From Complicity to Courage: Responding to Violence Against Women

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 12.29.12 PM

  • Sexism: (1) prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially discrimination against women. (2) behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. (https://www.merriam-webster.com):
  • Misogyny: Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com)

Many years ago I put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) and created a document that defined my personal vision statement, mission statement, and core values. I used several resources to guide me in this endeavor. I also provided initial drafts to close friends and family for feedback and to keep me honest. It was an eye opening experience that really challenged me to better understand my authentic nature. Of course, if one is awake and aware in this world, who we are and what we value shifts based on our lived experiences. In essence, we evolve. So over the years, I continually review these core values, make adjustments where necessary, and use them as a touchstone as I journey through life.

One of my identified core values is my strong faith in the power of women. Women represent over half of human life on the planet. Women create life and are central to the well being of families, communities, and nations.  Women are our leaders, mentors, healers, spiritual guides, and confidants. Women are our partners, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters. Women are strong, smart, sensitive, sexual, and sacred.  Women are survivors of discrimination, violence, marginalization, exploitation, prejudice, medical maltreatment, and rape.  Women rise, soar, overcome, challenge, and change those barriers imposed by a misogynist world. Women deserve equality, respect, access to valuable resources, freedom, peace, power, autonomy, choice, and love. Women uniting are the most powerful and beautiful force in the world. Women matter!

However, since the November 2016 presidential election, the rights of women are coming under attack in a fierce new way. Most notably, are threats to dismantle the Office of Violence Against Women and defund the many programs across the country providing life-saving services to survivors of rape and intimate partner violence. The effects of losing funding to help survivors would be deadly. Make no mistake, losing support means fewer safe havens for women and their children to hide from an abuser. Victims of rape will have less support as they navigate the criminal court system. They also will have fewer options to get the medical care and counseling they so desperately need. The bottom line is that loss of money means loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for so many women impacted by violence.

Furthermore, the pervasive cultivation of a culture that promotes violence against women is alarming. It cannot be overstated enough that there is a negative impact to women when a country elects a man who was caught sexually harassing women and demeaning a woman’s worth to a body part. This sets us back…way back. Is that okay with you? Take a look around you. Turn on your computer, your TV, or just listen to friends, family, co-workers, and you will find a myriad of ways women are denigrated on a regular basis:

  • Sexist jokes/humor
  • Stereotyping men and women roles
  • TV, movies, and music that objectify women or use violence against women as an entertainment genre
  • Unequal pay for equal work
  • Denial of inequality
  • Body shaming women
  • Medical research focused primarily on men
  • Interrupting women
  • Unequal distribution of childrearing responsibilities
  • Using derogatory language (e.g. bitch, whore)
  • Lack of funding and fans for women’s sports
  • And the list goes on…

But we are not powerless against this onslaught of sexism and misogyny. Indeed, we witnessed the Women’s March in Washington, DC in January. We are mobilizing in many meaningful ways to support our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters. All of us can participate in every day social justice advocacy, which helps change our culture’s attitude and actions to women. For instance, if your co-worker is telling a sexist joke or calls a woman a “bitch” then speak out and let everyone know that this type of language in not acceptable. Attend a religious service where the head spiritual leader is a woman. Or call God “She” or “Mother”. Take the time to go to a local women’s sporting event. Volunteer or give donations to your local shelter for victims of domestic violence. Don’t tolerate video games that use violence against women. Don’t buy music that objectifies women. Take your sons and daughters to a “Take Back The Night” rally. Name and discuss the many instances of sexism and misogyny recorded in the Bible during your next Sunday school class. There are so many every day things each of us can do to help. Are you up to the challenge?

If so, join me on April 29, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida where I am facilitating a workshop at Intersections Jax (a day-long experience of spirituality, social justice, and the arts). The workshop focuses on identifying factors in our community that cultivate a culture of violence against women and every day social justice advocacy actions each person can take to challenge and change our world. I hope to see you there.

Learn more about Intersections Jax at https://intersectionsjax.com

Advertisements

Losing My Faith

I found an archived blog post (see below photo) that I wrote four years ago and thought this was a good time to recycle these words with the season of Lent approaching. Much of what I wrote then is still true today. The difference between then and now is that I have found a faith community, The Well at Springfield, which encourages questions, doubt, social justice, and embraces the diversity of life . And the other HUGE difference from four years ago is that I did not have Chance, my feisty mule-headed Yorkie, in my life. Chance teaches me day in and day out about unconditional love. Face it, folks, dogs accept us “as is” better than any other person or animal.

thumb_img_1887_1024

 

February 17, 2013:

