however it could also be true that victimization is hardwired into the brains of some women. Neither is a pretty reality. But relationships between men and women in life are not defined by the most aberrant behavior of the most disturbed people. Murder , assault and rape are against the law already. There may be a problem with how that law is enforced and that should be dealt with, but why would you assume a different law would be enforced more rigorously? I wouldn’t.

    I have problems with the victim role that too many women’s groups want to wallow in. If we are going to ask what are the benefits to men in male female violence then we need to ask what benefits women who continue in victim mode are receiving. Violence is a powerful emotion and outrage is a powerful emotion, perhaps these types can only really feel the most extreme emotions and are numb otherwise. So for women’s groups I would say don’t dwell on the extreme, don’t let the needs of other groups set your agenda and have a list of a few positive goals. Equal pay for equal work, Media images of women, Parity in Government and court representation.

  • Anna

    Marjorie – I’m glad you’re out from under an abusive relationship, lived to tell the tale and for your illuminating perspective shared on this thread.

  • Caroline

    Pardon me for being cynical about the response from the Islamic Society of North America. I think they’re in a tough spot. It’s hard when a man who sets out to “educate” Westerners about their stereotypes about Muslims beheads his wife.

    Maybe they could work to reform Muslim Sharia Law, which allows for wife battery.

  • Wonderful post Violet. What you say is so fundamental. I’m glad you’re helping us articulate this global focus. It’s so important.

  • Gayle

    “I have problems with the victim role that too many women’s groups want to wallow in.”

    Feminist women’s groups want to stop violence against women. I don’t see how that’s “wallowing in it.”

  • gxm17

    The cultural relativism defense of misogyny operates under the assumption that women are cultural property, a fundamental fallacy. It amazes me that many so-called “progressives” buy into this lie. It only shows that they’re misogynists underneath that faux liberal veneer.

    Certain men may be hard wired towards violence perhaps, but not gender-specific violence. Their violence is directed toward women because the culture they live in allows and/or promotes it.

  • gxm17

    With all due respect Constance, the only “benefit” Aasiya Hassan received from “playing” the victim was a brutal and horrific death after, apparently, years of abuse. Her young children will grow up motherless. There is no benefit, only tragedy and pain.

  • Anna

    Phyliss Chessler (The Chessler Chronicles can be read over at Pajamas Media) writes quite often on issues pertaining to Muslim culture and women. Although she is a Westerner, she has first hand experience living for many years in Afganistan. Her personal story is quite fascinating as are her pieces.

  • Constance

    “the only “benefit” Aasiya Hassan received from “playing” the victim was a brutal and horrific death after, apparently, years of abuse. Her young children will grow up motherless. There is no benefit, only tragedy and pain.”

    So you feel it is likely that the first time she was abused was this time when she was murdered by being beheaded? But really I am referring to the way some women are experiencing outrage, a very strong emotion, by vicariously living Aasiya’s ultimate horror over and over. And I am wondering why this sort of thing is so prevalent in feminist groups and if all that angst and outrage is actually helpful to abused women. Because male/ female relationships in general are not accurately represented by the most outrageous behavior of the most disturbed people. And yet there are real disadvantages that average women face daily like not being represented by their government, making only 78% what a man makes for the same job and media images of women.

    So for me I think it is time to put away the outrage at this extremely aberrant behavior and work on issues that can really make a difference to all women. And perhaps that is a split that needs to happen for women to move forward. “feminists” should consider dividing into two groups, those who categorize and identify with victims of extreme horror and those who identify the most pressing problems to Jenny Average and want to work to eliminate or improve them.

  • Constance

    Gayle: Look I don’t expect this to be a popular idea. Vicariously reliving the ultimate horror of a woman who stayed in an abusive relationship brings on the extreme emotions of outrage and for some women this is a reward. Some people get a kick out of extreme emotions some people feel numb when they don’t feel strong emotions, yet this woman’s experience is completely outside the average woman’s experience. But the average woman has legitimate problems that feminists should work on INSTEAD of wallowing in extremes. Equal pay for equal work, parity in government, media images would be my choices to work on first. And when lesbians ask but what are you going to do for us because we are special victims? the answer is we are going to win you equal pay for equal work, parity in gov. representation and we are working on media images of women for you. And when abused women say but what are you going to do for me because I am a special victim the answer should be we are going to win you equal pay for equal work, parity in government representation and improve images of women in the media.

