There is so much going on in this world. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID. I am also simultaneously struggling to do justice to the women who have reached out to me to describe their experiences with campus sexual assault and harassment, and the the Offices of Dispute Resolution to which they are remanded. ODR? Sounds neutral and perhaps promising. Not so fast. I have had two women relate their experiences. One found the experience of meeting with ODR staff so traumatic that she withdrew her complaint due to suicidal ideation. The ODR staffed “grilled” her in an adversarial manner that was so abrasive that she felt re-violated and withdrew her complaint. The second woman was asked about her sexual history—years prior to her complaint about a sexually harassing professor — and was so ill afterwards that she withdrew her complaint to focus on her health and that of her husband. Will gender justice be delayed by COVID? We know that rates of interpersonal and domestic violence have spiked; has the remote learning environment ironically meant a reprieve from professorial harassment because students are off-site? If recovery from COVID means “rebuilding better,” then perhaps we can address the issue of campus sexual assault and harassment as part of a broader spectrum of gender-based violence that grinds female students down…and out. So many #missingwomen in our classes, on our campuses, in the people we count as colleagues in our universities.
What’s on my mind? Femicide. From the NYT: “The police said the suspect had previously been a customer of at least two of the businesses where eight people were killed.” Yes, people, in this case of Asian descent. Racism lethally infused this atrocity. Yet I think we are missing something here. What about the killing of women and girls because they are… women and girls? During the Trump administration, blatant misogyny was given full encouragement, as was racism. For some Trump supporters, this was Their Leader “just telling it like it is.” I disagree. He was telling it like he wished it to be, tapping into angry white male nostalgia for the “good old days” when their entitlement came as naturally as the air they breathed and the pussies they grabbed — with impunity. To recognize these murders as hate crimes is important, but they are more than that: they constitute acts of femicide, a term widely used throughout Latin America, the region of the world in which I conduct my research.
U.N. Women defines femicide as the “intentional murder of women because they are women, but may be defined more broadly to include any killings of women or girls.” This builds upon the work of Mexican scholars Julia Monárrez and Marcela Lagarde, who analyzed the systematic killing of women in Ciudad Juarez in the 1990s. They suggested the concept “feminicide,” based on the notion that femicide is a gender-specific word for homicide while feminicide refers to the killing of women based on their social or biological gender, and the characteristics attributed to that gender. With this term, they also aimed to hold states accountable for crimes of omission or commission: how can so many women and girls be killed with so little accountability? Where are agents of the state in ensuring the security of women and girls? One thinks of the Chilean feminist collective lastesis, founded by Dafne Valdés, Paula Cometa, Sibila Sotomayor, and Lea Cáceres, four women from Valparaíso, Chile. On November 25, 2019, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, hundreds of women gathered around the Chilean capital of Santiago to denounce gendered violence. The women moved to a synchronized choreography while declaring with one voice, “¡Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía!” (And the fault was not mine, not where I was, nor how I was dressed!) Shifting the blame away from women who experience sexual violence and onto the state, they pointed to functionaries such as the police, judges, and the president declaring, “¡El violador eres tú!” (The rapist is you!) Pumping their fists defiantly into the air the women chanted, “¡El estado opresor es un macho violador! (The oppressive state is a male rapist!). The protest, named “Un Violador en tu camino,” went viral. The rapist in a woman’s path assumes many forms, cloaked all too frequently in the patriarchal misogyny of the state.
Eight people killed: they were women, of Asian descent. The United States is a dangerous place to be a woman or a girl. Please, do not remind us that it is so much worse in Country X, as though we should be silently grateful. There is an exercise I use in my gender class at the Fletcher School. I ask the classroom full of students to help me compile a list of everything they did the previous week to avoid being sexually assaulted. “Keys threaded through my fingers as I walked to my car”; “don’t jog with earphones in case someone sneaks up behind me”; “only walk on well lighted streets at dusk”; “drop off each of my female friends at her house and wait until she is safely inside the door before driving off”; “look in the back seat of my car before getting in” — the list grows ominously long. And we pause to allow the men in the class to let this sink in. They are frequently stunned by the list. How much time and energy do we women and girls expend to avoid being harassed, assaulted, killed? It can be exhausting.
Those 8 women in Atlanta were killed in their place of employment; they thought they had safely arrived to work. Many more women and girls are killed in their homes by partners, husbands, fathers, boyfriends. From home to work and back, how much longer must women and girls tolerate the lethal violence in their path?
Cooper quotes a former anthropology associate professor, Kimberly Theidon, who’d sued Harvard in 2014 for failing to give her tenure because of her gender and her “outspoken advocacy” for victims of sexual assault:
On college campuses nation- wide, senior professors—frequently male—wield tremendous power over their students and junior colleagues…. These gatekeepers operate with virtual impunity, administering silences, humiliation, and career-ending decisions. The black box of tenure, lacking transparency, is precisely how silencing and impunity work to the disadvantage of those who would speak up and unsettle the status quo.
Presented by NYU Wagner School of Public Service, Universidad del Rosario, and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
NOVEMBER212:00pm – 3:30pm ESTPublicadd to: Google Calendar | iCalendarDATE: November 21, 2020TIME: 2:00pm – 3:30pmLOCATION: Online
This event is part of a three-day symposium, Colombia: Peacebuilding amid Persistence of Violence, which brings together academics, practitioners, civil society and civic leaders to discuss the past, present and futures of Colombia. It sheds light on the country’s long experience with internal armed conflict, its recent effort to transition to a post-conflict stage, and the challenges and opportunities that the present juncture implies for the success of enduring peacebuilding efforts.
This panel zeroes-in on the microlevel manifestations of the conflict, exploring the case of gender-based violence against Indigenous and Afrocolombian women in Colombia. Panelists will discuss women’s experience of leadership and resistance in these contexts and unpack key challenges of efforts to strengthen their agency and amplify their voice. Conflict affects women in unique ways, and subaltern women in particular; but their experience becomes invisible when buried within broader statistics and narratives. To understand these microdynamics of violence and the potential emergent leadership, the conversation will privilege feminist, intercultural and participatory action research perspectives. Connecting memory, resistance and leadership contributes to move forward the Symposium conversations and insights about peacebuilding and local governance amid persistence of violence.
- Pasha Bueno-Hansen, University of Delaware
- Kimberly Theidon, Fletcher School, Tufts University
- Angela Santamaria, Universidad del Rosario
This panel will be held in Spanish and moderated by Ángela Santamaría (URosario) & Sonia M. Ospina (NYU Wagner)
This event is organized by the Colombian Studies Initiative: Past, Present and Futures, a collaboration between New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and Universidad del Rosario. The Initiative aims to create an Inter-American hub for research, multidisciplinary conversations and exchange of knowledge concerning Colombia. It supports dialogue, inquiry, and research for US, Colombian, and international scholars, students, NGOs practitioners, and the general public interested in Colombia.NYU Wagner provides reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Requests for accommodations for events and services should be submitted at least two weeks before the date of the accommodation need. Please email email@example.com or call 212.998.7400 for assistance.Register to Attend