Today is the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. In 1999, the UN General Assembly designated November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime – with the abuser usually someone known to her. Women’s activists have marked November 25th as a day against violence since 1981. The date commemorates the brutal assassination of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, in 1960 on orders of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).
As an African woman with roots in the Dominican Republic, the story of Las Mariposas has had a great deal of significance to me. Reading “In The Time of The Butterflies” brought me to tears as I imagined the oppression these women were fighting against under the dictatorship at the time. It angered me to no end learning about how Trujillo exercised his power over women’s bodies, taking whatever women he desired and antagonizing those who would not comply. How he prohibited Minerva Mirabal from advancing in her career because she rejected his physical advances. These women were so brave in the face of death.
It is a story like this that reminds me that there is much work to be done in this world. Women are suffering from devastating amounts of violence both in this country and worldwide. I know how hard it can be to listen to horror stories of what happens to women on a daily, minute to minute basis. I’m aware of those who use the word “feminist” like it’s a bad thing. I feel that when it became personal and I experienced violence in my life, I could no longer wave away the gravity of how violence is perpetuated against women verbally, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.
It is this gravity that makes me come off as “too serious” when I fail to find humor in a rape joke or I go on incessantly about ending violence against women and the strong hold patriarchy has on the world. Rape is no laughing matter. There is nothing funny about being penetrated against your will. Those memories are horrible. The effects can be devastating. The world is essentially waging a femicide. Any attempt to wipe out a group of people is no laughing matter. We exist in cultures where domestic and sexual violence are normalized, and the ones who suffer are expected to be silent about it. Often, the fear of annihilation and death is enough to silence millions.
This is incredibly serious. It is time to take serious measures.
If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. – Zora Neale HurstonEnding Gender-Based Violence 2012