  • Caroline

    Constance:

    One of the goals of the New Agenda is to address domestic violence, which affects a lot of women, even “Jenny Average.”

  • Ali

    Constance,

    Well, unfortunately varying levels of physical abuse toward women is pretty average – in the US and worldwide. Look at the statistics.

    I think it’s important to show outrage because otherwise we (as a culture) become desensitized to violence toward women.

    Instead of showing less outrage I’d like to show more. I’d like to see pictures in the paper of every guy that beats the hell out of his girlfriend or wife and lands her in the hospital. Not just state senators. I’d like to see pictures in the paper of every frat guy who date rapes. More, more, more outrage.

  • Sheryl Robinson, Editrix

    Constance – you’re right that there is much work to do! I think your dichotomy is wrong, though: violence against women is a symptom of the same malaise that keeps women underpaid and underrepresented, and we certainly don’t need any more factioning of women’s groups.

    I’m concerned that you are blaming the victim in your quest to find the “payoff” for those who are victims of abuse. To imply that outrage at the abuse others experience is some kind of self-indulgent emotionalism is insulting to all those who actively work to change the conditions that allow women to be abused, underpaid, and underrepresented.

    I suggest reconsidering your position.

  • Constance

    Clearly you are committed to your outrage, I do not hold that against you I just think it is a waste of time. I think you would make more of an impact by empowering women instead of focusing on the detailing and categorizing of victim hood.
    How am I blaming the victim by suggesting there are benefits to being perceived as a victim? I would assume any behavior that a human repeatedly engages in has some benefits. If you are willing to believe that abusive men get rewards for their behavior then how is a leap that victim hood has rewards. Both are sick behavior. Have any of you raised children before? If you have you can see at times certain children who perfect the victim role for benefit and you have to be very careful not to reward their behavior because it is unhealthy. I give you this one example. My daughter has a brother 4 years older than she is, this happened when she was one. One day I finished cleaning the kitchen and walked to the living room where I could hear a fracas going on. I stood in the door unnoticed. They were fighting over a toy and she couldn’t get it away from him. So she threw herself on the floor and started the most believable screaming like he had hurt her, expecting to draw me into the room, make me mad and then I would take the toy and give it to her and probably punish him which she would also enjoy. I would not have believed it possible if I had not witnessed it. I don’t think there is reason to fear dividing the feminist community. I would support probably most requests that came from the victim wing of the feminist movement. I just am not motivated by it and I doubt I am the only one who is put off by it.

  • Ali

    Constance,

    Yeah, I’m a mother. But I don’t understand how the scenario with your children relate here. Your daughter was not a victim. She was just pretending to be one.

    On the other hand, we are outraged by real victims of violence.

  • Gayle (and anyone else who found my comment about men being hard-wired offensive): Had men not been hardwired to “violence” all those millions of years ago, our species would not have survived. The environment human developed in was harsh; our species had no “natural” tools for survival – no sharp teeth, no claws, no horns, not even massive strength; the ones that did survive used their brains, but they also had to have other attributes: men hunted – which needed brawn, adrenalin, testosterone, and a willingness to throw themselves in a blinding rage or frenzy. It took millions of years to reach the agricultural stage of evolution – only about 5000 years ago depending on where we lived – during which time men fought and killed animals and each other. We must not say “boys will be boys” but we must acknowledge where it comes from. My son is not violent, but he loves violent video games and sword fighting and other “boy” activities (never assume I am saying girls don’t like this sort of stuff either, but hat is another issue). If men no longer have the role of the species protector, then in many tha violence will out. How can you move the evolution forward if you do not acknowledge the past?

  • Constance

    Yes Ali my daughter was pretending to be a victim to gain benefit because there was benefit to gain from being a victim and this was obvious even to a one year old child. I am not implying that Aasiya is pretending to be a victim, however I do not believe this was the first incidence of abuse in the relationship and although it does not conform to established feminist victim dogma there can be short term benefits to being a victim. OK I do not blame Aasiya for her husbands violence she is not responsible for his violent behavior. But I am not going to spend a lot of my time and energy on the most aberrant behavior of the most disturbed people. I am interested in the problems of Jenny Average who lives until 85 and then blows an aneurysm in her sleep. Because those problems are valid and need to be addressed although they do not give the same vicarious emotional jolt.

