Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Feminicide in Italy: a very alarming rise - with deep roots to eradicate

It's some time that I'm reflecting on the subject of violence against women (in Italy especially). Trying myself doing something, as little as I can. And searching for the courage of sorting it and saying it all.

I will begin with a crude fact. In Italy, in the last two years the number of women murdered by their former lovers or relatives has savagely grown. The number of cases in 2012 has reached the count of 101 by 23 October. So high a number to raise public attention beyond the usual level of "zero alarm": in Italy we have (finally?) adopted a new word, "femminicidio". We arrived late, but words are a first, effective way to develop awareness.

The committee for women and people dignity and rights "Se non ora quando", and many others, are taking a big stand on this subject, and asking institution to repress what (finally) has been acknowledged as not just a "women's problem", but primarily a men's problem. If you like to read something in our beautiful language, you may find it on

http://www.senonoraquando.eu/?p=12275

and numberless other sites.

But now: why has this happened? Why now? Is this all new?

The more I look around, the more I realize the problem is not specific of the last two years. On the contrary. It may have assumed a more openly bloody face now, with the economic crisis eroding the most insecure peoples' sense of stability...

But it is rooted in old, very old habits. In a sense of "normality" in which the very idea of "woman" is associated to that of a "value" - needless to say, lesser than the "value" of boys, then men.

When I began thinking on this subject my first feeling was of guilty relief: I was still alive. No one has raped me. No one has used direct violence on me, of any kind...

Then, in a moment, I realized my sense of relief was just because me too was accustomed. That I did suffered my daily dose of direct violence. And not for just two or three occasional episodes. On the contrary. For years, from elementary school days to the day I got my degree and beyond, I've seen episodes on me and others.

Episodes of many forms. There was the moment when I was not admitted to join my schoolmates who were trying baseball, with the team leader (a boy renown for his very progressive, left-wing ideas) told me "Oh, if you want to do the cheerleader, we have some place." When, in another occasion, one bully in my school hit me just to make clear what my place was to be. Or that other case when a group of students blocked the corridor to chat and obliged girls to pass another way (still, among them, some of the "progressive" boys). Or when one of my schoolmates, after I said him I was reading about the "triple point" of Enrico Fermi's Thermodynamics book, he asked whether it was a new crochet technique.

Or when the Head of Personnel in my former company summoned all the female "high potentials" around 30 years to communicate them they would have had their career stopped, and the opportunity was offered them to support their (men) replacements "from the shadow, as a good wife is expected towards the husband".

Or when a woman has been beaten or killed with no motivation but a "moment of rage".

Or when a boy has been killed by his schoolmates just because he was "too sensitive". Then, "gay". (The murderers said "gay", but they meant "too similar to a woman to be One of Us" - a very common miswording in Italy).

What have I done, in all this time? With horror, I realized I did almost nothing, for very many years. I just accepted it as normal. I cried sometimes - when injustice hit me hard enough you "must" notice.

What we all, men and women, have made, in all this time? All good will people became indignant. Many men's reaction was, rightly from their standpoint, to dissociate them from patriarchy. Many women vented their, once again right from their standpoint, deep resentment for a deep injustice (in which, differently than men, they had no choice whether to join the band of torturers of victims). We all, also, spent tons of thoughts on difference, feminism, new roles for men.

Yet I look back, and something asks me once more: "What we have all done, people of imagined good will?"

And, my goodness, another little voice says, we are all responsible. And will continue to be, until we don't agree to really change our perspective and go on.

This is very difficult for us Italians. We have never reckoned our past, so we condemn ourselves to live it day after day.

We have invented with dire creativity an immense amount of euphemisms to say Mussolini and the fascism did never exist. That the Italian People, all as a whole, has fought a victorious war against the nazi-fascists occupying the North (as if fascism has not been invented in Italy, to spread to Germany and other countries years after). That the exaltation of oneupmanship and violence construed in those twenty years did not corrupt the minds of all but a microscopic bunch of illuminated aristocrats (of various political tendencies). We removed this all, and we're still doing. So, we're continuing to fight our civil war while the rest of the world hurries on. Fortunately, we are now more bourgeois than we were decades ago, so we seldom escalate the fights beyond words (with some notable exceptions: women? "too sensitive" children?).

