Thursday, July 22, 2010

Domestic Violence Today

So let us continue with a frank discussion about domestic abuse. I recently had my eyes opened to the truth of it all that I had never really understood before. See my previous post for some of the details, but you know, people sometimes don’t really see things until given examples. I took a class last semester called Counseling Women Towards Empowerment. One of the best classes I have had so far since I want to focus on adolescent and teen girls. In this class I met a singular woman who runs a battered woman’s shelter. I have a family member who was abused, so there was some firsthand experience for me. Several women in the class left that day with a changed view of the harsh realities of abuse. One was a police dispatcher who admitted to having shrugged off repeat calls for domestic violence with the typical response. So this will be a series of posts with this first being a descriptor of abuse, and the next being an example led post that illustrates the realities of domestic violence and how things actually occur in our world.

So first let’s talk about abuse. What is it?

Well, what most people think of is this:

“What is Physical Domestic Violence?

Physical domestic abuse is what one usually thinks of first - physical injuries inflicted against the survivor. Physical abuse can include shoving or pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, throwing object, injuring or threatening with a weapon, or physical intimidation. Physical domestic abuse can also include false imprisonment or confinement, like locking someone in a bathroom for an extended period of time. Denying access to medical treatment or necessary medications is another form of physical domestic abuse.”

This is only one type. This is the final stage in an abusive relationship. By the time these things have happened, other types of abuse could have been going on for years or even decades.

I must emphasize this point: Physical abuse does not have to occur for there to be an abusive relationship, but this is the only kind that usually comes to police attention.

“What is Emotional Domestic Violence?

Emotional domestic violence is the most pervasive form of domestic abuse, yet it can be the hardest to recognize. People who experience emotional domestic abuse don’t have outward signs of abuse like victims of physical domestic violence. Emotional domestic abuse is comprised of belittling talk, constant put-downs or criticism, lying and deceit, name-calling, social isolation, controlling behavior, threats of harm to self or others, blame for actions, and guilt. In many cases, an abusive relationship will escalate from emotional abuse to physical abuse. This is not to say, however, that emotional abuse is not serious in its own right; emotional domestic violence can cause long-lasting trauma.”

This type of abuse is often ignored by police when it is reported because there is no “crime”. This is often a first stage in an abusive relationship. Sometimes, this is the only abuse there ever is, and it is often enough to keep control of the partner.

“What is Financial Domestic Violence?

Financial abuse most commonly occurs in tandem with other forms of abuse. It is another way for an abuser to isolate and control a victim. Financial domestic abuse can include stealing money, using someone’s credit without consent, forbidding someone to work, forcing someone to work in a threatening or dangerous job (for instance, forcing someone to sell drugs or do sex work), or forbidding someone access to their own money. If someone is the victim of financial domestic abuse, it can be hard for him/her to leave the abusive situation since s/he can be without any financial resources.”

Often this is another first step. And again, there is mostly no “crime”.

“What is Sexual Domestic Violence?

Sexual domestic violence is any abuse of a sexual nature that occurs within an intimate partner or family relationship. This can include forcing someone to participate in sexual acts against one's will, refusing to have safer sex, infecting someone with a sexually transmitted illness, or exposing someone to materials of a sexual nature without one's consent.”

Rape does occur inside marriages. And it is often covered with the “wifely duties”. Most of the time when women who are being sexually abused are told by friends and family things like, “Just close your eyes and it will be over soon” and “get it over with, you’re the wife after all” and “if you don’t he’ll find someone who will!”

Quoted sections retrieved today from here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Breast: Sexualization and the Feminist Agenda

So, onward with my tirade about Feminism, huh? So lately, there has been a ton of humbaloo about breastfeeding in public. I like the post over on Why I Protect, Support and Promote Breastfeeding. I've heard many breastfeeding women and lactivists claim that the act of breastfeeding encourages that stereotypical gender role, but like my last post, it isn't about that.