  • Catsden, the “Man the Hunter” model of human evolution is out of date. If you’re interested, you might look into the work of Kristen Hawkes, J. M. Adovasio, Olga Soffer, etc.

  • Constance, if I ever had any doubts about whether you’re an anti-feminist troll, I don’t anymore.

  • gxm17

    Constance, if you had read my comment through you would have seen that I mention years of abuse as her family has alleged and as the police reports appear to confirm. And violence against women does affect Jenny Average, every minute of every day.

    If we aren’t supposed to be outraged by such a horrific murder then what on earth should we be outraged over? I agree with Ali. We need more outrage, not less. And more coverage of these terrible crimes so people don’t get comfortable with the idea that violence against women is a rare aberration.

  • orlando

    Sadly, what happened to Aasiya Hassan is not as extreme or atypical as it might be comfortable to believe. I don’t know the US statistic, but in the UK two women a week are murdered by their partner or ex-partner, and in NSW (the most populous state of Australia) it is the highest cause of death in women of the under 45 agegroup. Addressing domestic violence IS helping the average woman.

    I want to call attention to Constance’s phrase describing Hassan as “a woman who stayed in an abusive relationship”. There is a really offensive subtext here that Hassan’s suffering was somehow a choice she was making. This woman was killed when she was trying to leave, which is the time a woman is (statistically) most in danger of being killed by her partner. So a woman’s choice seems to be stay and “wallow” (I can’t believe that word was used) in her “victimhood” or leave and be murdered.

  • Violet, I think I stated quite clearly in my comment that the hunter gatherer mode moved into the agricultural ago over 5000 years ago.

    I also said that it has not been nearly long enough for the hard-wiring of 3 million years to go away. There have been studies indicating that some men have heart attacks because they lead a sedentary life and don’t know what to do with the adrenal that surges when they beome angry over something such as a car turning in front of them.

    It is insulting of you to dismiss my comment by suggesting I get “educated,” especially since you nothing bout me, my views on women, or my family, how I raised my children – or anything else to do with “feminism.”

    This is exactly the kind of intolerant remark that continues to divide women who seek for ways to accomplish new agendas.

    Thanks for the discourse.

  • Violet, I think I stated quite clearly in my comment that the hunter gatherer mode moved into the agricultural ago over 5000 years ago.

    That has nothing to do with evolution. I’m just letting you know that the “Man the Hunter” model of human evolution is no longer current. It dates from the 60s and has been superceded. Since you’re basing your understanding of contemporary human behavior on our evolutionary past, I’m just suggesting you might like to read up on current work in the area.

  • Nina M.

    Violet, I was struck by this sentence:

    “The fact is that women’s rights aren’t considered human rights.”

    I feel that this statement needs some qualifiers.

    I’m an advocate for women’s rights in the international arena, and while I have no doubt that multicultural relativists thunder through the progressive blogosphere in tremendous, slavering herds, I personally have never met such a beast in real life. I have never met anyone who has seriously advanced this argument. No one with any credibility believes it.

    Internationally, as a matter of law and policy, women’s rights are indisputably considered human rights. This principle is enshrined not only in a number of treaties, statements and policies; it is also articulated in the Constitutions of a number of countries. Millions, if not billions, of funds flow from the governments of European countries, Japan, Canada, and perhaps Australia, to programs in the developing world designed to realize women’s rights and elevate the status of women. This includes funding grassroots feminist groups who are working to change the laws of their country regarding divorce, violence, inheritance, and so forth. The major human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty) have programs dedicated to investigating violations of women’s rights, and women’s rights violations have been brought before the international human rights court in the Hague, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court for human rights.

    This all happens because it is recognized that women’s rights are human rights, that they are universal and inalienable.

    I really can’t emphasize enough how much the United States stands outside of the world community when it comes to recognizing the universal nature of women’s rights. Thank god Hillary will change all that.

