Caroline's Dress & International Women's Day

This dress was a hand-me-down from one of my favorite people, my friend Caroline. Even though it's hardly modest, I consider it my token housewife dress. I never feel more Stepford-y (in a good way!) than when I'm in it.

But since today is International Women's Day, there are more important things on the table: winning equality for the female race. Starting with the end of violence against women.

Now, if you are a woman, and you're sitting there thinking, but in my society, I have equal rights and I and the women I know are all safe from violence - why should I care? let me put it simply: you're wrong. It breaks my heart to say this, but even after 10,000 years of human civilization, women the world over are still not valued, or treated, as men are. Even where they - we - are by all understandings equal under the law, we are still subject to our society's erroneous and unfair views of us. And our views of ourselves, and each other.

I want to emphasize this last part - we can't expect fair treatment until we bestow it upon each other, and we can't expect full rights until we're willing to fight for them for each other. I know it often seems like it's female nature to hate on other females, but it's something that we can get over. We're better than that. I know I for one have overheard (and, in my naïver days, maybe even been guilty of it myself) tons of women snidely commenting to a friend regarding another woman that was maybe a little too tipsy, or whose skirt was a little too short, or who was throwing herself a little too shamelessly at anyone in the room with a dick, "She's just asking for it." And female police officers have been known to say to rape victims, "Are you sure you didn't want it? Were you clear about your displeasure? Maybe you should have dressed more modestly/not been walking alone at night/not have gone out so late." How can we stick up for ourselves if we're not willing to stick up for each other? Violence against women is a real problem worldwide, not only in more conservative and old-fashioned countries and cultures, but in those generally viewed as most developed. Just because we've eradicated the witch hunt doesn't mean we can, or should, move forward in happy oblivion as our peers suffer, many of them quietly and alone due to the stigma attached to being a victim of physical or sexual violence.

To drive this point home, here are a couple random, sobering facts:
--In Italy, one in three women is a victim of domestic abuse, and a women is killed every three days. In Europe between 2008 and 2010, 50% of women murdered were killed by a family member - compared to 15% of men.*
--In a survey done of South African men, over 14% admitted to having raped their current or former wife or girlfriend, and more than one in five men reported raping a woman who was NOT a partner. (And imagine how many lied about this!)**
--40–50% of women in the European Union report some form of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. (Again, imagine how many instances go unreported.)**
--An estimated 5000 "honor killings" ("a girl or woman being killed by a male or female family member for an actual or assumed sexual or behavioural transgression, including adultery, sexual intercourse or pregnancy outside marriage – or even for being raped") occur per year.***
--Two words: rape culture. (I previously wrote about this here.)
--A 2009 human rights campaign reported that there had been more than 500 femicides per year in Guatemala since 2001.***
--1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime - that's 17.7 million women just in the U.S.!****
--(This one always traumatizes me.) In the U.S., a woman is raped every two minutes. That's nearly 208,000 each year. Sadly, this is the statistic after the 60% drop in rapes since 1993. Chillingly, only 3 out of every 100 rapists will spend a day in jail.****
--Under the Taliban and other extremist groups, girls who dared to try to get an education were/are targeted for violence (did someone say Malala Yousafzai?). I highly suggest this touching TED talk (it made me tear).

If all this isn't enough for you, google "violence against women statistics" (or click on a few of the links below) and I assure you you will be convinced. I'm not asking that you save the world, or that you become a full-time activist, or even that you get out on the streets to express your rage (although if you did, I would commend you for it!) - just that next time you hear a friend say something demeaning or discrediting to a woman or a victim of violence or abuse, you set them straight. Nicely, but make it clear that you will have none of it - and you're helping to change the world not just for women everywhere but for yourself!

*"Men Who Hate Women". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 8 March 2013.

**Understanding and addressing violence against women: sexual violence. World Health Organization.
***Understanding and addressing violence against women: Femicide. WHO.
**** Statistics. Statistics vary all the way up to 18%+ and 22 million American women.
The Facts About Violence Against Women. Canadian Women's Foundation.
Fast Facts: statistics on violence against women and girls. UN Women.
Research report: "Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women". U.S. Department of Justice.

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