As a feminist, this oversexualization is the problem. Breasts are for men's sexual pleasure. That's just wrong on so many levels. The presence of breasts is there for biological reasons. The breast as well as curvy hips are indicators of fertility, which is why men find them attractive. Biological factors influence attraction, which is why the current idea of the super thin woman goes against the biological drives of humankind. Extremely thin women are not seen as very fertile. The presence of the "child bearing hips" and large breasts are a way the males of our species identify the most likely partners that are the most likely to procreate healthy offspring. Indicators of health are also healthy hair, skin, and teeth. Sound familiar? All the "attractive" things men look for. Biological factors also are the reason men often seek muliple partners, in a genetic sense it is in the best interest of the male of any species to impregnante as many females as they can. This is overridden by our sense of love and reason in partnering, but in many men infidelity happens as a result of these natural, biological drives.

And yes, this biological attraction goes both ways. Women tend towards attraction to men with nice buttocks, thick thighs (signs of virility and fertility in men), and broad shoulders. The "V" from shoulder to small of the back is almost universally appealing to women. However, there is one more thing, women tend to look for financial stability to care for their children.

So yes, the presence of these sexual attractions are indeed there, and to deny it is to deny simple biology. HOWEVER, the feminist agenda comes into play in the idea that women should not be turned into "objects" of sexual desier. Just a women desires a man with a nice butt, men desire a woman with nice breasts. But does the presence of a man's butt put everyone on edge? No...so why should the presence of a breast do this?

Why the Breast? Because, over the years, women have been recognized as property. Women are "given away" at their weddings by their fathers, and/or brothers. Why is this? In old times, women were the properties of their fathers, and brothers if the father was dead, and at the wedding, would be "given" to the husband as property. And the famous phrase "if anyone has any reason these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold their peace"? This comes directly from the idea that at the wedding, aka property exchange, should anyone have claim to the family's assests, they had to speak there or lose that claim. The whole wedding ceremony, wrapped in a religious garb, is originally one elaborate property exchange ritual. Today, they've omitted the "love, honor and obey" from the wife's vows, but they still pronounce you "man and wife" in most places, not "husband and wife" because the ceremony was originally putting the wife in the place of the man's property.

Now I hear the arguments already. Hear me out.

Why are abused women often faulted with their own abuse? Other women even often say, "well why doesn't she just leave the bastard?" That is part of the problem. With abused women, the reason many look the other way when they know it is happening is because it is "their business" and "she'd leave if she wanted". The truth is the old ways of having women as property influence this idea. "their business" can be interchanged with "his property". This extends to child abuse. Children are also historically viewed as property of the man, thus what he does with them was his buisness. And because of the wedding transfer of property, the wife is property as well.

Here are some interesting facts about abuse. Women who die as a result of abuse rarely die until they try to leave. Therefore a lot of times, women who stay with abusive spouses are doing so for their own safety. And with the involvement of children, I've haeard many times how "wrong" women are to stay for the sake of the children. Well, here's the trick to that. Women often stay to protect those kids. If a woman is being abused, she often intercedes to protect her children. If the abuser is beating her, sometimes she can get him to leave her kids alone. If she were to divorce him, most times there would be visitation. Meaning that she would have to leave her children ALONE with her abusive ex spouse. When she can't protect them. Out of fear of retaliation toward her thorugh her kids, she will stay.

In the end, it is all leading back to issues of "property" going back many years. And because of that, those issues lead back to the original issue, the sexualization of the breast. And it is all related to the feminist agenda.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Feminism and Breastfeeding

So I've seen some women who claim they aren't feminists. They say that feminism is detrimental to the act of breastfeeding because feminism is about equality in all aspects, including child rearing.

I can truthfully say that true equality in child bearing and child rearing is impossible. Until a man can carry a child for nine months, then give birth to it, then lactate for the duration of the child's nursing, there is no true equality to those that choose to bear children. So then, since feminism is about equality, one canot believe in having children and lactating and be a feminist...right?

