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International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 17 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: November 25th
Today, November 25th, is the first day of 2007’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The 16 Days run from November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to December 10th (International Human Rights Day). Sokari at Black Looks (2007-11-25) has a good run down on the events of the 16 Days, and a powerful statement of what it’s all about:

One fundamental problem is that because gender based violence is so common across the world that it has been normalised – through actions, language, imagery, pornography – and it is this normalisation that has to be broken. I spoke of my own personal experience of domestic violence. But the violence didn't start there. I have had a life time of it from my child hood, of sexual harassment – touching, misogynist language, presumptions, jokes, looks, homophobia – it becomes a constant battle not to internalise the abuse. As a teenager I used to think it must be my fault – I am to sexual and that's why this is happening. There was also the added racial element which expressed itself differently depending on whether in Africa or in the West. I did not know where to turn or how to deal with any of this. All of us girls were experiencing similar abuse. With my father acting like a – prison guard when it came to boys/men, I was way too scared to talk to my parents about it even too my mother. The strict environment left no doors open in which to try to discuss this with family members for fear of being grounded to the house. Looking back I probably thought it was normal – we girls and women are the one's responsible for arousing men who then cannot help themselves. Unfortunately much of society still believes and accept this ridiculous explanation for acts of violence against women.

All our denials – women, men, parents, families, communities – will certainly not protect us. On the contrary it sustains and even encourages acts of violence against women.........

It is a scourge that preys on women and girls of ALL nations, of ALL cultures. It is gender-based violence – and it continues to grow, encouraged by the silence surrounding the issue and excused by reference to cultural norms. At the dawn of the 21st Century it is a very negative reflection of global society that violence against women is increasing throughout the world. Gender-based violence is the social, psychological and economic subordination of women and occurs in ALL societies. Violence against women is a complex phenomenon deeply rooted in the way society is composed – cultural beliefs, power relations, economic power imbalances, and the masculine ideal of male dominance

— Sokari, Black Looks (2007-11-25): International Day Against Violence Against Women

Cara at feministe (2007-11-25) adds:

And as a blogger, I encourage all others to blog on the topic as much as possible for the next 16 days (and thereafter). Of course, blogging is neither the only nor most effective method of activism, but I also think that it plays an important role. If you read liberal blogs that don't normally cover gender issues, strongly encourage them to participate (and demand answers if they won't). If you run a non-feminist blog, or read other non-feminist blogs by writers that you know care about women, let them know and encourage them to blog about the issue, too. The issue of gender violence is an absolutely massive one, considering the many forms that violence can and does take and all of the intersections of race, sexual orientation, age, nationality, class, religion, location, etc. It has more dimensions than I imagine the combined efforts of every feminist blogger working diligently for the entire 16 days could fully cover. And that's why it's so important to say as much as we can. I will be covering the issue of gender violence as much as possible on my own blog for the 16 Days.

I would like to see my fellow libertarians and anarchists, in particular, take up this challenge. Violence against women, when not simply waved off as a fabrication of p.c. academic feminists, is far too often dismissed or marginalized as if it were an isolated personal problem in a few unusual relationships, or a freakish phenomenon of some benighted and far-away cultures, or among the tragic but perhaps inevitable misfortunes of the female sex. Male violence against women is, in fact, pervasive, systemic, and universal, both abroad and in your own neighborhood. It is the result of the deliberate and systematic practice of men — including individual men who personally commit violence against women, men in positions of political power who order or encourage or permit violence against women under the color of their authority, and also men who cultivate and disseminate a misogynistic culture in the form of jokes, artworks, ads, literature, sermons, journalism, pornography, and overt propaganda. Understanding the nature of the individual violent actions — wife beating, date rape, stalking, groping, rape as a weapon of war, etc. — is of fundamental importance; and so is understanding the backdrop of misogynistic attitudes, practices, and institutions that nurture and sustain this systemic violence through an ideology of male supremacy and men’s right to use harassment, intimidation, and force to control their women.

Libertarianism and anarchism profess to to be a comprehensive theory of human freedom; what supposedly distinguishes the anti-statist theories of justice is that they concern themselves with violent coercion no matter who is practicing it, no matter what ideological-mystical excuses may be used to cover over the violent domination. What feminists have forced into the public eye over the course of the last 40 years is the fact that we live in a society where one out of every four women faces rape or battery by an intimate partner (Tjaden and Thoennes 2000), and where women are threatened or attacked by men who profess to love them, because the men coercing them believe they have a right to control their women. Male violence against women is nominally illegal but nevertheless systematic, motivated by the desire for control, culturally excused, and hideously ordinary. For libertarians and anarchists, confronting the full reality of male violence means nothing less than recognizing the existence of a violent political order working alongside, and independently of, the violent political order of statism. As Catharine MacKinnon writes, Unlike the ways in which men systematically enslave, violate, dehumanise, and exterminate other men, expressing political inequalities among men, men's forms of dominance over women have been accomplished socially as well as economically, prior to the operation of the law, without express state acts, often in intimate contexts, as everyday life (1989, 161). We must recognize the systemic violence and terror of male dominance as a politically coercive order, even though it is usually carried out in society, independently of the state apparatus, and we must oppose and resist it for precisely the same reasons that we oppose the violence and terror of the State.

