I was in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. I didn’t see the city though. I can’t tell you where is good to eat and what is a ‘must see.’ I’m not even sure what the weather is like there. The time was spent at the A CALL TO MEN 2015 National Conference – Sports Culture: Advancing Its Role in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention.
I am grateful I was there.
There were so many brilliant and amazing people at the event, advocates and activists, sports executives and players, media representatives and program directors, all with a common goal to end violence against women and girls. I was humbled and honored to be in the room with them and listen to the myriad of strategies being used to bring awareness and awaken well-meaning men to the power we have to end this epidemic. I will not attempt to summarize or highlight these incredible people’s work that spans so many communities and all social strata. My words would not do them justice.
One particular session inspires me to write at this time. The topic was “Addressing the Issue of Demand: Trafficking, Prostitution and Pornography.” The panelists were on point. The reality is devastating. The links between pornography, prostitution and trafficking are undeniable. We must stop this consumption.
Another link to all this pervaded my heart and mind during the session and for the rest of the conference. All through the discussion, which as I said was totally on point, the language of capitalism was used. Supply and demand. If we eliminate the demand, the industry will die. Without a market, no sales can be made. This all makes perfect sense and is a worthy strategy for ending the horror.
What kept coming back for me is the link between women’s bodies and our planet. I have learned from Tewa Women United to recognize Woman as our first environment. Each of us is born of a Woman. How we treat women and how we treat the earth is intimately tied together.
The language illuminates this link with every breath. “The resources available for exploitation will allow the company to leverage their position for maximum penetration of the market.” I have written words like this for business plans. How far is this from our discussion of the pornography industry? We speak of the exploitation of women. They are the resource. Men are the market. Penetration is not only the goal of the industry, but also how the resource is exploited. As we explore the possibilities of reducing demand in order to weaken the industry, our language is still informed by rhetoric of control and supremacy. This is no coincidence.
The question of ‘which came first’ is beyond me to explore. Did we begin with the exploitation of women or the exploitation of the earth? It is certainly a worthy question, and I applaud those that take the time to reveal the answer. It may even provide us with better answers to how we can stop this madness. However, one place I feel a certainty is that our faith in supremacy is the mechanism that perpetuates both violence against women and girls and environmental destruction.
This is a plea.
I heard a brilliant young man speak in Charlotte this week. Juan Ramos, a Core Trainer for A CALL TO MEN and Executive Director of Community Driven Solutions, told his story and shared his perspective. He said something that resonated deep in my understanding. He spoke of the issues. How we are all addressing specific issues in the struggle for justice. However disparate these issues may be, from homelessness to immigration to gun violence, they all share commonalities. He challenged us to not be ‘issueists,’ and instead become ‘activists.’
This begins within each of us. Each of us must take a hard look at how we perpetuate supremacy in any form. It is not easy, considering that the very systems that feed and shelter us are rooted in a dogma of supremacy. This dogma allows us to make decisions of violence each day. Some of them may be inevitable, such as the violence of fossil fuel extraction, which is invoked the moment you flip the switch in the bathroom for your morning shower. Some of them come with a choice, such as the violence against women and girls, which is invoked when you click ‘like’ on the new advertisement for women’s jeans. All this violence is supported by a belief that our lives, our comforts, our culture, our species is somehow superior to others’.
You are probably like me in that you prefer to turn the light on and use hot water during your morning shower. Perhaps some day we can enjoy those comforts absent the violence that has made them possible. I do not suggest (although some folks do) that we abandon everything and live in the woods making our pants from tree moss. At this stage of things, I feel that the “back to the land” movement is too inaccessible for many marginalized communities for this to be any true step towards justice. For now, let’s keep taking warm, well lit showers.
But there is something we can all do right now. Dig deep and challenge those feelings of supremacy in whatever form they may take. Challenge them and discard them. This is a daily practice. They have become so entrenched that they are most times invisible.
Please do this. Violence against women will not end until men recognize that we are not, and have never been, superior to women. Violence against People of Color will not end until white folks recognize that our bodies are not superior to all other bodies. Violence between states will not end until we realize that Our Way is not superior to Their Way. Violence to this earth cannot abate until we have all realized that humans are not superior to the Mother that gives us life.
Please do this.