Male violence comes in many forms, however, and throughout radical feminism you can hear this articulated. Providing frontline responses to domestic and intimate partner violence, cultural and religious practices that are overtly violent towards women such as FGM or forced marriages. Addressing the state sanctioned violence against women in childbirth. Most importantly addressing women as a class and the entirety of our experiences.
What do you mean by that specifically?
So for first world women, we might not feel the same pressure coming down as women in the Philippines, for example, who are at ground zero for impact of climate change – a very dire situation for these extremely impoverished women who cannot access family planning, legal abortions, or even get divorces because of patriarchal control of the health care system, US AID, and even religion that determines the morals behind these women’s choices. We see all this as male violence against women. Male violence is rampant and is the source of much of the violence perpetrated through the world in gun violence in America, terrorism, wars, police brutality and so on. One third of the internet is pornography which the majority of which is explicit and purposeful violence against women perpetrated by males. Male violence is everywhere.
Just to get an idea of your participation, what events did you attend at the conference?
I primarily stayed in the round table room. The round table was fascinating because of course its a whole different format for presenting information. It’s much more interactive than the panels and you even tend to hear healthy disagreement and debate on the topics. So you will hear, for examples, a debate within the round table of murdered and missing aboriginal women, a healthy dialogue around how good the inquiry is because of Native women’s history with the Nation-State of their colonizer. It is easier to see that a consensus on a topic actually still includes so many voices and perspectives not all in agreement on everything.
The event itself in that it was organized by VRR, embodies the solutions in its organizing process. VRR has modeled this for over 46 years. They are a collective of women that make decisions by consensus and run an independently funded transition house (shelter) while maintaining all decision-making autonomy.
The shelter that I work in here is State funded and functions in a completely different way, subject to our State funding mechanisms and parameters (nation-state defined and therefore not always genuinely serving of women). As in the midwifery example, many states such as mine that are poor and underfunded must choose to run a State funded shelter or no shelter at all. We justify it because we know the need is so great. However, the services are skewed by the States patriarchal filters, that these shelters hold a space for the refuge that women need, lack the analysis to help them understand that contexts in which they are living- a truly systemic analysis of what affects our lives. So we end up with the same victim-blaming model. But we also do not continue to develop autonomous services because we believe that its covered- even though it is not.
The issue that we seem to face is finding the fulcrum between practically improving the lives of women and effectively taking down the patriarchal systems that have us all oppressed. We can work towards, for example (in the world of midwifery), a better situation for a handful of women, but the professionalization that allows us to do that also prevents us from overturning the whole system which would ultimately help all of us. We seem to get stuck here, ultimately fighting over whom we should help first or more.
The way VRR runs its programs, the revolution is embodied in the community volunteers that get trained and recruited into the work by way of a commitment to the consensus process and by eliminating as much as possible the hierarchical paradigm that trapped these women into their situation in the first place.
In these cop rapist cases we will see the culpability found within the institutional structure/leadership, the same way it exists in the military. Sexual assault is rampant in patriarchal institutions which unfortunately include the nuclear family which put every woman and child at risk and vulnerable to male violence. Prostitution and pornography permeates that home environment and tells men it is okay to rape. Pornography and prostitution is a major issue of disagreement among women and part of a range of forbidden discourse in our society.
The rhetoric seems to simmer down to looking at these male-owned industries as sources of opportunity for many hundreds of thousands of women across the world. So if we were to consider this from this individualist perspective, there are still the considerations of consent and how this is achieved. Prostituted and trafficked women come from very socially and economically impoverished situations of survival, one where consent takes on a different meaning.
The fact is that these industries demonstrate a public and accessible state-sanctioned violence against the female body. My favorite quote from MMM was Meagan Murphy. she said: “simulated misogyny is still misogyny”. The imprint is horrific. One third of the internet is pornography- the vile rape and torture of the female body, the average age of exposure for males in the US is ten years old.
Just like the midwifery example, by framing it from the perspective of the individual and meeting as many individual needs as possible, we prevent ourselves from addressing the roots of the issue of male supremacy and the deliberate sexual and reproductive submission demanded of us as females by males. Another Meagan Murphy quote from the MMM event was “you can’t fight the status quo by calling it empowerment.”