And we also had our last twenty years, this time by a generation of bad, selfish politicians we all in Italy blame, without anyone remembering we had a thrill after their promises and gave them our precious vote. Once again we're collectively bandwagoning with the new victors, who claim themselves years light beyond the "old habits" while perpetuating the very same scheme on which mr.Berlusconi and his household staff had so successfully thriven. Usual scheme: strong expectation for the new Luminous Man who will solve magically all our problems. Desire to abdicate our responsibilities, certain someone will absolve us after two prayers and some exterior sign of contrition (good for the circumstance).

What to do, them?

I imagine (and, don't underestimate the power of imagination) we could "turn the glove inside out".

First of all, to acknowledge sincerely how deeply has the culture of violence, abuse and reckless shrewdness has penetrated all of us. This will not be simple, because we all are part of the process.

We have "also" to (re?)gain an ability and the willingness to call things with their name. Since too many years we have nourished our minds with crappy euphemisms. One example: the fear to confront a changing world, taking the form of xenophby. Why not calling it for what it really is? Cowardice. Desertion from the responsibilities of life. Once we do, maybe the words of so many evil politicians will immediately lose their obscure fascination. Let's name crap the crap.

And, let's name goodness for what it is. Le's acknowledge that "sensitivity" is one form of strength. That the World is still much larger than we need - we just have to imagine the new lands, and explore them: something which will demand a lot of creativity. That being empathetic is an important way of being intelligent. That love matters, in its most general meanings, and with its corollary of "taking care".

Now mr.Berlusconi says he will retire from active politics. I don't know whether this will really happen (and have some doubt). But we sure have to go once forever beyond of him, his cult, and our habits thank to whom we construed him (we should never forget this: elected representatives are built from peoples).

In the specific case of violence against women, the first step is to eradicate from our minds all the crap about more or less natural hierarchies among the sexes, the "value" of "human resources", and the like. The one is the other. We're all precious, unique human individuals. Our prime duty is, developing our human potential. Together.

I guess having far exceeded the word limit. But I wanted to give this message. To both women and men: no one has something to gain from widespread violence, but maybe a few crazy murderers.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

Osai's picture

Love and Violence

Dear Mauri,
Thanks for your article. I still cannot understand how we have linked love to violence. The number of women killed by former lovers, spouses and boyfriends is shocking when we think that the link between them and their murderers is love. We need to preach love differently. It is not about possessing or being possessed. It should not also be tolerated. The state needs to do more about bringing perpetrators of violence (any kind) to justice.

Best wishes,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Dear Osai,

thank so much for your reply and warm, encouraging words!

Me too. I also have the same difficulty. Love, as I conceive it, is being day after day more intimate. Is desiring for our beloved the best, and rejoice as they get. Is, also, designing futures...

But here maybe there is not really love. Just void. Fragility. Supreme will to be "appreciated by peers" (that is, conforming to the norm of the Group). Possession. The idea of having the right someone will satisfy their sexual needs, whatever the cost. Maybe, having someone on whom to exert "power", just to feel worth some value.

Above all, a supreme lack of empathy.

Maybe this is one of the core problems? Empathy, to fully work, must be educated, and precisely this is the missing point. Labeled a "feminine" quality, not (as it really is) an attribute of our species, empathy is not as important as the "masculine" intellect, then something not worth spending one Euro cent on.

Sure, an automatic mechanism ensuring all people guilty of feminicide is guaranteed the maximum punishment could be a deterrent, to at least someones. In my view, prevention is as important, if not more. I'd like feminicides (violence in general) do not happen, more than anything else...

I don't know "how" (that is: where to find the money necessary) but education to empathy and feelings of men (and, yes, women too) is one of the things to do.

Love, and peace

Mauri

Osai's picture

We need the Education

Yesterday, I heard the story of another young woman who was battered by her husband and father of her 2-year old daughter. She was so beaten, she now has to wear glasses as her eyes are damaged. She has scars from the broken mirror he threw her at and from the glass pieces he cut her with. Her jaw is broken and she cannot walk without aid. I ask..is this love? Will she go back to him? Probably.
I was more saddened when I learnt that his parents were in the house while he beat her. Have they no conscience? Do they not care for their grandchild? Is she that worthless in their eyes? They stood and watched...did nothing and did not raise alarm. Most she die? What crime did she commit? Even if she committed a crime, is she not a human being? the mother of your grandchild?
I weep for it is due to mis-Education that we see and hear of this things. The lady for not finding her true worth in herself and staying in an abusive relationship; The man who thinks it is macho to beat his wife and 'control' his home by force; The parents who do not have the courage and principles to advice as elders when something is wrong regardless of who is involved; The sheer injustice of it all.
I weep.

Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Mauri's picture

Education, to stay human

The episode you report (but: episode? How many other "episodes" all over the World, each and every instant?) made me very sad, too.

The more and more cases like this I know of, the more I convince this is one of the larger problems we have as a species. A large part of our collective "values" might better be labeled misvalues, for sure: completely illogical, and dysfunctional.

The very idea that people should be sorted in arbitrary sets ("men" and "women" are just two), and their "worth" being only consequence of belonging to the "right sets", regardless of their unique individuality. The sorting of expectations about we humans in "masculine" strength, courage, aggressivity, ..., and "feminine" sweetness, compassion, empathy, ..., does our all a very bad service, I see. It suggests there are attitudes which are "conformant to Nature", and some others which are "against the Natural Order".

As far as even science says, this all may be deeply rooted in our habits, but it's false. All humans are born with a strong capability for empathy: we all have many "mirror neurons". All of us are genetically programmed to empathy and compassion. This is highly functional: anyone in our species (females and males as well) is neurally built to act as "reference person" for little children (a role which in patriarchal society is "reserved" to mothers only).

When we try to imagine what we on average mean by "fulfilling our human potential", our first images go in the direction of better intellect, more strength, and so on. That is, we imagine an expansion of the stereotypically "masculine" qualities. But that is not fulfilling the "whole" potential of humans. It is unilateral. Human potential includes also, in equal amount, qualities which are commonly labeled "feminine" and, then, attributed a lesser value.

Mirror neurons, if not used and trained, shrink, become athropied, and eventually die. This is exactly the same phenomenon we can observe on our domestic animals: on birth they are fully equipped with the neurons necessary to live freely in their original environment, cope with predators, bear their children... But as all these neurons are not any more needed to a domestic animal, they will eventually die to save precious energy. Once killed, these neurons will not regenerate. The process, as far as known, is irreversible.

Are we human domesticating ourselves, within the patriarchal mindset?

What makes me wonder a lot, is how vulnerable and helpless do the "macho warriors" look in front to, say, a downsizing of the company they worked in after some nameless manager or computer program has decided they are no longer useful. Or, how supinely they subdue themselves to some authority, or to the herd. They are trained to bark loud (and beat their "beloved", maybe, or "act strong with the weaker"), but not too loud. Their loyalty and docility to their controllers must remain unquestioned.

It is often claimed women are more naturally empathetic than men. This too looks me more a myth than reality.

In these last years it seems to me the value attributed to the single-minded miths of prowess, efficiency, productivity, determination, ..., has been even more inflated. Anything else "is for sweethearts: would be very nice to practice, but we can't afford". The more we entwine in this mindset, the more we have problems, and the less we are able to foresee possible solutions. We become more intellectually powerful, maybe. But sure, less intelligent.

So I agree. We need education. All of us!

We should acknowledge the worth of all the facets of our humanity. We also need to face our obscure traits.

I strongly feel this is not something anyone can do alone, or in small cliques. Growing educated, thriving humans always required the whole village, and today the village is global, an entire planet.

Along with education, we may need a lot of rephrasing. Of powerful, positive images. We should acknowledge things like "sensitivity is strength", a form of intelligence, as important as completing sequences of numbers (and much more, in many contexts). And "the courage of compassion". What, then, of the sense of measure? Of the ability to self-control? Of the heroical endeavour of dealing with a spouse (say, a woman) as a peer, another human being, instead as a "woman"? What about relating to, say, a man as not the designated king of world/family, but as another person, no less vulnerable, not omnipotent?

We have some work to do, it seems...

Yet bit by bit, I feel we'll make. It's a mess, but I know of no serious mess which has remained unchanged, after enough people have decided to do the cleaning.

Let's educate, then. Starting with ourselves?

Love, and hugs.

