According to statistics and a number of surveys around the World, misogyny and the abuse of women is on the rise.
A survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found about a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15. The survey found that “one in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, and one in 20 has been raped”.
Every 90 seconds, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted – Calculation based on 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Since the age of 15, one third of women (33%) have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life, one quarter (25%) have experienced unwanted sexual touching, and one in five (19%) have been stalked. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006)
Honour Killings – extreme examples of sexual violence?
The article details how Farzana a 25 year old woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her father, brother and relatives as an ‘honour killing’ because she married without their consent. The family had no regrets.
I found the article deeply shocking – like a wake up call from a slumber, where I’ve overslept perhaps for years, or longer. As I digested the eloquent content I felt the article was also a clear call to action and awareness for us all, to call out misogyny on every level and uproot it where it festers.
As a first step I initially committed to a willingness to see the extent of the extremities of violence towards women and so I looked into this story further.
It came to light that the woman’s husband had strangled his first wife to death, to ‘get her out of the way’ so he could marry Farzana. He felt entirely justified in this course of action – women are apportioned so little worth in this culture, our very lives are considered disposable, and not uncommonly so. He received no sentence because the woman’s family ‘forgave him’, which put him beyond the law – apparently a common practice. Farzana’s father and brothers had also previously murdered another of their daughters/sisters after a ‘fall out’ with her husband – something they too admit, and again reportedly with no regret.
Farzana’s extreme case was not isolated. Nor is Pakistan alone in these horrific crimes against humanity. Papua New Guinea has an appallingly high level of extreme violence towards women – husbands who cut off limbs with bush knives, women accused of witchcraft burned to death or beheaded after being gang raped, and the list goes on. The police, on the whole, do nothing, and are also often involved directly in the violence.
‘Closer to home’ there are some real eye-opening statistics on sexual violence towards women in Europe, the US and Australia as listed above.
As Dr Eunice Minford says, in the UK or Australia we may not widely accept women being stoned to death, or burnt alive, or children being gang raped or having limbs cut off…. but if this is the extreme end of the violence towards women, we must stop and ask ourselves several questions….
- Does an act of misogyny further ‘down’ the spectrum make it ok? Or does it all possibly contribute to the extreme end of the spectrum and make its existence possible?
- How is each one of us personally contributing in our daily lives to these global phenomena of devaluing women, on any level?
What really struck me in the stopper effect Dr Minford’s article had on me, was pondering what I’ll refer to as the ‘spectrum effect’ of violence to women… and how as a species perhaps:
We use the extremes to justify the less extreme.
And so what we should be asking is this:
If the so-called ‘less extreme’ misogyny actually allows the so-called ‘more extreme’ violence against women to exist, does then the whole sliding scale slide over time, if we allow it?
…. and so when we choose to work with our self worth, or call out Misogyny wherever it festers – there is a great big picture to be gained beyond our own quality of life, self care, tenderness and knowing and living of our innate inner beauty as the fair women of this world. Every time we honour what we feel and speak up, we are shifting the scale back, we are curtailing the normalised everyday misogyny – the tone of voice, the things we tell ourselves we can’t complain about or say no to because ‘it’s not as bad as… x,y,z’ … namely a more extreme example of the same thing.
It’s like we say ‘this’ is okay because ‘that’ is in the world and when compared, it’s ‘not as bad as that’…. instead of saying, we have a responsibility to ourselves and everyone else to address this in our own lives, so all of ‘that’ i.e. the whole sliding scale, can be seen for the harm it is.
Staying Silent does not inhibit misogyny – it adds to it!
I began pondering the places we have normalised misogyny – page three porn (The Sun newspaper UK) on the family breakfast table for example – and the scale is sliding ever downward. ‘Pop’ videos these days are basically porn. We are allowing our societies and our notion of women to be pornified and hypersexualised – and we all play a part in this, the indirect is direct.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Women are being reinforced as objects, and objects are ultimately disposable, we cannot pretend the two are unconnected any longer. One end of the sliding scale allows the other to exist, reinforcing and providing a breeding ground for the exact same messages that are ultimately used by perpetrators such as Farzana’s father and brothers when they say they have no regrets.
Bare breasts in newspapers equals ‘women are objects’ – equals violence against women, no question.
Not treating myself with care and the tenderness I deserve, whilst turning a blind eye, equals the reinforcing and internalising, living and perpetuating that women are worth-less – equals violence against women, no question.
Where to from here?
I am not suggesting that we all take up banners and fight and campaign or run around proving we are equal to men by becoming like them. I for one have definitely been there, done both of those in the past, but see clearly now, that that was also part of the same sliding scale.
I see that I did not offer another living way by example that is not on or near this spectrum, and that we actually need to look with care within our relationships with ourselves and others in our lives, to check where we might have internalised these same messages on any scale, where we might override the clear discomfort or signals from our bodies and let the odd comment slide by so as not to ‘rock the boat’ or be seen as a ‘prude’ or similar.
If we start with reinstating and re-claiming the knowing that women are in fact amazing, precious and sacred, we might then begin to see how important it is to be able to name, even call out, and then let go of or discard that which we have ‘taken on’ or subscribed to from the all too commonly held ‘women are less’ scale – and how this has played out in everyday instances in our lives…. until the moment we choose to turn it around.
With a sense of the responsibility (aka power and ability to choose) we each hold, I stopped after reading Dr Minford’s article to name several ways I might take the next step in cherishing and valuing myself as a woman and also cherishing my beautiful tender sons and amazingly powerful daughter and in so doing, knowing THIS, if globalised, will one day eradicate the whole phenomena of women being less, being objects, being possessions and men being trained to leave their natural tenderness so so young and abuse, both themselves and others.
If we each as women claim our own worth as the fair and radiant beings we all naturally are – without needing to look a certain way, or prove ourselves with deeds, or appease, or comply or ‘not rock the boat’ then all points along this spectrum of horror will one day be no more.
We are all, women and men too, precious beyond our current understanding.
by Kate Burns, Bellingen, Australia