I came to a renewed respect for Lent via Ramadan.  It was several years ago when I listened to a series of personal accounts from Muslims from all walks of life regarding Ramadan and the meaning these Holy Days had for their lives. I was  moved by the stories of devotion and community which arose from these individuals as they shared their faith. As I listened over the course of weeks, I began to long for a sacred, set apart time in my own faith tradition. I finally realized that Lent was that time for Christians. Yet, Lent is an often overlooked time for a lot of Christians. Sandwiched between Christmas and Easter, it gets barely noticed or reduced down to giving up sweets or some other pleasure. However, as I listened to the personal stories of Ramadan, I thought about how I could let the season of Lent change my life. I could use this intentional time to search my heart, my habits, and my faith. As such, my life has changed since I embraced a more focused Lenten practice. One year, I fasted in order to identify with my Muslim brothers and sisters as well as with the poor of the world. Another year I chose to meditate on the writings of a local priest and learned deep truths from everyday experiences. During another Lent, I learned to be still in the presence of Spirit and meditate on a regular basis. Each year, I explored my love for communion, gaining new meaning and understanding of a beloved ritual. This Lenten season, however, I am losing my faith.

I am letting go of long-held beliefs of faith, God, and how God is known. Oh, I have seen this coming for awhile now. My faith has been an ever evolving journey of loss and discovery. Yet, I have often been covert about these changes of mind and heart and (if I am honest) wondered if I was “backsliding” or going down the wrong path. Yet, how can something be wrong that points me towards Love? This evolution of faith keeps pointing me to one direction, Love. To use Love as a yardstick for my life. To let go of a God with a face in order to take on a God that exists only and through Love. To know that wherever there is Love, there is God. To know that the absence of Love is the absence of God. Can it be this simple? or this hard? I think, yes. And I think this is why we, as humans, have tried to codify God into a set of rules or practices. To say, “This is the Way (and the only way)”  while being content with dismissing those who don’t believe as we believe. But Love does not do this. Love is found among Jewish people, Muslims, Christians, Wiccans, Buddhists, Pagans and people of other faith traditions. Love is also found among agnostics and atheists. Wherever Love is, God is. So this Lenten season, I am losing my faith. I am asking Spirit to guide me in new ways to inhabit  Love. I am asking Spirit for courage to let go of negative messages of doubt and unworthiness. I am asking Spirit for the boldness to live like Jesus.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus of Nazareth

Push Reset

I have been thinking about how the winter holiday season is much like a reset button for humanity. During this time of year, generosity and compassion take a front seat. It is like humanity uses this season to reset our direction towards love and peace. The idea of a reset button for life came full circle to me a couple of weeks ago. I was requested to serve as an expert witness for a trial in a small rural town in north Florida. All of the witnesses sat in a hallway waiting to be called for the case. I watched as deputies walked in one prisoner after another for his or her day in court. After about an hour of watching the procession of prisoners, a young girl about four years old walked down the hall with her mother trailing behind her. She paraded down the hall waving to everyone. Mother and daughter took a seat outside the courtroom where the prisoners had been coming and going. The girl started talking excitedly about how she was going to see her Daddy. My heart clenched. I knew there was a good chance that her Daddy may be one of the prisoners coming for his day in court. Before long, the little girl jumped off her chair and looked down the hall. “Daddy! I see Daddy!” As I suspected, a deputy led a young man down the hallway. Clad in a jailhouse jumper and rubber shoes, he shuffled to the courtroom in ankle chains and handcuffs. The girl was unruffled. Hopping from foot to foot as her Daddy got closer, a huge smile spread across her face. The deputy led the young man into the courtroom. After a couple of minutes, the deputy came back out of the courtroom. Kneeling down by the little girl, the deputy gently explained that her Daddy was not allowed to talk to her right now but that he wanted her to know that he loves her. The little girl looked right in the deputy’s eyes and responded, “I know that all the time. I know all the time that my Daddy loves me.” After a half hour, this young man exited the courtroom and was free to go home much to the delight of his daughter. Push reset…a new chance for this family.

I see the benefit of the reset button it in my own family of origin. We come together every year for our annual Christmas brunch. It is a time to acknowledge our connectedness, those ties that bind. Of course, we could do this during other times of the year but we rarely do. It is something about Christmas that makes this gathering special. For our family, it is not the celebration of any particular religious significance. We are a diverse crew…Jewish ancestry, Orthodox Christian, Atheist, Progressive Christian, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, and Independent…pretty much like most other families. Yet, each year we come together in unity, love, and laughter on this journey called life. Push reset… a chance to remember who we are.

And then there is my Yorkie, Chance. Born with luxating patellas (trick knees) in both hind legs, his original “forever home” did not want him and the breeder wanted to get rid of him. As fate (or dare I say chance) would have it, the breeder reached out to me and offered him free of charge. I was ready for a dog. I had just graduated with my doctorate degree and had more time available. I googled his condition, spoke to a canine orthopedic surgeon, and finally decided to take a chance on this little puppy and his knee issues. Push reset…puppy gets a new home and our family grows by one small, impudent, comical, and impossibly adorable Yorkie, Chance. What is your reset?

15697825_1380423795335652_8186984150974921859_n