Mauri

Aurore's picture

It's true

Hi Mauri,

First, I'm glad to read the words of another European here! I totally agree with you. When you start fighting against all of this verbal and physical violence, you soon realize taht yourself has become used to it. When you realize that ex boyfriends already asked you why you were wearing skirts when they were not around and why, if not to flirt with other guys. When people at your school say that it's logival you chose the literary section "because you're a girl". When you were assaulted on the street and did not report it to the police not to bother them because anyway you could not see the face of the guy.

So I'm totally with you on this conclusion that VAW is very, very deeply rooted in our societies, even in Europe, and I agree with previous comments that education is a key factor - not jsut educating children and teenagers, but also adults throughout their lives.

With many warm regards from Nice - not too far from you :)
A.

Dear, thank of your supportive and passionate words!

Your reply made me remind a thing someone said to me quite a long ago (I don't remember who this person was). It was about rituals, which some ancient societies developed to cope with the effects of violence in war. The ritual involved the killer, who had to purify and amend, because his (possibly necessary and inevitable) killing did terminate a life. The ritual was necessary, because life was celebrated.

Today we expect violence to be punished, and this may be a solution to the most immediate problems. Yet cultural norms demand this punishment only for some types of violence, largely depending on the "value" of the victim. So, killing an enemy soldier, or raping a woman in an "enemy" country, is just normal. With priests blessing weapons. Killing someone during a robbery is another thing.

What of killing a woman? Until the seventies of previous century, in some circumstances was admitted in Italy, if a man considered his "honour" destroyed...

Anyway, interestingly, in none of these cases our culture demands a purification ritual. As if the motivations of the killer are more important than the life of the killed.

Does this means one of the key points of our global new education is the meanings (both rational and "spiritual" (not necessary religious)) meaning and value of life? Interesting?! Life is one of the very few phenomena for which we have not an acceptable definition. And meanwhile is something we can easily "feel".

Life, and individuality? But not in the common sense of "importance of individuals". "Just" a deeper acknowledge of the fact all other are individual people, not classificable in some arbitrary cage? And the marvel of this?

Hugs.

And, thank again!

Mauri

Aurore's picture

Totally agree

Hi Mauri,

I think your reflexion on purification rituals and the "value" of death is very interesting. It is sadly true that in many cases, the motivations of the killer seem to allow him to take a life. "Yes, he killed her, but she did this and that". And that this situation is even enhanced when it's in a context of war.

This is even more apparent, I think, in the case of rape. It is soooo common in France (and I guess Italy is not different) for people (women included) to give excuses to rapists because the victim went to a party, drunk, wore a short skirt, dared to go out alone at night and all that. It would never occur to people to say from someone who got his throat cut and died "Yes, ok, but on the other hand he was wearing a shirt and let his neck naked, so he kind of tempted the murderer" !

I would agree that we need to give more meaning to life, but that is very difficult to do in a context where the name "pro-life" has been stolen by people who prevent women from freely choosing their reproductive rights....... I would maybe put more emphasis on "respect" and teach how respect is not ignoring each other but trying as much as possible to destroy your own mental barriers and get closer to different people.

I hope we can manage that one day! I'm putting much hope (and work) in our little European home for that.

Warmly,
Aurore

Mauri's picture

On victim "responsibility"...

Aurore, dear,

I regret to say the same happens in Italy than in France, for rape and other kind of sexual and non-sexual harassment. All the blame seems to go to the victim. It is a standard legal trick to show a victim of rape was consenting to the act: in this case, the rape author is acknowledged a significant discount of time spent in jail. What wonders me a lot is how keenly the same "legal" arguments are believed by the public.

Many self-deception forces may be working here. A first, I imagine a powerful one, is that most people prefer to imagine themselves "safe", and then find more emotionally acceptable (that is: less distressing) to imagine a "silly" partially consenting raped person than a murderous raper. Another force seems to me the very way rapes are often presented by the press, in a way unsympathetic to the victim. This may be intentional or not, but sure it involves a lot of adhering to old habit - especially if the perceived reason to write articles is selling more copies, something of dramatic importance when state funding to newspaper are shrinking.

Of these, I think our collective removal of the problem to be the most dangerous, and enduring. Maybe, the press can be educated by guidelines, as done in some US states. Coping with people not accepting hideous forms of evil - rape in particular - it could be much more difficult. Realizing this kind of violence exists demands everyone placing in the place of the victim, even the ones who feel themselves most powerful and invulnerable.

