By Anna NietoGomez, Coughing Woman
Custom was that violence against women was private and should not be talked about in public. The women’s rights movement changed all that, and violence against women became a public discussion. Women demanded that they have the right to be safe at home, at work and at play. Traditionalists ignored this challenge, blamed the woman for the violence done against her and took no action.
Then women told their stories. First they began the telling with friends and family, but nothing changed. The story was forgotten, and violence against women continued. Then the telling became public. The telling increased from a solo, to a chorus, from a community to a nation. The telling were stories of all kinds of violence against women, sex exploitation, sexual harassment, rape and physical abuse.
The telling raised awareness that women are not safe, and when women are not safe, the family is not safe. The telling organized a larger agreement that women have the right to be safe in the home, at work and at play. The telling became political when the nation heard the same stories told by so many different women all over the country. Once the telling became political, laws were passed to protect women from violence. But laws are not enough. Courageous Mujeres created MalintZINE, a 21st century feminist magazine for mujeres of all kinds!
It told the story of violence against women in Tucson and of their efforts to stop it. Mujeres voiced to the community leaders that violence against women made community activism a hostile and unsafe place to be. Mujeres asked their leaders to condemn and help stop the violence against women.
But the leaders did nothing, they said the complaints were a nuisance. The leaders didn’t want to know what the women thought or said. They contended that the role of the Mujer was to be seen and not heard, to look pretty and to please the men at night. The leaders said stop complaining, there are more important things we have to do. They told the women to return to work. Lets work together so that Hombres are equal to Gavachos.
The leaders explained that the role of the Mujer was to make the men look good. It was disloyal to complain and air their dirty laundry in public. The leaders said hush, act right! Stop telling these stories, or we may lose the gains that have been made.
The Mujeres said, “Remember Penn State”. Those leaders ignored complaints of violence against students. The leaders perceived the complaint to be the problem, not the perpetrator. They knew the perpetrator and he was good for their program. The leaders agreed, the program was more important than any violence against students.
So the leaders lied to themselves and said they did not receive the complaints. Each time they heard the crowd cheer and basked in their glory, the leaders lied again, “We did the right thing”. So the perpetrator committed violence against students over and over again. And It was unsafe to play.
But the story was not forgotten because there were many more new stories to tell, and finally the telling became public, and the nation heard. Then there were consequences. But the crowd booed at the telling, “It’s a lie. Our leaders made us great, we owe them. Don’t take them away. Who cares what happened to the students.”
The program was not destroyed. Finally the perpetrator and the leaders who covered it up were removed. They longer enjoyed the glory. Again the Mujeres told their leaders, “Remember Penn State, this could happen to you.”
But the leaders refused to learn the lesson. They knew the perpetrators. They were good for the business of civil rights which brought fame, money and jobs. The leaders agreed, the business of civil rights is more important than violence against women. They said nothing, and did nothing. The leaders denied that sexual harassment was bullying, and pretended it validated women’s self worth. They expected women to provide sexual favors for the leaders and their male network. And women got something in return, they were envied for being pretty and desired and they got a free dinner to boot. Women who resisted or complained were discredited as disloyal and crazy. The Mujeres were ostracized, and shunned and feared losing their jobs.
The leaders told the Mujeres: The woman is to blame when she is raped. Change your behavior. If women do not want to be raped, stay home and do not go to play. Don’t drink alcohol, don’t wear short skirts or plunging neck lines.
The leaders did nothing to stop violence against women. They advised: ” Prove your loyalty to the movement, go home, forget about, and come back to work another day.” “It never happened if you don’t have a police report.” “No one will believe you, you’re promiscuous, we know your history.” “Have pity of the rapist, think of the violence against men.” “Don’t criminalize men of color”.
Without consequences, nothing changes, and violence against women remains normal. But Tucson is different . The Mujeres told friends and family, nothing changed, but it was not forgotten. Mujeres created malintZINE to tell their stories. The telling became public. The telling increased from a solo, to a chorus, from a community to a nation. The telling raised awareness that it is not safe for women to be a community activist. Some threaten Mujeres with lawsuits if they do not stop the telling. But the Mujeres persist. With the telling comes support, and allies who will help them make the community safe for women. What do they want? Public support to stop violence against women. A public apology for failing to provide a safe environment for women. A public statement of men acknowledging that gender violence work is men’s work too! Men’s compliance with a code of behavior that respects women’s rights and allows women to live in a safe environment. Social, as well as legal consequences to those who act out violence against women.