    The people in this country who make the multicultural relativism argument quite simply do not know what they are talking about. They are part of an ever-shrinking community of the ignorant, the recalcitrant, and the self-interested.

    Rather than debate people who hold the view that women’s rights are conditional rather than universal, I suggest simply informing them that they are wrong, and then pointing them towards the international agreements that spell this out. Then, if they still want to argue, they can take it up at the UN.

  • Sis

    I am concerned for the future of a girl child whose mother would so negatively characterize her as pretending to be a victim.

  • Nina M.

    By the way, I know you know all that already, Violet!

  • Violet; The author of this book obviously hasn’t talked to you recently. He’s writing about the difference between the North Pacific Complex Hunter-Gatherers and the other less complex models that existed before “technology.” Also, my daughter’s recent degree in Anthro must be completely worthless if you are right. I’ll see if I can get my money back.

    The Evolution of Complex Hunter-gatherers: Archaeological Evidence from the North Pacific
    By Ben Fitzhugh
    Published by Springer, 2003

    Still, I will grant you that there have been some changes of understanding since the 60’s; but seriously, how do you think hominids survived for 3 million years?

  • Finally, Violet, I do respect you and what you are trying to achieve; I enjoy reading your blog entries and those of other NA writers. I guess my ideas are just going to mesh with yours, so I will continue to read but try to stay quiet. Today, I jumped in to respond to something Marjorie said; it just fell out of lurking mode. I’ll try not to let it happen again. Keep up the good work. cats

  • cats, we’re really talking past each other.

  • Nina, I would argue that even though theoretically women’s rights are considered human rights, effectively they are not.

  • Nina M.

    Do you mean that effectively they are not considered human rights, or rather that this principle has not been effectively realized?

    If its the latter, of course I agree, but then again – not to short change women (some of my best friends are women) – that is true of all rights.

  • gxm17

    Sis, I’m with you. Toddlers throw tantrums. That’s normal. Labeling it “victim playing” is not. I guess if the tot were a boy he’d be characterized as showing off his aggressive hunter skills.

  • Anna

    What’s the latest action TNA is taking and can suggest to visitors and members to address what is commonly referred to as “domestic violence?” This discourse is both interesting and also one that feels like fiddling while Rome burns.

  • Kris

    Why is it that everytime someone has a differing opinon they are immediatley attacked and branded as a traitor to the “true” feminist cause? obviously everyone who takes the time to comment here at TNA agrees with the overall message, so what’s the point of ostracizing those who differ on degree, not necessarily overall message?

  • Why is it that everytime someone has a differing opinon they are immediatley attacked and branded as a traitor to the “true” feminist cause?

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about; I haven’t seen this on the blog. If you want to compile a list of examples, you can email me at editor@thenewagenda.net.

  • KendallJ

    Hi Violet,

    Great post! And yes, I agree with you, women’s rights are NOT considered human rights. That is why Hillary Clinton’s statements were so profound. It makes me sick that MSNBC and CNN can’t STFU about the NY posts Chimp cartoon and its racist implications, but won’t say a thing about this women being beheaded by her husband in an honor killing type murder. They think its OK to murder women if its part of a man of colors “culture”.

    They have no problem running their mouths about the Mormons selling little girls into marrage, but god forbid they mention muslim misogyny. We are all supposed to suck it up so we don’t offend Muslim men. This bullshit frightens me more than the right wingers.

  • ER

    Thank you, Violet, for a terrific commentary.

    This one minute video, “No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights”, says a lot. You can view it here: http://www.youthforhumanrights.....a30_h.html

    Visit the Youth for Human Rights website.

  • ER

    Here’s another one minute video, We Are All Born Free and Equal” — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixjACBvv2mE

    To see the other great Youth for Human Rights one-minute videos, go here: http://www.youthforhumanrights.....index.html

  • Sacha

    Violet, thank you for writing this outstanding piece. Right on and then some. You nailed it.

  • Carolyn

    Violet, thank you for your well thought and worded piece.

    In response to some of the comments regarding separating feminist issues (domestic violence vs equal pay for instance), I believe females are infinitely more complex than males and I don’t think the two issues can be separated.