A quite common coping strategy in Italy is pretending many rape stories are fully invented. Some were in Italy - a little minority in statistical terms, with miserable reasons ranging from extortion to attempts to cover other facts. These minority acts offer people even another removal strategy.

And, is connection with sexuality and its pretended control deeply entwined in judgment and removal? Two thousand years of conditioning have accustomed us all to construct sexuality as something sinful. Drawing from your example, would people try justifying the throat-cutter because the victim was wearing a neck-showing shirt? Sure not, even here.. But then I wonder, why this difference? Because rape is "sexually-colored", and a normal street murder is not?

I imagine what might happen if the victim of rape is, say, a young boy who some adult man found "too attractive". Or a transgender woman who "concealed her true identity" to a lusty fellow. Or (for more or less the same reason) an intersexed person. I imagine all these victims to be blamed, in a way or the other for being victims. This habit conveys a powerful message: male lust is inevitable. Is a force conductive to dominance behavior. To a large extent, incontrollable.

But once again: should we accept it? Is it true, really? Or maybe there is an immense defect of sexual education?

And, who can say for sure many apparently non-sexual violence acts have actually a deep, distorted sexual origin? Of the young bully who gets pleasure seeing other people suffer, while they hold control? Time ago this behavior was labeled "sadism", with a negative moral implication. Indeed, a psychiatric disorder, eliciting medical treatment? Today the word "sadism" recurs very seldom in common talk, television, the press. Yet sadism is extensively practiced, if not praised. Constructed as "natural", inevitable, one of the normal expressions of male sexuality.

But well, it isn't! In my modest opinion it's definitely sick. I myself have little information about how urgent this kind of sexual desire can be, but I'm confident it should be educated. Countered, by teaching empathy. Also, by not dismissing empathy as a sweethearts', "feminine", unproductive trait. I imagine (maybe am wrong) that experiencing on oneself mind and body the suffering on others would prevent at the very root any murderous violence. "Sexual education", in my mind, could be understanding how life processes work, and empathy. a 30% the former, and 70% the latter?

I agree with you of the difficulty of celebrating life in a world where so many "pro-life" movements just strive to control female "spontaneous productivity of life". Just imagining something as "spontaneous productivity of life" is so far from my way of conceiving things. I can say for direct experience: life "tries" to propagate, using an incredible, puzzling reserve of backup mechanisms. But "productivity of life" is no way something so inevitable. It demands an immense energetic investment, to begin with. Just increasing half degree the body basal temperature on ovulation requires something around 25 kcal, if I'm right. At a rendement of 1 out of 10, this means we need 250 additional kcal energy from our natural preys just to start our reproductive cycle. No "intelligent designer" sane of mind would ever have envisioned this "technical absurdity". However this is how things are, by the many blind compromises natural selection made on us. Pardon me for the ugly numbers, my intent is not of "lecturing" anyone - and I'd be surely the last able doing so effectively. What I'm trying to say is, female innate productivity is a myth.

How things really go looks me so, so different! I remember from time to time a wonderful poem by, if I remember well, Leopold Senghor. It deals with a mother contemplating her newborn and remembering her lifelong wish, desire, longing for that moment, since the very first plays in her childhood. Dear, I don't remember the poet's exact words - I've always been a disaster in this kind of things - but as I recollect them, I always cry, of joy (I'm doing, now - how a human being may have expressed something fundamentally beautiful?). This, as I see, is celebration of life, as I see it! Maybe our intense longing will not arrive at the level of a genius like Leopold Senghor, but may we participate of it? All of us?

Maybe we should also authentically celebrate life, its wonders and dramas, in a non-fundamentalist way. Life transcends any religion, in my view. It's something we all have in common, and I'm convinced all of us humans long for life. I mean: if we want to celebrate life, then we "must" necessarily be inclusive. And, maybe, never label ourselves as "pro-life" or "pro-something-else". I feel this label, with its implication that anyone else with different way of expressing their deep feelings is "against". Once more it would divide the world in other two halves... "Pro-life", as you say, is just another way of instituting (may I use this ugly word?) a "patriarchal rule".

Dialogue, also, may be a way? I agree this is difficult with fanatics. But some of them may have moved from sincere beliefs, and I can imagine they would be able to share the drama of, say, an abortion. Anti-abortionists in so many cases act as if women deciding to terminate a pregnancy do an act against God. This abstract principle is so important to them that in some cases they arrive at committing violence themselves (maybe soothing their conscience with the untenable alibi of "acting to restore the righteous will of God"). In doing so, they so often fail to acknowledge the deep drama of a person, a mind, a love. They have never experienced on their own what it means to realize a new life will not be.

