Eliminate Double Talk on Violence (Ending Violence Against Women 2005)
By Chris Grumm
Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, says the US should not engage in double talk in the fight against terrorism: on one hand promoting democracy and human rights around the world, and on the other hand allowing for the torturing of prisoners by sending them back to their home countries, where the commitment to humane treatment of prisoners is not a priority.
I agree. When we allow this type of duplicity our credibility is destroyed in the eyes of many in the world. It is a hypocrisy that calls into question all the efforts of our foreign policy to speak with authority about democracy and the lifting up of human rights.
I see this same duplicity in the lip service for stopping violence against women versus the actual halting of that violence. On one hand we are a society that reacts in horror when women are sexually assaulted and brutally beaten, and on the other hand we tolerate violent video games, movies, television programming and other media messages that create an atmosphere of the devaluing and invisibility of women and girls. If as a society we truly considered women and girls both individually and collectively essential (outside of reproductive contributions) to the creation and building of health and safe communities, we would do all that we could to keep them safe and protected.
The US is not alone in this double talk. In 2005 China released its glowing white paper on Gender Equality, which ignored the increasing tide of violence against women resulting from the ongoing practice of female infanticide. With just 100 girls born for every 117 boys, rates of abduction, rape, and forced marriage are becoming more prevalent than ever. Preference for sons has led to a shortage of women.
Valuing women and girls as equal participants in all sectors of our society would send a message loud and clear that violence against women and girls is not only unacceptable, it will not be tolerated. Instead, as women continue to be paid less, represent (with their children) the majority of those in poverty, and remain ignored by the media as leaders and experts, it becomes easier for social prejudice to snowball from devaluation to dehumanization to victimization of women.
When people do not give a woman a job because of her gender, when they limit women's access to the building of assets, and when they legally restrict a women's right to control her own body, they are setting women up to become victims of violence. Violence does not happen in a vacuum, but rather is fed with the subtle and not so subtle messages of our culture. The duplicity of speaking the words against gender-based violence and yet not promoting the full participation of women and girls in communities across the globe, can only point to a certain lack of commitment to the elimination of this problem.
Women do not want to climb back up on a pedestal (that has never been a very safe place), but rather are just looking for a place at the table. Stopping violence against women and girls may be a simple as making space at the table.