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Archive for December 24th, 2006

Terrorism and the Value of Women’s Lives

The recent threat on my life has caused a flurry of concern. Friends offer safe house. The police have increased patrol. The FBI has is investigating the source of the threat. Andy and I have increased our vigilance and have taken special precaution to protect ourselves.

But truth be told, the chances of any woman being killed by a stranger is pretty remote. Unlike most women whose lives have been threatened, my would be killer lives on the other side of my front door. I can turn the key. I can lock him out.

Not so for many.

Statistically, the most dangerous place for women and children is in our own homes.

Statistically, the most dangerous place for women and children is in our own homes.

Statistically, the most dangerous place for women and children is in our own homes; the bedroom and the kitchen, particularly.

Most homicides against women are perpetrated by the men in our own lives: the ones that Patriarchy insists are assigned to protect us. Most rapes are carried out, not by strangers, but by men who we have trusted or who have, in the case of fathers, step-fathers, uncles, brothers; men who have been entrusted with our care. Women who kill their abuser, even in self defense, during an attack, get much longer prison sentences than men, who, after years of abuse, kill their victims. One very frightening statistic is that the leading cause of death of pregnant women, is in fact, homicide, often by the father of the developing fetus.

This is the daily terrorism that millions of women, around the world live with every day. And they cannot lock the door.

These are not the first death threats I have received in my life, and my actions and statements against hegemony and patriarchy have frequently brought out the wrath of individual as well as collective groups of men. There is no separation here. These threats are symptomatic of a larger system of domination, control and power that is threatened by empowered women, in our homes or in the larger community.

As a young, dynamic, vibrant and wide-eyed college student, I was very involved in the emerging women’s anti-violence movement that flourished at the end of the seventies. We were the generation that brought voice to a new lexicon; the language of abuse; “domestic violence,” “sexual harassment,” “date rape, ” “hostile working environment.” These were new social concepts that had not been considered before.

At the College I attended for the first two years of my four year undergraduate endeavor, we successfully had a full professor dismissed for sleeping with students; that is, making sex a part of his mandatory curriculum in exchange for the guidance that would have, one might have thought, simply come with admission to the college, for doing the work, for showing an interest in the subject matter, for coming to class.

And while arguments flew back and forth about consent, the point was raised; what about the women that didn’t consent and therefore didn’t get the same attention? –the participants aren’t the only victims.

We also raised the issue of date rape, violence on campus, domestic violence and the generally accepted subjugation of women.

I was (surprise, surprise!) especially outspoken.

And for this, I was pummeled with death threats, and was stalked for the entire five years I lived in that town.

When I attempted to report the threats and the stalking I was told by the campus and the town police that they couldn’t do anything until something actually happened to me, that stalking and threats weren’t a crime.

Again, because of the work of women and other similarly ostracized and disempowered groups, this too has changed. These threats are now considered hate crimes. Stalking is now a felony.

This very domestic terrorism; of race and gender is part of the changing lexicon.

For those of us who have been activists for several decades, who came of age during the sixties and the seventies, surely we had expected the world would look very different than it does now. We would have hoped more might have been achieved, that we would be part of the organization a more just society. Instead we find ourselves up against an enormously dangerous death machine.

But these are among the successes of our generation.

It is not legal to send an email to a woman whose point of view you don’t agree with, and threaten to kill her.

It is a hate crime if it is based on gender, religion or ethnicity.

It is 6 am. Andy is still asleep.

I type.

The day is rushing to greet us.

There is much work to do.

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