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“The private is political!”

Every time I come back here I seem to be back to apologizing for not coming back enough. I blame being in England for so long, it has made me terribly apologetic. Also, I was finishing my MA dissertation! - Yes... I positively had to sneak that fact in. Well, it left me wanting to write a blog post. I know, after writing 40 pages, you would think that I would have written everything that I wanted to write. Not really... You guys know me better than that.

I wanted to write about “The private is political!”. Those famous words that finally brought attention to the rising issue of domestic and inter-partner violence. Patriarchy or power relations are very entrenched in our society and in our way of living, so understanding how those systems work helps breaking those cycles.

For years, Feminist activists have highlighted the problems of the private and public divide. Especially, regarding domestic violence. The private is considered the “family” matter and all “issues” should be dealt within privately. Only… That is not an option when domestic violence is on the table. At what stage are we deeming violence acceptable?

This is how entrenched these power relations are in our society and how deep they run. When we create hierarchies between public and private, we create hierarchies of meaning and consequently of violence. Deeming some victims more worthy than others.

We have to keep questioning those so-called values that make women vulnerable to certain types of violence, while at the same time questioning the system that further victimizes them. For decades, unfortunately for many women, this was just another inevitable aspect of being a woman, but progress is being made. Only this year, - yeap, that's right 2013 - Saudi Arabia has outlawed domestic violence. We may question how effective this law would be, but at the same time, this show a major progress. It shows that the State finally acknowledges the women are human beings, not part of their husband's possessions and they have the right to a life free of fear.

Comments

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Natasha- Thank you for

Natasha-
Thank you for posting this. It is good to hear from someone from Brazil! I am interested what your dissertation is on? And also, is this topic referencing your home country, the UK, or in general? You are right, I believe, that violence in the home is not a private matter. It is a human matter, and we all need to raise our voice and act against it.

Peace and Hope-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

NatashaLeite's picture

Hey Michele, Thanks for

Hey Michele,

Thanks for reading!!! There is so much you can say in a blog post without ending up with an actual article, so comments are always welcome.

My dissertation was about gender being a contributing factor to the high armed violence rates in El Salvador. I worked a lot in Latin America and at first, I wanted to show how you would find expressions of hegemonic masculinity throughout the entire region. However, as my supervisor wisely advised me, there was definitely not enough space to write about all countries, so I chose the country with the highest rates of feminicide in the world: El Salvador.

This differentiation of private and public is pretty common in most countries - Brazil, UK, Barbados, Guatemala - and we tend not to question the implications of that in "everyday" life. Domestic violence historically had milder repercussions than, let's say, aggression and would be treated as part of "family law" when it is clearly a criminal matter. Also, victims have to face the deeply entrenched patriarchy within law enforcement structures. From police officer who ask: what do you do to make him mad? To questions about breaking up the "family".

My point in the post was really about start questioning what we may even consider natural relations that help foster violence and, as you said, really start thinking about structural changes.

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Thank you for your response.

Thank you for your response. Questioning the status quo is the place where change can begin to happen.

Peace and Hope-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

Wendyiscalm's picture

Michelle, You are SO right

Michelle,
You are SO right about this. It seems like a little almost unnoticeable thing in the huge global scheme of things but it is HUGE and life changing, the seed that is watered. Very wise what you say.

Ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Osai's picture

Re: The Private is Political

Dear Natasha,

I enjoyed reading your post. The debate about the private and public is always one I find surprising. Certain behaviours that are considered criminal are suddenly not because it involves a man and his wife/girlfriend. The family law and customs have often been interpreted to exclude the voices of women in discussions about spousal violence or gender-based violence in the family. However with more critical analysis and advocacy for fairness & justice, we are beginning to see a shift in government policies and actions on this. In my view, the work still needs to come from the home and community with all of us condemning such violence and demanding for change in our attitudes and tolerance for gender based violence.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Best regards,
Osai

Twitter: @livingtruely

Wendyiscalm's picture

Hi, I don't think you have to

Hi,

I don't think you have to worry about apologizing. Sometimes a person has to step back for awhile before they can go forward. But at the end of this process is an amazing person who has so much more to offer the world. You are that person. Your experiences plus your education equals greatness and change for people who need it. You are a catalyst, the fuel that gives energy to the world.

Ubuntu,

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

NatashaLeite's picture

Dear Osai and Wendy, First,

Dear Osai and Wendy,

First, thank you so much to find the time to commenting! I genuinely think it is on those exchanges that we have the best ideas on how to move forward. Osai, I completely agree that the community is a sometimes ignored key element for change.

Wendy, furthermore, thank you so much for the kind words! They are really a motivation boost!

All the best,

Natasha

Hi Natasha,

What I have been doing to change the way men think is the following: I have street orphans and vulnerable children we sponsor at I AM ONE IN A MILLION, in Zambia. The older boys, Grade 7 and up come to the hotel daily to learn how to live, wash, look people in the eye, sit at a table and eat, do computers, swim, have conversations, watch motivational movies and discuss them.

BUT what I am doing to begin to change their insides the way they think of women is the following: When we are about to get into a shuttle or taxi to go to another location I always say "Ladies first". I have trained the boys to say that, to step back and to let the girls get in and out first.

When we go into a restaurant, before we enter we say "Ladies first", then the boys stand back and let the ladies go first and be seated first. It makes the girls feel good too. And if you feel good you begin to change your expectations of how you should be treated.

These sound little but it is the beginning of changing a person's mind. They are actually quite proud because they say "Ladies first" in all situations now. I no longer have to remind them.It will become a way of life.

Once when we were watching a movie, on the screen a boy took a girl in the other room and raped her. The boys I had at the hotel were laughing amongst themselves. I stopped the movie and shouted "Wait ! If someone were doing that to your MOTHER how would you feel?"

They suddenly got serious and realized this is wrong. It got through to them. So, while we are working towards all of this from the outside, which is important and necessary, there are little things we can do INSIDE to build our fortress, our foundation, our self-esteem and our empowerment.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

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