Pandemic of Violence toward Women
This artwork is done by Cynthia Rodriguez and is entitled "Los Numeros sin Almas/ Numbers without Souls". It is done in honor of the numerous women murdered in Juarez, Mexico and utilizes imagery usually associated with the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead--November 2).
Early last month, the United Nations issued a report documenting the global epidemic of domestic violence toward women. The reports explains that in the developed world, 20-25% of women have experienced some form of assault, physical coercion, or sexual violence from male partners or family members. In the global south, these figures are sometimes as high as 70-80% of women. The report argues that the prevalence of this sort of violence is one of the largest human rights violation we face today.
A UN report on the rights of indigenous women, released at the same time, points out (as did Alicia Gaspar de Alba in our podcast on the women of Juarez) that it is poor indigenous women who bear the brunt of much of physical and structural violence in the world.
At the same time there are critics of these reports. A group that calls itself RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) argues that most discussions of domestic violence perpetuate a myth of male aggressor and female victims. RADAR wants to demonstrate that men are often the victims of female violence and that women often take advantage of the myth of male aggressors to deprive men of custody rights over children--a form of violence according to the group.
The work of this group seems misplaced. Much of its tone toward domestic violence research is antagonistic and downplays the seriousness of the global phenomena of violence toward women. A better approach, it seems to me, is the one taken by bell hooks in her short work "Feminism is for Everybody". There she argues that the question is not whether men or women are primarily to blame for domestic violence-- the issue is patriarchy. Men and women can both be patriarchal and perpetuate the system of unearned gender privilege and male dominance. So yes, women can be abusers--frequently of children--but this just means the problem is of the prevalence of violence in general as a way to maintain the family in control.