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Serenity and Activism

Yesterday I read an article by Joss Whedon that disturbed me. He was drawing parallels between the stoning of a Dua Khalil and a soon-to-be-released American movie Captivity. Specifically he compares the way women are viewed as rightful victims of violence.

He writes that "Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies."

In his article Whedon links to  Equality Now and exhorts readers to stand up for what they believe in, regardless of how.

I completely agree with Whedon that this is a terrible state of affairs and I want to do what I can to address it. At the same time, reading about physical and emotional violence and discrimination inflicted on women upsets me greatly. I didn't see the videos of Dua Khalil's stoning but the images evoked by Whedon's text still haunt me and will for days. For me, making myself aware of these injustices is not compatible with a serene lifestyle or with maintaining emotional equanamity.

So the question becomes: How do I work toward the common good for all women and maintain my sanity at the same time? How do you do it?


Sometimes I think that men read 'malevolence' when a beautiful woman- or any female at all- tells them 'no'.

Women are not supposed to know what 'no' means. And when they do, men take it personally.

I remember the nasty smear campaign waged against me at one base when I wouldn't 'put out'. Suddenly I was 'probably a dyke', and was even investigated to see if I actually was. I wasn't- I just wasn't interested in sex. That made me the pariah. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Yeah, I've seen that sense of entitlement that some men have, too.
When I was at Victim Support, and listening to women talk about the abuse they'd received from their partners... I'd often start to feel very angry. I used to remind myself that I can't go out there and beat up their abuser - however much I would like to! Anger is a form of energy, so what I could do with that energy was use that to be really focused and present with the person I was listening to, and to communicate to them my sense that what they experienced was NOT RIGHT, and my belief that they deserved better. Even if they themselves might sometimes be struggling to believe that.

I also think there's an element of good self care, which has to do with not becoming secondarily traumatised when supporting someone else through a trauma. That doesn't help the person who was traumatized, and it doesn't help you. So it's been important to me to have my own supports - like therapy, or peer supervision, and now actual supervision - where I can go if I find I am feeling wobbly, having witnessed someone else's struggle, or feeling my own emotions in the situation.

And... I think there are different ways to be active. Some people might prefer to work by raising funds, some people might want to work with survivors directly, other people might want provide practical supports - like offering to provide computer support for some charitable organization, or doing admin for them. There were people who volunteered at VS along those lines, for instance. There were local businesses who volunteered goods and services. There'll probably be creative ways to do something, without necessarily getting involved emotionally in a way that doesn't feel right to you, or wouldn't be sustainable.

At the end of the day, I think it is about being grounded and sensible, as well as wanting to help. I don't think anyone would want you to put your sanity on the line - that would just mean that the abuse had claimed another victim.
Oh, and incidentally, I think what Joss does with his anger is he expresses the energy in art and creates strong female characters who can stand up for themselves. Again, everyone is different - that's just one outlet for the energy, the same way Whedonesque was an outlet for him to issue a kind of rallying cry.
I vote Democrat, give money to Planned Parenthood, and try to be a good role model for my daughter and a mentor to the women I work with.
Start with yourself...
then move on to being a good example to those around you,
work from there out, one person at a time.