In Defense of Retiration

Marta Santiváñez

To discuss violence against women without bringing up facts and figures that have already been shown endless times, is to make a disservice to the reality faced by half of the population. As violence continues to be a trademark of many people’s lives, women keep facing a particular form of it, one that is determined by our gender but will never be exclusive of every other label that signifies us. I’m a Hispanic woman whiter than chalk, raised in a mixture of Spanish, American and British educational systems and born out of the privilege of my family’s economic status. I was brought up by a determined feminist mother. None of these identifiers protect me from the possibility of being raped, although they do decrease my chances. I have not been raped. Overall, I have been dealt a pretty good hand.

I haven’t been raped –and yet. I don’t keep count of the names I’ve been called while walking down the street; nor the things I’ve been told someone would do to me, if they could. I have stopped a man from masturbating while looking at me in a park, and given thanks quietly to the fact he run away, and not towards me. I have counted the stops left in my bus ride, stiff against the window as the guy I had gone on a date with pressed his hand on my thigh and licked my neck, despite my pushes and repeated “no’s”. I have felt guilty for rejecting a partner’s sexual advances, and forced into plenty situations I was not comfortable with, out of remorse. These are not unique experiences, nor are they pleasant, and I have been dealt a pretty damned good hand.

Setting a measuring rod defined by rape has degraded every single one of my experiences in my own mind, down to insignificance. That I have to go home at the end of the night, have a drink and be thankful I wasn’t pushed against the bed when I didn’t want to, is a problem.

By saying this, I’m appealing to reiteration: despite our vote and our increasingly stronger presence in the workforce and Wonder Woman in the theatres, we still need to scream the things we go through for somebody to notice, and nobody notices. Despite every single step women have taken forward, we are still so far away from something as simple as feeling safe. Hence me asking that you listen to the statistics once again. I ask that you read one more story –mine- so that you come to realize that this violence is everywhere. Are you doing anything about it? I worry if I put down another figure again it will drown, like this article, in a sea of information that we read too often; but I can’t not do it.

As we go on and on about the data we have, we need to open our eyes to the complex struggles of the women around us, the way the violence each of us faces differs between one another. My identity as a woman is only relevant insofar it is checked by every other little tag that defines me and, like everybody else, I am so much more than what could ever be conveyed by these labels.

We mustn’t forget that the lived experiences of two women will never be the same. To ignore my privileges and how they’ve defined my chances would be almost as much a disservice to the cause as assuming these facts and figures have become in any way repetitive. There is no official data, but endless numbers of organizations have denounced how, for instance, domestic violence disproportionately affects black and minority ethnicity women. We know that migrant women stand in greater danger, and often live in greater fear of denouncing their experiences.

Our struggle is intersectional because there is not one type of woman, and every woman has different needs. My concerns are so much lighter than many others’. To all these women I apologize, because it took me so long to recognize our differences. I am trying to do better.

Advocating for a global struggle does not place on equal grounding the problem of being catcalled with the problem of being brutally beaten by your husband. Neither is my nasty experience with a guy in a bus parallel to being raped. Nonetheless, I’m refuse to disregard either experience as non-violent; I refuse to not recognize my own pain.

What to me is undeniable is that beneath these acts of aggression, both the more severe and the lesser ones, stands a belief in the inherent superiority of one gender over the other, and a relation of oppression that must be addressed in all spheres, albeit with different degrees of urgency. We repeat the same chants, I bring up the same data, because we still have a problem.

Have a look around and find your cause within this cause. We shouldn’t be repeating ourselves so much. Find a cause you care about within this sea of grotesquely diverse violence and contribute. Donate your time or your money, learn a language or use the languages you already speak to help out. Put some distance between you and the girl who is rushing home, terrified she’ll get hurt in the street. Offer to care for your neighbor’s kids while she talks to her friend about her pain and her fear. Scream the same facts and figures again and again, because they continue to not be okay. Speak up, speak up, speak up. Reiterate.

This article was first published as part of LSESU Amnesty International Society’s annual human rights journal “A Climate of Change.”

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