It’s happened, I’m officially irritated.
Last year I think it happened on Tuesday, at least this year it waited until Wednesday to sneak up on me. It was during the Intersections of Violence Against Women and Militarism when all four of the speakers (well maybe only three because in truth I walked out before they were done) kept referring to all the violence that women suffer. Rape, female genital mutilation, starvation.
OK. I get it. Women suffer violence.
But what irritates me is that there seems to be a dichotomy of women = good/peaceful/victim and men = bad/violent/oppressor. And that dichotomy does two things:
- First it teaches men that they cannot be agents of non-violent change (to be non-violent is to be weak is to be a woman) so they may as well grab power in whatever way they can; and
- Second, it teaches women around the world that they are less than powerful and that someone must change their situation for them.
And what about the women who participate in state-sanctioned violence by virtue of joining the military? In America at least, one of the many reasons some people living in rural areas join is to escape that area and considering the theme is “rural women” this year I would have thought it would have come up.
Or not. Because it seems that, even without explicitly defining the term “rural woman,” we certainly have an idea of what she looks like. She:
- is not from America (or really any first world country);
- is almost certainly not white;
- most likely does not speak English as her first language;
- is straight and probably has children;
- is or will be married one day.
I would like to meet her and see if she really is all of these things. But I can’t, because she’s not here.
Unless she’s part of a religious (usually Christian) relief organization who funded her entire trip here. In which case I won’t get an honest answer out of her because really, if you were relying on an organization’s help for everything would you be ready to dime them out to a complete stranger?
Back to my original point, being a woman does not automatically make me a victim. I might be in a victimized state right now, but I am not a victim. Like I am experiencing poverty or homelessness, I am not poor or homeless.
Changing our language changes our attitudes. Instead of making someone forever a victim, or poor, or homeless, we can begin to make them agents in their own change.