    My daughter went from one abusive relationship to the next even though she wasn’t brought up seeing it or taught to think it was okay on any level. I soon became aware that she plugged into and identified with the drama, victimization, etc. She got help, fortunately, and she is MUCH better. She learned that abusive behavior is a form of control and that is something she HAD been exposed to … a very non-violent, yet very controlling father. I think the abusive situation allowed her to act out her anger and outrage toward her controlling father. Not to get bogged down in this, however.

    My point is, abuse, unequal pay, exploitation — whatever the feminine issue is, seems to have its roots in being controlled by men. And on a deeper level, having our responses to any given situation controlled by male dominance, even sometimes served up to us as “protection.” If she can be controlled at home, chances are she can be controlled in the work place and vice versa.

    As for domestic violence laws, I agree with another comment. Sounds like it is more an issue of enforcing laws that exist rather than creating new ones. If a man walked up to another man and beat him senseless, couldn’t he press charges and get results? From my experience in my daughter’s situation instead of it being cut and dried, as it should have been, she got the run around on every level (mostly men, of course) until she just got tired of trying to get anything done and moved away from the situation. (And giving up a well paying job to do so.) Of course, he’s still doing it to others. In summary, just because my daughter had her own issues to work through does not make this guy less dangerous.

  • Anna from AK

    Haven’t visted here in about a week! But I’m back, and you guys seem to be having an interesting conversation that I hope to read later when I have more time. I did read about the supposed honor killing a few days ago on the net. Made me sick.
    Violet rocks socks!!!

  • Cats dear. Someone didn’t agree with you, and said so.

    You went off the deep end. YOU. Probably because you love your theory so much you can’t bear any criticism of it at all. I do understand that feeling — but mom told me I’m supposed to discuss the idea, not the person.

    Had men not been hardwired to “violence” all those millions of years ago, our species would not have survived….

    Your assertion is that “men need the ability to be hardwired to commit violence”. Your evidence is that “men use the ability to be hardwired to commit violence”. Your additional evidence is that “men survived”. Your conclusion is that “men survived because I just proved that they are hardwired for violence”.

    Hello, circular reasoning. Hello, begging the question. Do you need someone to explain why this is INVALID?

  • Karen

    From a psychological viewpoint, stating that men survived just because of violence is overly simplistic. Numerous species survived without being violent. There are also the traits of love and altrusim that helped humanity to survive and to enable our species to be what it is today.

  • Anne-Marie

    Really great blog entry, and I think the discussion it generated about domestic violence is even better.

    Keeping with the spirit of Sojourner Truth’s quote, that women ought to take or use rights and not talk about them, a woman has a right and a responsibility to herself to leave a relationship when it becomes harmful. So what exactly keeps some women from exercising that right and being responsible for their own well-being?

    Or instead of a why question we can ask, what does it take for a woman to recognize abuse, and leave an unsafe situation?

    I believe in the approach of women taking responsibility for their well-being by learning to recognize red-flags in would be abusers, having no or rare tolerance for disrespect and controlling behavior, being financially independent, and having a plan and the willingness to employ physical self-defense techniques against any person who might harm her.

    What do you think women can do to end domestic violence?

  • Karen

    I think the answer to what involves and answer to why… your questions have also bugged me, Anne-Marie. One of my psychology teachers mentioned a study that concludes women are much more likely than men to remain in stressful situations. Men have two coping mechanisms – fight or fight. Women have a third coping mechanism, which is essentially to tough it out. This can be women’s best strength and worst weakness. I skimmed through some source material for a research paper, and women were more successful ranchers than their late husbands. I think that third coping mechanism enabled the women to apply more of their energy into the ranch and enabled them to be more successful. However, the downside is that women are more likely to remain in abusive relationships… because this third coping mechanism insist women tough out stressful situations.

    I think what would end domestic violence requires a lot of changes in our culture. The entertainment industry needs to quit dehumanizing women, for one thing. Because of this third coping mechanism, I think this is a rare instance in which I strongly reccommend public school services to teach kids about abuse and also some intervention programs. Our strong cognitive abilities can override our natural impulses, and we need public schools to do that.

