What Women Really Want for V-Day
Originally published in:
The Gazette, Medina County, Ohio
By Craig Williams from The Gazette (in Medina County, Ohio)
February 15, 2001
Another V-Day has come and gone. It's a day many of us men spend thinking about women -- maybe learning something new about them.
Here's what I discovered about women this V-day:
In Jordan, Morocco and Syria, women who commit adultery can be (quite legally) killed by their husbands. I learned that, in Pakistan, three out of four women in jail are there because they have been raped -- Again, because THEY have been raped. Unless these women can produce four male witnesses who actually saw the penetration, their rapists go unpunished.
Shall I go on?
In parts of India, girls as young as 10 are sold into prostitution, sometimes by their families. Each week in Bangladesh three to five women suffer acid attacks. That is to say men throw acid (the kind that's readily available in car batteries) into women's faces or onto their bodies, grotesquely disfiguring them.
Why? Because they were slow serving dinner or maybe they rejected the attacker's marriage proposal.
You've heard of this locally, as you have heard of "honor killings," in which men murder female relatives, in the name of family honor, for suspected sexual activity (this includes being the victim of rape) outside of marriage. These men are considered heroes in their communities.
In parts of Africa, the Middle East and Malaysia, young women are subjected routinely to genital mutilation. They are forcibly restrained while, for instance, their entire clitoris and some or all of their labia are cut away. Sometimes their genitals are then sewn shut with catgut or fastened closed with thorns, leaving a small (too small) hole for the passage of urine and menses.
Why? So they'll be faithful to their husbands.
So when I talk about V-day, I'm not referring to the commercialized holiday that requires men give women (mostly out of a misplaced sense of guilt or obligation) overpriced flowers or cards with romantic sentiments they couldn't think up on their own. The V-day I'm talking about is a 24-hour period set aside to honor women, and to educate all of us about the alarming amounts of violence -- in its varied and sickening forms -- perpetrated against females worldwide every day.
V-Day (which was last Saturday) was started in 1998 by playwright Eve Ensler, creator of the hit play "The Vagina Monologues" -- a series of honest, funny and often heartbreaking, first-person vignettes based on Ensler's interviews with women from all parts of the globe. You can see the play Sunday at Akron's Highland Square Theatre (profits benefit YWCA of Summit County Rape Crisis Center), and May 1 through 27 at the Music Hall Little Theatre in Cleveland.
In an interview posted on the V-Day Web site (www.vday.org), Ensler said that as she traveled with the show, so many women approached her with their own stories of rape, beatings or other forms of abuse that she decided to turn the play and its message into a sort of crusade. Today V-Day events around the world help women, who would otherwise be too frightened to stand up for themselves, gather into large non-violent armies to confront their male oppressors. The events also help fund groups that fight atrocities like the ones I've mentioned.
The goal of this "crusade" is to remove violence from the lives of all women and girls forever. It's a big battle, but one worth fighting.
Inevitably, some readers will be appalled, not as they should be by the injustices described here, but by seeing words like "vagina" and "clitoris" right here in a "family newspaper." I invite such readers to kindly get over it. If we, as a society, could manage to get past our fear of words, perhaps we could more openly discuss with our daughters what a vagina is, and how they can respect and protect theirs (along with the rest of their body) from abuse and disrespect from others.
Approximately one-third of all juvenile victims of sexual abuse cases are children younger than 6. And this isn't just a "foreign" problem. It is estimated that 72 of every 100,000 females in the United States were raped last year. There are at least four million reported incidents of domestic violence against women annually. If you'd like to know the reliable sources from which I've gathered these statistics, write me. I'd be glad to tell you.
No, there are more appropriate targets for your outrage than a harmless configuration of letters on a page. Like people who practice female infanticide (killing babies merely because they were born the "wrong" sex) or the 5,000 men who, each year in India, set fire to their brides because the dowry that came with them was considered inadequate.
It doesn't have to be this way. There are things you can do. There are things I can do. Solutions that don't require a lot of time or money. As usual, there's not enough space to list them all here, but visiting the V-Day Web site is a good start. They'll lead you in the right direction. Or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll tell you what you can do -- or where you can turn if you're a victim yourself.
V-Day may be over, but the issues it addresses continue day after day. And not all women are longing for a candlelight dinner or a heart-shaped box of candy.
Some would settle for a little bit of dignity.
Please see Craig's site here.