But this is what empathy is, isn't it? To experience things you have never been in on yourself, by attentive listening, understanding with an open mind, participating. Wouldn't it be a wonderful form of education? We all humans, male and female, have our millions mirror neurons, so empathy is open to all of us. Might it be a starter not blaming it as "soft"?

Excuse me for the long reply!
But your's was really inspiring. :-)

Hugs

Mauri

Aurore's picture

you're so inspiring

Dear Mauri,

you inspired me so much these last days, that i wrote a new article in my journal drawing from what you suggested on men's desires and their "inevitability". Thanks, thanks so much - our discussion helped me put together many little thoughts i had on this topic. I quoted you, of course!

All my warm greetings go to you,
A.

Mauri's picture

Thank *you*!!

Thank you, dear.

You too was so inspiring! I wouldn't have been able to formulate anything, would nout been for your words, support, ideas.

Isn't it true, that more than "create" we all co-create?

Who knows, maybe things are there just to be discovered as neo-platonists say (I'm a little bewildered by this possibility ;-) ). Or, more simply, that we all build ideas and possible futures - but we can do this only together, in a way or the other.

I'm about to commute back to home, and I know the first thing I'll do this evening will be reading your article!

Hugs

Mauri

Mukut's picture

I hear you

Mauri,

I completely agree when you say that you were "too accustomed" to this kind of behavior. We all have somewhat tuned ourselves to believe that this is the way life is and nothing can be changed about it. But it is wrong.

I also agree with you on educating one and all. That would guarantee for a safer and much tolerant society. As you say we all are precious, and each one of us deserve a solemn and rightful place here.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Mauri's picture

Turning habits: we can!

Mukut, dear,

thank you for your reply!

And first an apology. I realized that when answering you the last time I pushed the wrong button, so maybe you have not received my thank you. I'm sorry, and hope this will not be a big trouble!

(You see, we dinosaurs... It took me a bit to accustom to the Internet. In my origin's geological era it did not exist! ;-) )

Yet: you and your passion show me that changing habits is possible. It may be a very huge effort, but is possible!

"Educating" the current and next generation, just besides, is the greatest contribution we may do to peace, and the human kind as a whole.

It is a "motherly" task, from both women and men?

But minute, after minute, after minute, I feel we can. And we will, eventually!

Love,

Mauri

Mauri's picture

Turning habits: we can.

Mukut, dear,

thank you for your reply!

You and your passion show me that changing habits is possible. It may be a very huge effort, but is possible!

"Educating" the current and next generation, just besides, is the greatest contribution we may do to peace, and the human kind as a whole.

Love,

Mauri

Jan K Askin's picture

Self Reflection

Dear Mauri,

Thank you for your most thorough examination of the delusions that allow violence against women to continue, not only in Italy, but around the globe. (In the presidential campaign in my country, one candidate is running upon the belief that the government has a role in the decisions women make about their own bodies.)

I commend you for your courage in reflecting upon your own complacency and then acting against that complacency by writing this article and speaking up against ingrained violence against women.

I hope you and all the other women who have taken the time and the courage to write continue to raise their voices.

Your sister in the United States,

Jan

Jan Askin

Mauri's picture

Jan, dear, thank for your

Jan, dear,

thank for your warm words of encouragement and sharing.

I hear all over the World, in the US as in Europe and Africa, the many words of who says women, and many "other" categories of humans, must stay in their places. How old a scheme, isn't it? First, there is the construction of someone so "other" that no communication, no sharing of values, no common dreams can happen with them. Nor is it any worth.

Then, so very often, these "others" are depicted within some natural hierarchy, invariably as "inferior".

Then a place is built for them. This place, this cage, is portrayed by habit as right, natural, inevitable.

And then, this "natural" order must be enforced. With any means. Clearly, in their own interest.

Each time a new barrier is built, separating self-appointed superior from supposed inferiors, sure, some more control is exerted on the World. And all, pretended ones and others, lose something.

What's happening in your country is also occurring here - our eternal electoral campaign is starting, and some of the leaders speak openly in favor of enforcing barriers, reducing women access to birth control, fight ideological battles against abortion..