Wrong. Let's first dispell some misconceptions about what feminism is.

Myth: Feminists hate men.
To the contrary, women who ascribe to being feminists do not hate men. Men are a part of the culture we live in, and the way we interact with men determines a lot about those who are interact.

Myth: Feminists despise traditional "gender roles" such as "mother" or "caregiver".
Not at all. There is nothing that says that a feminist cannot enjoy being in a traditional position of being a stay at home mom. The trick is that she should not be expected to be a stay at home mome, or she should not be expected to be in a positon of being a working mom. Being a feminist means having the right right to choose that gender role without being forced into it by anyone else.

Myth: Breastfeeding locks a woman into child rearing, therefore goes against feminism.
BIG TIME Untrue. Breastfeeding is something that only a woman can do, just like child bearing. It becomes the best choice for women to care for their children and themselves. It is true a man cannot do this but if a man is supportive of his wife/partner, then there is equality in breastfeeding.

Myth: Feminsim means equality in every aspect of life, bar none.
This is perhaps the most rediculous notion about feminism. There are times when equality is impossible due to physical restrictions. You would not expect a man who is 5 foot tall and 120 lbs to do the same amount of lifting as a six foot tall man who is 320 pounds. Let's be real about things. The same thing goes for child rearing.

So what is femism about. Equality, yes. In opportunity and chances to have access to work and education. But to deny a woman's femaleness is to deny a part of her just as to deny a person's race is to deny a part of their identity. And the rights of a woman to make her own choices are essential. More on this later...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Lonely Heart's Cry

Her eyes open,
unable to see very well.
She tries to call out
but her voice is quiet and weak.
She cries out to those that care for her.
The come, see she is dry and okay and leave.
She weeps again.
All she wants is a human touch.

[Long ago they touched her,
hugged her, kissed her,
Long ago when she was young.
When her eyes saw well.
When her voice was strong and loud.
When she had usefulness to them]

Cold and alone, she can't reach the covers,
and her hands grasp but cannot hold.
How cruel can they be to leave her?
Alone and shivering in the dark.
Then they come, changing her bed and clothes.
And cover her up finally,
but soon she is too hot, and she cries out,
and they look in and leave.
She is not in real distress.

[What is she to do to get their respect?
Shouldn't it be something given to her?
So frail and unable to do for herself
yet they leave her alone, in the dark,
as the fears of what is unknown mount.
And her tears fade,
only because no one will come,
and she knows it too well.]

The door opens, and she looks up.

"Mother, we've come to visit.
And we've brought your new granddaughter."

The frail old woman holds the frail little girl.
They stare into each others eyes.
And each one knows the pain of the other.
Without a word,
without a gesture,
they share something so poingent,
no one else in the room understands,
and the old woman begins to weep,
and the little girl begins to cry,
because they know.

They are both alone.

Only Five Minutes

Only five minutes.
The tears and fears would rage
only five minutes.
Nothing could happen in
only five minutes.

Alone in the dark,
fear rising in her tiny chest,
she fights the bars
that keep her inside
and away from those who could
comfort her.

And her little leg
slides betwixt the bars
for just a second
and she is flooded with pain
and still alone.

She becomes sick and finally
she is no longer alone
but the pain is nearly unbearable
as she weeps and cries,
finally comforted.

But again, the next night,
she is alone again,
and still in pain and crying,
and left alone,
only five minutes.

Five nights pass,
in pain, in fear, and alone,
until her caregivers realize
that there is something wrong
with her.

Five nights healing,
a broken leg as she cried
and no one came to her aid,
leaving her alone, in pain and fear,
for only five minutes.

(This is a true story I have heard along my time talking to other parents, of a mother who let her child cry it out for five minutes. In that time, the child broke a leg, and continued crying each night, until finally she began screaming in the daytime when they put a shoe on her. Her leg was broke for five days when they finally took her to the doctor. All in only five minutes.)