radoccupyphilly

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Archive for the tag “women”

The most normal kind of otherness – Reflections on Rape

by Fulvia Serra

In the USA a woman gets raped every 2 minutes.

I should be used to it by now, but I am not.

When a woman is assaulted or raped in my community, my neighborhood or among the people I know, I have to fight a strong sense of surreality and disbelief, especially if that community is the political one to which I belong and which represents such a central part of my life.

I am plagued by a sense of mourning, even when I’ve never met the woman or the man involved.  I behave almost like this were an absurdity, something that could not possibly happen in the same space where I live, work and invest so much of my energy.

My very first impulse is to cast the event out of my sphere of familiarity, to make it foreign, to refuse to let it belong to the same world where I exist, live and love. It is so reassuring to believe that a rape is an abnormal event, a tragic fallacy in the way men and women otherwise encounter each other, the product of a criminal mind, of a mis-constructed reality or even, sometimes, an utter fabrication. And yet there is something in the mourning and disillusionment I am experiencing that does not let me off the hook that easily. I keep going back to that awful number, like a tam-tam in my head, a woman every 2 minutes, another woman in 2 minutes. The rhythm of that awful clock ticking in my ears tells me that a rape is something that I should profoundly and completely take responsibility for. Something that I, my friends, my community and my comrades should all own.

We should do so because too many times the body of a raped woman becomes a battlefield, a point of contention, a place over which conflicts take place. Often the conflict is played out by men and always ends up erasing that particular woman’s story, her feelings and her quite too personal and too indecent sorrow.

We should actually own and take responsibility not only for one particular rape but for all of them, because a society where a woman is raped every 2 minutes is not one where rape can be categorized as abnormal behavior. Rape is indeed an event that puts all of us on the spot, men and women, with our political practices, our public and private discourses and the all too intricate ways in which we experience sex and power and too often confuse the one with the other.

That is one of the reasons why, when I react to a rape by calling for an even stronger police presence in the space in which I live, I feel that am still trying to delegate and put a distance between myself and that otherness that will always, unseen and undisturbed, inhabit my reality.

The point is that actually a rape is not a form of otherness at all, but a quite too familiar practice, a practice of control and overpowering in which we all grew up and that we breathed in so much that we became insensitive to all its insinuating and allusive messages.

When I seriously take responsibility, then I realize that there is something in my political discourse that needs to be changed, if I want to confront the event of a rape as a deeply real and widely common instance in my culture. Maybe I could then understand why, when I try to create a new political representation, I should never forget to include in it an account of our bodies, of their physicality and needs, of the ways they are taken into account or discounted, controlled or expressed, silenced or narrated, oppressed or exalted, raped or loved. Then maybe, I could sit down with all the people I know in my community, and especially with the people with whom I share a deep and engaging political commitment, and I’ll be able to talk with them about rape as one of the occurrences, one of the quite too normal occurrences in our lives today. One that does not have anything to do with sex or even with sexual perversion. One that has a lot to do with power and oppression. One that we too often forget to mention when we talk about ourselves and the way we interact, think and construct narratives about each others and our world. One finally that we too often overlook in the long list of the ways we all, men and women, assaulters and survivors, those who experienced it directly and those who just breath it in the air everyday, are oppressed, controlled and silenced.

Then maybe, just maybe that otherness would become a little bit more visible to everybody, a little bit more clear and it would be a little bit more difficult for it to sneak in on us, take us by surprise and leave us flabbergasted and unprepared to deal with it, ready to let our space and our narratives be taken over by those same institutions that are trying to erase us and, with us, any possibility to construct real alternatives.

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Press Release from OP Women’s Caucus–Occupy Movement: Not a Utopia, but We’re Working on Alternatives

From: occupyphillymedia.org

Submitted by cindymilstein on Mon, 11/14/2011 – 12:32

This document is a product of the Occupy Philly Women’s Caucus meeting held on Sunday, November 13. During this meeting, women and their male allies discussed the parallels between sexism and harassment in the Occupy Movement, Philadelphia, and society at large.

We are concerned with the contradictory statements that the police and the mayor have made to the media about their support for the occupy movement, while simultaneously withholding support for situations of physical and sexual violence. In this next press conference we would like Mayor Nutter to address our attempts for our support in evicting sexual predators on camp that were met with statements from the police such as follows; “that’s not our job. Get your men to handle it.” These statements speak to the victim blaming and minimizing environment that survivors face when interacting with the police force. We as a movement feel it is a top priority that in these sort of assault situations it is imperative to put the survivors desires and needs at the center of response.

The recent demonizing and vilifying of the Occupy movement in the media is a scape-goating of the problems and violence that plague our communities and cities daily.  Rape happens every day, murder happens every day and Suicide happens every day. These tragedies are not symptoms or creations of the Occupy Movement, nor are they exclusive to the Occupy Movement; they are realities of our society and of our everyday lives. It is now more than ever that support is needed for the occupy movement, and the alternative responses to behavior fueled by systemic oppression. Some of these alternative responses include, increased medic trainings in Oakland, the construction of a Womens’ safe space in New York, networking with other occupy encampments and using the collective skill sets available within occupy Philadelphia. Each of these actions are working toward creating access via this movement to resources that many individuals would otherwise not have access to in the greater society as a whole. The demonizing of the movement is an attempt to block and weaken our bonds of fighting for a better world, not controlled by greed, power and violence. We stand in solidarity with the rest of the occupy movement and we acknowledge that systemic community and interpersonal violence are interconnected. We call on the media, the city of Philadelphia and we call on society at large to educate themselves on the signs and causes of suicide and confront stigmatizing mental health need, we challenge them to discuss the dynamics that allow community violence to flourish and we encourage them to increase survivor support and confront jargon that perpetuates victim blaming. We also call on survivors and allies of this violence to continue supporting each other and to enter this dialogue on how to better respond to violence and how to challenge and change the behaviors and ideas that perpetuate violence in our society. We are very pleased that Mayor Nutter has had a sudden interest in addressing and confronting sexual assault in our community, and we would like to be made aware of when the next press conference addressing the daily assault that women and oppressed people endure every day occurs.

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