  • Karen

    By the way, Anne-Marie, sorry for not adding this to my earlier post, I do agree with everything you said here:

    “I believe in the approach of women taking responsibility for their well-being by learning to recognize red-flags in would be abusers, having no or rare tolerance for disrespect and controlling behavior, being financially independent, and having a plan and the willingness to employ physical self-defense techniques against any person who might harm her. “

  • Carolyn

    Anne-Marie
    If you read my earlier post you know I would never have dreamed my daughter would stand for abuse, based on what I believe and the way she was taught. I do, however, think your idea of the women taking responsibility is a part of it. We need to be diligent in teaching our daughters and supporting our friends. Don’t be so starry eyed with your best friend when she gets that engagement ring from a guy who is a jerk. Preventative measures certainly trumps all else.

    From a legal aspect, I would like to see qualified mediators/counselors within the legal system. No matter how many times my daughter heard it from me, it took counseling to help her regain her sense of personal worth. In an abuse situation both parties could benefit from counseling.

  • Loralee Bullen

    “domestic violence” murder in Denver: Amber Kathleen Cremeens was murdered in Denver by an ex boyfriend who ran her off the road and proceeded to shoot her three times at point blank range. She did not have a restraining order (according to the media) but she did move to avoid him and even had her utilities in her new boyfriends name so that he could not find her. It sounds like this girls was an amazing athlete growing up and well respected in her profession. The guy who did this held tow people at gunpoint in 1997 where he threatened to kill the girl and in 2000 had an emergency order of protection placed against him by another girlfriend.

    My question is this; how does someone like this who threatens and acts on violence stay out of jail? When someone takes a gun and threatens someone, shouldn’t that person go to jail for a very long time? Reports say that this girl dated her murderer for 8 years. If that is the case, they started dating right after the other girl had the protection order placed against him.

    There are 911 tapes made public of the girls current boyfriend calling 911 on one phone and her on the other while this happened. I couldn’t listen to it.

  • Carolyn

    I’m with you Loralee

    This is also the kind of thing in my daughter’s case I could not understand. Her husband shot through the ceiling of his mother’s house then threatened to shoot himself and his mother and my daughter. My daughter called the police and they came and talked the gun away from him and put him in a mental ward for two days. She took the children and went to a friend’s — and took the gun with her so that when he came back home he could not get it.

    A week later she got a call from the police telling her she had to return the gun to her husband because IT WAS HIS PROPERTY. She explained why she took it and they said she did not have the RIGHT to withhold the gun from him. She took the gun to the police to return to him, then she moved where I live, which is about a 5 hour drive. The distance has done the trick, but she had to give up a good job. She also can’t get a divorce from him because she doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer, and can’t get legal assistance because she is now out of jurisdiction. It has been four years now and she can’t divorce him or get child support.

    How can someone so obviously dangerous to himself and others be permitted to own a gun? Shouldn’t at least his permit be revoked?

    These are the legal issues I just don’t understand.

  • Justis

    When society stops treating women and children (especially children) as property of the man, there might be some headway into stopping the violence. If a women could leave WITH HER CHILDREN and get immediate protection, just like a witness protection program, then most of this would be eliminated. Men would know that women and children would leave if they mistreated them, so it would be a deterrent.

    In this case, if she could have gone somewhere with her kids and left him, then she would be safe now. The piece of paper restraining order did not allow her to leave with her children. Instead she was bound to the area and her abuser by the court system.

    Domestic abuse needs to be taken out of family court, and be treated in criminal court – family court is a kangaroo court where
    abuse is not taken seriously. Women are seen as vindictive and many men deny that abuse of the wife or children is real and claim it is a legal tactic.

    Women are frequently re-victimized in court. They are called liars, their children are called liars. When attempting to leave an abusive man, children are forced to visit with them alone and women risk losing their life, their children’s lives, and even if no one gets killed, the mom risks losing custody.

    Lawyers and bottomfeeder psychologists terrorize women and children, sometimes leading to death because the women is not listened to. The court ordered “evlauations” need to be removed – they rip people off for thousands of dollars and never find anything wrong with the dad. If the mom complains about abuse, she could lose her children and be declared an “alienator”. Any man with money can re-victimize the mother of his children in court until the children are 18 years old, and many do. This is another form of abuse – Maternal Deprivation – that needs to be stopped. In this case the Maternal Deprivation Abuse has made the children Motherless!