Although neither directed nor coordinated by any central authority, male violence against women, and the spontaneous disorder of male supremacy that emerges from these countless acts of violence and intimidation, have their own ideological rationalizations, their own propaganda, their own expropriation, and their own violent enforcement, all of which are made invisible by the same male supremacist culture, and made to pass as sex, love, and daily life between men and women. Although often in league with the male-dominated state, male violence is older, more invasive, closer to home, and harder to escape than most forms of statism. To seriously oppose all political violence, libertarians need to fight, at least, a two-front war, against both statism and male supremacy. I urge my comrades to join me, and to join the many women in every nation of the world who are organizing to expose, to resist, and finally to end systemic male violence against women — immediately, completely, and forever.

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  1. Venus Cassandra


    While I completely agree with you that coercive structures apart from the state should be combated, I am not so sure about the role of pornography in contributing towards violence against women.

    I have a complicated gender identity and have just recently decided to undergo a male-female sex change, but I did view pornography quite a bit during my teens (I am only 20 though, so I would say around 13-16 or so). I can’t say that I ever felt the desire to try to sexually — or in some other fashion — violate a woman’s independence.

    I would agree that there is plenty of pornography out there that is meant to appeal to men and reinforces traditional views of sex, yet does the data actually show a strong correlation between pornography viewing and rape? I vaguely remember Wendy McElroy talking about an alleged connection between the viewing of violent porn and actual committing of violent acts, but disputing whether it was true or not. I think one of her arguments was that Japan is awash with the stuff, yet the rape rate is not higher or something like that. It may have been in her book XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography.

    Also, is the argument your making about “actually existing” pornography in the U.S. or any pornography meant to stimulate lust or sexual arosual period? I suspect it’s the former, but just making sure.

  2. Leia

    Thank you, Rad Geek. Unfortunately libertarians–and lots of people of all political stripes–don’t seem to give a damn about this.

    Venus Cassandra–Japan may have a low REPORTED rape rate, but the society is highly patriarchal and there is a strong stigma against reporting rapes.

  3. Rad Geek

    Venus Cassandra,

    … yet does the data actually show a strong correlation between pornography viewing and rape?

    I haven’t done a lot of research on this specific question. My understanding is that the data is equivocal, and a lot depends on the precise details of what you are setting out to measure. (What kind of pornography? How are you measuring propensity to rape? Over what time period? Etc.) But I’m not making a claim, one way or the other, about whether consuming pornography is directly linked to a propensity to commit rape. That’s a question for experimental psychology that I don’t really have the expertise to judge.

    My claim is that pornography plays a central role in forming a misogynistic sexual culture that men grow up with and participate in. That culture expresses a lot of nasty attitudes, among them permissive attitudes towards sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual coercion; dismissive or hostile attitudes towards rape victims; and attitudes that eroticize domination and humiliation. This is what radical feminists sometimes call a rape culture, and I think that the way that that contributes to the prevalence of rape is more straightforward.

    Also, is the argument your making about actually existing pornography in the U.S. or any pornography meant to stimulate lust or sexual arosual period?

    I mean actually existing pornography–both as a product and as a system of social practices surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of that product. But I wouldn’t limit my claims to the United States.

    I think one of her arguments was that Japan is awash with the stuff, yet the rape rate is not higher or something like that. It may have been in her book XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography.

    I haven’t read XXX, so I can’t say much about it. But, as Leia mentioned, I would certainly urge caution if the data is based on police reports of rape, which are not at all a reliable indicator of how prevalent rape is or isn’t in a patriarchal society.


    I wish I could disagree with you. But as it stands, most of the male political spectrum still seems to be deeply engaged in plugging their ears and pretending that feminism never happened, and if it did happen it’s dead and it never amounted to much anyway.

    But for libertarians and anarchists, this issue is important–both on its own merits, and from the standpoint of simple consistency on basic principles (the non-aggression principle, etc.). So I’ll keep pounding this drum until, I hope, more of us start getting it.

  4. johnnylemuria

    I take my cues on feminism from feminists (self- identified feminists writing explicitly as feminists.) Most of the feminists I read (and I do read quite a few of them, regularly) critique “actual existing pornography”, but are on the whole quite sex and porn positive.

  5. Rad Geek


    I don’t really know what “sex positive” is supposed to mean in this context, unless “sex” is being used as a proxy word for pornography, or for particular sexual practices (e.g. sexual sadism). The usual targets of criticism from the so-called “sex positive” perspective (e.g. Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Dorchen Leidholdt, Robin Morgan, etc.) are certainly not fairly characterized as being opposed to or negative about sexuality as such.

    What I’ve mostly encountered in personal conversations and in newer feminist literature is some occasional critique of actually existing pornography, which is often fairly restrained, probably out of a (reasonable) hesitancy about getting embroiled in yet another exhausting campaign of the so-called sex wars.

· December 2007 ·

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