For those of you that haven't heard about it, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicked off on the 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until the 10th December, Human Rights Day. It started in 1991 by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute and it is used as an organising strategy worldwide to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Each year focuses on a topic, and this year it is a stand against rape. The UN Women Executive director's message (read here) describes very eloquently how rape has multiple and long lasting consequences for the victim, how unreported and unpunished it is and how the laws are still extremely insufficient, for example, and this blew my mind, more than half of all countries do not yet have laws that explicitly criminalise marital rape. People are sharing, in the context of this 16 days, the testimonials about their experience and it is all really getting to me.
But as most things that get to me, I experience sadness (and cry, I cry all the time lately, is a bit awkward!) and then I get really angry, and that anger makes me want to act, reminds me that the job is far from done, that for each one of those women raped around the world we keep fighting, that because of them we keep challenging the way things are at the moment and having the uncomfortable conversations. I am not going to deny that we are much better now than we were before, but we won't stop until real equality is here.
I had my share of sexual abuse, as mostly every woman I know, and I have experienced enough shades of the grey area from the "he just grabbed my ass in the disco" to the "that is probably illegal and fucked up" but I haven't been raped. (I have just deleted the word 'luckily' from my sentence because I refuse to consider it lucky to not be raped. Chris hasn't been raped either and it has never crossed his mind that it was a matter of luck!). I haven't been raped but I have felt the fear all my life, I have met people that have been, people that just about managed to escape from it, people that are deeply traumatised by it and I secretly wonder If I know somebody that has committed rape (without giving it that name, of course) and if I am completely honest with myself the answer is probably yes. Because we are surrounded by it, the toxic jokes, the fear, the shame, the stories, the grey areas that make us think that at least we weren't properly raped.
It is uncomfortable speaking about it. But we need to. The great victory of the #metoo movement has been to make women feel less alone, and make society as a whole realise that while it's (if it makes people feel any better) #notallmen, we can definitely say that #almosteverywoman
Feminism is not only (but also) about glass ceilings and body shame, not solely (but also) about being called women instead of girls and be treated with the equivalent respect. Feminism is mostly about justice. About dignity. About safety.
Until being a woman stops coming with a risk factor, we will keep using this 16 days of activism, and the other 349, to raise awareness. Because as the UN predicts, we are generation equality and we won't longer tolerate it!