    This is why so many women are not leaving the abusive situations. Since abusive men fight for custody of children, and women no longer get sole custody, they are forced to continue to interact with the abuser. As a result, these deaths occur with alarming frequecy and will continue to do so.

    I hope that this case does not bring focus on the type of death or Muslim religion, as women of all religions, races, ethnic origins, and economic statuses can be victims of domestic violence. The US has many cases of revenge killings, they just don’t call them “honor killings”.

  • Justis

    In response to Constance who wrote this:

    So you feel it is likely that the first time she was abused was this time when she was murdered by being beheaded? But really I am referring to the way some women are experiencing outrage, a very strong emotion, by vicariously living Aasiya’s ultimate horror over and over. And I am wondering why this sort of thing is so prevalent in feminist groups and if all that angst and outrage is actually helpful to abused women. Because male/ female relationships in general are not accurately represented by the most outrageous behavior of the most disturbed people. And yet there are real disadvantages that average women face daily like not being represented by their government, making only 78% what a man makes for the same job and media images of women.

    So for me I think it is time to put away the outrage at this extremely aberrant behavior and work on issues that can really make a difference to all women. And perhaps that is a split that needs to happen for women to move forward. “feminists” should consider dividing into two groups, those who categorize and identify with victims of extreme horror and those who identify the most pressing problems to Jenny Average and want to work to eliminate or improve them.
    ____________

    Response:

    There needs to be outrage over this issue. Women are killed every day under similar circumstances. It’s an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

    Even if you are not involved with a man, you could be a random victim. If you, Constance, were attacked by a man who tried to murder you, and say you recovered, would you want some other women saying, let’s not deal with this issue, it doesn’t help everyone. Any woman could be the target of gender specific violence just by walking down the street.

    Try to put yourself in the place of the women killed. Outrage is necessary, as this is gender specific violence.

  • ER

    I don’t think women are hard-wired to be victims. When the are the victims of out of control men, here’s what happens:

    SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAT VIOLENCE MUST BE PREVENTED AND TAKEN SERIOUSLY:

    A new study shows that traumatic childhood experiences such as child abuse can alter the structure and function of genes that control stress, which could increase the risk of suicide in adult survivors. This study, from McGill University, is the first to show a link between psychological trauma and genetic function in humans. This work supports earlier studies showing abuse can alter DNA function. They also found that these genetic changes occur in adults.

    Quoting from one article:

    It suggests that experience in childhood when the brain is developing, can have a long-term impact on how someone responds to stressful situations.

    But study leader Professor Michael Meaney said they believe these biochemical effects could also occur later in life.

    “If you’re a public health individual or a child psychologist you could say this shows you nothing you didn’t already know.

    “But until you show the biological process, many people in government and policy-makers are reluctant to believe it’s real. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7901337.stm

    Another quote:

    ”But they also found that these epigenetic marks can be changed in adulthood with treatments that change the DNA coating: the treatment is called DNA methylation and it reverses the change to the stress response.”
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.co.....139938.php

    The original article citation: “Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse.” Patrick O McGowan, Aya Sasaki, Ana C D’Alessio, Sergiy Dymov, Benoit Labonté, Moshe Szyf, Gustavo Turecki & Michael J Meaney. Nature Neuroscience Published online: 22 February 2009. doi:10.1038/nn.2270

    I’m posting this as it gives us more ammunition in our fight (and press releases) regarding violence against women (and children and men).

  • Carolyn

    Thank you Justis, for you well worded comment.

    As I posted earlier, my daughter had to leave a well paying job she had been at for several years in order to move away from her husband, to a place of relative safety. (He won’t drive 5 hours to beat up my daughter, after all, there are plenty of women to beat up without his going to the trouble.)

    My point is, the violence did affect her ability to earn a living and is just as relevant as if she were not getting equal pay.

    Almost every single woman I know has either been slapped, punched, shoved, threatened with a fist or gun, or been yanked by their hair at least once in their life by a man they were involved with or on a date with. If this was a disease this number would be considered an epidemic.