We Are Creating Change
A long sought, monumental shift is taking place here in Canada. Over the past weeks, with great courage, women have, in a giant wave, come forward to describe physical and sexual abuse, braving the disbelief, anger and retaliation that has been the norm for centuries, being met instead with respect and concern. The details are still not all known as this is being written, regarding the situation that galvanized this outpouring. But the times prove different from even a month ago. Women are voicing details with strength and firmness, not solely to find justice for themselves, rather, to speak for others not able yet to come forward, and also, above all to prevent more abuse from taking place.
The response grew immediately, unprecedented in speed and effectiveness, pointing again to conditions faced as women both here in Canada and globally, that have traditionally been seen as either exaggerated or accepted as impossible to change. A renewed call is being made for an absolute end to violence against women, here and everywhere.
This swift action has been made possible by the online connections that we have made with each other. The use of the internet to send and receive information is creating a movement that has never happened so personally, with such detail, so immediately, so effectively as what we now have with each other. We are now able to speak with knowledge and conviction of what changes women are calling for, everywhere. We have all of the evidence pouring in that we need, to prove that change, right now, must happen, and that there is no excuse to wait.
At the moment, hash tags (#’s) are providing that amazing platform for raising our voices together: These, #ibelievelucy, #Ibelievewomen, and #BeenRapedNeverReported, among others, are providing an outpouring from generations of women that until now have felt no safe means of expression.
The question has arisen. Why do women feel safer talking through #’s and the media, than to the police? We are in different times from the 1960’s. Police departments have undergone training in domestic abuse. There are now many women in the Police Departments compared to those earlier days. Yet the statistics put out, show that there is much to be done before women feel able to begin the road to safety and justice by calling the police. This time, in the recent situation that has been covered by the press extensively, the Toronto Police have responded quickly and respectfully. We have waited a long time for this to become what hopefully will be followed every time, by women reporting abuse in future. We know from recent news reports that, sadly, many police are still untrained, are often implicated themselves in abuse toward women, and enjoy (!) in some departments the old “men’s locker room” jokes and comments that “she must have done something to deserve it”.
But to return to the optimism of the moment. The numbers of women responding to these #’s, and the openness in these short messages in the light of how difficult is has been to report is beyond encouraging. It is a first. These reports are also now being covered daily and widely in the mainstream news, creating an atmosphere that we have longed for: the reemergence of a concept that is growing globally, now at lightning speed. We can and must stop violence against women now, in our lifetime, immediately, forever.
Predictable forms of resistance are showing up. The tiresome resistance to and insults of the word feminist, or feminism. As one who has identified as a feminist since the 1960’s, and who has worked with and for women to build a system for healing from violence, and for stopping violence, I am not in the mood for a renewed putting down of a movement that has been continually to creating an atmosphere of embracing change, while providing as much support as possible to women whose lives have been altered, all too often critically by what has been done to them. Feminists in Canada were largely trammelled by news media for years, current news reporting being a huge relief. We have been continuing nonetheless all along, but at this point, taking part in putting us down is not part of a solution that finally seems within reach.
This shift was propelled suddenly by women coming forward to describe physical and sexual abuse by a popular, high positioned radio interviewer. What galvanized the support for these women was the obvious pressure that they were under to stay silent, coupled with the shocking behaviour described. The work that has been done before that has helped these women come forward has been the tireless work of Aboriginal women in Canada who for years now have been demanding a Government inquiry into why so many Aboriginal women have died or been missing for years. It is also the voices that have been coming from everywhere in the world.
This time there is also a very public response by many men. It is a very welcome relief that men are speaking supportively to what is being reported. Men are expressing shock at the extent of violence toward women, at the pervasiveness, at the generations of examples being reported these past weeks. Men are expressing regret at not fully understanding sooner, and want to be part of the change. Those men who have been supportive all along, those men who have been outspoken as allies are about to find their numbers multiplying. There is suddenly a much more clear understanding.
This shift, this voicing of what has been done to women for centuries, this voicing of what has been written into “culture”, “tradition”, “human nature” is alive and becoming truly transformational - in our lifetime - because of our collective voices globally. The news from women all over the world has become an integral part of our knowledge, our hope and our determination. With the same breath as we find the strength to say No more beatings, No more rape, we mean it for everywhere, for everyone, for every woman, man, child. Our awareness of one woman’s strength to speak up here, is lifted on a global current of our awareness of the work being done everywhere to create paths to freedom and safety for women everywhere. The task of stopping rape everywhere is part of the task of stopping sexual slavery, forced marriage, honour killings, female genital mutilation, murder of girls at birth, danger in choosing one’s life partner, imprisonment for speaking, all under the banners of “culture” and “tradition”.
The courage being expressed globally has created this shift. It is due to everyone who has been speaking, that we are experiencing a more intelligent, compassionate response on a societal level. There is much to be done, and we are not finished until every act of violence is stopped. But we do have movement.
What is happening here, today, provides such hope. As so many of us have expressed to each other through this amazing World Pulse, we will not let go until we see this through. We are not finished until every woman is free. What we do have now, is the knowledge, the friendship and the love of each other. We have waited a such along time for this level of discussion and action. We were born knowing that we are here to do this. We are in what can only be described as a young but definite paradigm shift. May it continue to grow and flourish.
With love and gratitude for you all,