In addition, in Italy we also have a big business. Suppose, for example, a gynecologist profess being an anti-abortionist. Italian law allows him/her to perform conscientious objection. That is, refusing to perform abortion, or denying advice on birth control.

Their objective is in some (many?) cases not even really to "control the body of women", or "counteracting acts against the will of God" - the people who go there to get assistance is equally worthless, would they be women, aliens from Mars, or anything else. What really matters is that they can act their "conscientious objection" without any punishment: equal pay, less workload. And given the abortion interventions in a way or the other will eventually have to be carried out, other non-objectionist physicians will have to care for. The net result is engulfing non-objectionists with workload (for the very same pay), depriving them of the possibility to keep up to date with quickly evolving technology, procedures, medical congresses, and the like. On the contrary, objectionists have a lot of spare time, and can use it to their advantage to develop their careers.

I'm not against conscientious objection. On the contrary! It should be fair, however. For example, in the military conscientious objection was allowed when service was mandatory, but if you declared to be an objectionist you were arrested and passed your military service in jail. Or, more recently, you spent an equal period doing some "hard" social service. This easy principle does not apply to anti-abortionist objectionists. You can understand the pressure to be an objectionist is high...

I hope you are not at this point in your country - if so, I urge you to look for some preventive solution. We Italians sometimes anticipate all others in the World - not always in the best direction. ;-)

I see many power games are played in full self-interest on the skin of women and youth. And immigrants, in Italy. All who is vulnerable becomes "human resource" in the hands of some, let's say it, psychopaths. Controlling bodies, times, workload, money, ..., all seem to me equally vain and injust, and so, so common...

We all have a big power, however: we can rip off masks, and let all people what lies inside.

So, dear sister, let's go on! In writing as in example as in everyday life!

That this is possible is shown - beyond any question - by your passion.

Love, and peace in our minds, on everybody.

And, hugs

Mauri

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby's picture

Thank You, Mauri & Aurore

Hello, Mauri - following is a copy of my response to Aurore, while also addressing your excellent report:

Dear Aurore,

Thank you for your excellent testimony regarding gender violence. You are clearly well informed, care deeply about this issue and have given much thought to possible solutions.

Two aspects of your report leap out at me: I agree heartily that education is the key -- indeed, in the best way, knowledge IS power -- and I also agree that the media is responsible for a significant amount of the problem. The women -- and men, too, in a different way -- are portrayed in the media had caused staggering problems with young women, as you know. You also make an excellent point in wondering why men would want to continue to be portrayed as lust-driven, violent, robots. (I paraphrase!)

Your report clearly illustrates a larger problem, too, I feel, which is that as a civilization, despite all our centuries of evolution and ever-increasing knowledge and sophistication, we seem to be going backwards when it comes to man's inhumanity to man.

Mauri's testimony is equally well-informed and powerful, and her honesty and truth are very, very valuable: yes, we must call the crap the crap, and yes, sensitivity is, indeed a form of strength! Those of us who are sensitive are the ones who feel the pain of the world and so feel compelled to do whatever we can, however tiny or inconsequential it may sometimes seem, to contribute toward change, thus making the world a more compassionate place.

You and Mauri, by speaking up, spending much thoughtful time and energy on your reports, and by providing suggestions for solutions to the antiquated thinking of those who look upon women as inferior, are already taking significant steps toward helping others.

So, thank you, thank you, and keep speaking out!

With Respect and Gratitude,

Sarah

Mauri's picture

Thank, dear sister, for your warming words!

And thanks to Aurore's inspiring thought, too!

I agree on many point, with one especially clear: education is paramount.

Education on the very basic and little explored concept of "being human" and "truly free"?

This might seem quite radical and old-fashioned, yet I strongly feel it's true. We spent centuries constructing and reinforcing artificial barriers to fit everyone in their "right" place. This way everyone lives in a cage: prisoners and jailors..

I agree with you and Aurore (and paraphrase): no one human would be enthusiast discovering to live constricted in the equivalent of an intensive poultry shop. I think this is a powerful argument, able to appeal men living within a patriarchy. Education can start only from powerful symbols able to shift minds from something old to something newer and better, and guess this is an important one.

"Caring" as an act of courage could be another?

Love

Mauri

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative