Dealing with the code of silence

This afternoon I attended a “Gender Matters Series” event on campus. The panel – Robin M. Chandler, Lihua Wang and Linda K. Fuller – discussed real life stories of victims and activists whose writings are the foundation of their 2010 book, Women, War, and Violence: Personal Perspectives and Global Activism. The 10 attendees, who were interestingly all women except for one male filming the conversation for a class, sat around the editors of the book while they spoke about their experiences.

All three of them discussed the increasing importance of examining violence against women, both at home and abroad. Violence against women has become a public health crisis that currently affects both individuals and families, Chandler said.

“We’ve finally figured out that you can’t talk about violence without…sitting men down to talk about it. This problem I’m convinced as an international health crisis will never stop or be mediated unless we get men to the table,” she said at the event.

After the panelists spoke about their experiences observing violence in the media and trying to implement change in women’s roles in places such as Liberia, the discussion focused on the uprisings in the Middle East and roles of women there. How and why is the world changing as it is now?

There is a transformation unfolding everywhere on the planet because, at the baseline, everything the world is doing is about community engagement, Chandler said. Now, more than ever, people who have always dreamed of verbally expressing their thoughts, without fear of being shot, are celebrating. Everybody is at a different stage of development in countries around the world, but every human being is beginning to understand the treatment they deserve.

“We want to be able to speak to our governors…whether they listen or not. We expect women and girls will bring something different to the table of leadership,” Chandler said.

Lara Logan in Iraq.

Fuller raised the issue surrounding the news reporter, Lara Logan, who was sexually assaulted by men in Egypt during the uprisings in February. Often there is a code of silence involving women speaking publicly about sexual assaults. Fuller called Logan “a double victim” because she was criticized by many people for talking about the horrific event. If an attractive man was assaulted instead of Logan, it would have been a different story, Fuller said. In fact, after Logan’s attack, journalist Nir Rosen tweeted, “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson [Cooper]. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” As seen in Rosen’s post to Twitter, there is a dialogue that is created around what a profession should be and who should obtain positions for the job. Maybe journalism is, incorrectly, one of the “male professions” to many people. I disagree.

Anderson Cooper

Nevertheless, we are living in an exciting century. We have seen, and will continue to see, what people are made of. Our ability to work together and overcome all levels of inequality will take time. But, there is hope. I agreed with Chandler when she said the ability for the world to tear down repressive regimes will be led by women.

Overall, I learned from the panel that, even if everyone works to implement change on a small scale, transformations can occur. It might take 100 years, but society can achieve change with persistence. We can use cultural differences to strengthen us.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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