Be the Cause

Women’s Issues on 2/3/2008

While we were serving at The Downtown Women’s Center (would you like to join us?)on 2/3/2008, Melisa asked, “Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday has the hightest rate of domestic violence?” And everybody reacted “No Way!”, “Is that true?”, “Is that just in the USA?”, “why?”, etc.

Critically thinking (in this case, guessing) about some probable guesses for the stat that one of my college friends verified that he had also heard, come of the probable causes that I could assume were Gambling Losses, Alcohol, Too Many Sexual Suggestive Ads, Male Inferority Complex after watching “their” women cheering for what our media deems as some sort of atheletic “Alpha Male”… Melisa threw in “raging testosterone levels” and “men suck”. It’s one of those things that makes you think about a day that’s almost become a national holiday for consumers and sports fans. I’ll let you research or bring that up as a critical magnet of discussion amongst your circle of peers.

Serving food was more fun than watching the game. The last 3 years, I always made plans because my friends invited me to come over to watch. And I am a football fan (even though I’m less of one now because I think alot of the major sports are fixed now… but that’s a different topic).

The mission of the Downtown Women’s Center is to provide permanent supportive housing and a safe and healthy community fostering dignity, respect, and personal stability, and to advocate ending homelessness for women.

We met Julie, a talkative sixty-two year black woman that has been living on the streets who had just been approved for permenant housing. The DWC has an application process for granting residence for one of their 47 apartments. The founder of DWC saw the need for permanent residence on Skid Row (especially) for women. Julie was so excited about having a place to cook again that she went to Food 4 Less and bought a bunch of food. She said she was excited to be able to bring in things to make her room feel like her home. The day before, we met Sophia who told us that the DWC has a few women who have been living there for 0ver 30 years. Julie said she used to do yoga, and now she can think of starting again. I asked if she knew about the yoga lessons that were on a flyer in the elevator and asked if she’d think of leading any of the sessions. She smiled and said she might after she gets back into it. The reason we were talking about this is because she said the meal that was served on 2/3/2008 was the best meal she ate in a looooong time–“Love Food”.

Next I went to Solidarity Hall near Western and Washington to meet with Yuisa, a short hispanic american woman who was the god-daughter of a college professor of my friend, Shamila. Yuisa is part of Radical Women’s Movement and The Socialist Freedom Party. Her group gathers a few times a month. Shamila brought a few gifts, some of the literature Shamila had written about incorporating gender into economic development and a copy of the Deepa Mehta movie Water, which became my favorite movie of alltime because of how the characters were constructed and Gandhi-ji comes at the end and says “my dear brothers and sister, I used to think God is Truth. But today, I believe that Truth is god. The pursuit of truth has been invaluble to me… I hope it will be the same for you.” as the cathatic moment in the film happens. Shamila noted how the dynamic of gender development was different in Sri Lanka vs. the US. She was a little confused why woman’s right’s was so tightly coupled with Sexuality in the US. There was a sign in Solidarity Hall that said “I want the right to rule over my body”. Critically thinking about this, I wondered if Americans are still so afraid of Lesbianism. I remember how the debate of “Civil Unions” kind of distorted the polictics of the last presidential election and we ended up nominating 2 of the stupidest candidates in Bush and Kerry. I didn’t get a chance to ask Yuisa about what she thought about Hillary Clinton vs Barrak Obama since the democrats have constructed them as the shrewd woman running vs the somewhat icononclastic son of an immagrant. I wanted to know if either of them was Radical enough for Yuisa or if she was in the mind set of “I’ll take what I can get.” I also wanted to ask her if Gandhi and Malcom X could replace Che and Marx spokes persons for radical struggle in her mind even if they came from cultures where the treatment of women was questionalble (eg. the Nation of Islam hasn’t given women an equal platform and there is still a struggle in the broader muslim culture. Also there is a conterversy about if Mohandas actually beat Kasturba at soeme point in his life–I can’t recall any direct references to beating in his autobiography but he does mention lots of regrets that came from being married at a young age before he had gotten control of his “carnal desires”)

Yuisa had invited Shamila to the Mazer Lesbian Archives for an event that celebrated the role of Black Women in radical women’s movements. We got lost trying to find the place. But the poets that were coming had canceled, so when we showed up with just 15min in the event, it wasn’t a great loss. Shamila still had the chance to network with some of the women there. We met a theatre actress that had helped create a documentry piece about the Lesbian Archives on her laptop. She was still revising it. The Mazer Archives is a group that wants to chronicle the polictical literature and creative works that have come from the Lesbian movement for rights. Shamila invited her to visit Sri Lanka saying, “I will host you.” She also recommended another Deepa Mehta movie, Fire. We had a short discussion about how Mehta had to move production of Water to Sri Lanka because of death threats and threats of riots to disrupt the filming. Conservatives Indians (Gandhi is rolling around in his grave right now) thought they should violently oppose the iconoclastic ideas toward some of the ideas that Mehta was critical about in her previous 2 movies.

I should also mention some things about Shamila. She is very reserved and radical. She feels she’s a trailblazer in Sri Lanka. She’s written some of the first reports of it’s kind regarding gender in development in Sri Lanka. She’s worked with some of the biggest NGOs in Sri Lanka and UN inititives. She just finished her degree to become a lawyer at Bradeis Universtity in Massachuesets. She has publised 6 books of poetry and some of her poems has been cited by other international women leaders. 2 of her poems have become songs in Sri Lanka. She’s leaving  on Wednesday. So let me know if any of you would like to meet her. Tuesday is a good oppurtunity to meet her. Email me for her contact details if you think you can support her or she can support you. She has some cool ideas.


  • melisa

    1. For the record: MEN DO NOT SUCK. I’m sorry, but I had to laugh. Come on, Supun! I LOVE MEN. What I meant was: it’s the abusive folks, whatever their gender, that suck (for lack of a better, more compassionate or diplomatic? way of putting it).

    I’ll stick with the “raging testerosterone” comment.

    2. I had to google that statistic, and here’s the first link I came across:

    According to those websites, the statistic is just a “myth;” not enough evidence has been show to prove that incidents of domestic violence increase on Super Bowl Sunday.

    I think the important point is that there isn’t enough evidence because very few women actually report the abuse. So to undermine that “stat,” false or not, on the basis that not enough evidence is available is to ignore another more pressing issue that advocates against abuse are trying to educate people about. The fact that abuse exists at all.

    Well, I say who cares if it’s false? If associating Super Bowl Sunday with domestic violence causes the issue to creep across people’s minds, what harm can it do? That doesn’t mean that abuse doesn’t happen. It happens on Super Bowl Sunday, on any day. EVERYDAY.

    Thanks for bringing it up and posting something about it! Tell it, brother!

  • gianna

    Some men…Supe…some men. I know some women can be abusive…in this context==I’m thinking toward children…like in the book, “It”=the documented worst child abuse case in history…

    I think with the Superbowl…there is a lot of aggressive energy…some people are great and jovial and I guess some take it to another level. I’m thinking if it’s just with a man and a woman at home…the man could be so focused on the tv, that when the woman gets in the way…she gets slapped..Again, this would only be in certain circumstances…I haven’t run across any men like this in my life. But there are some out there. And I think some women could be abusive to their spouses too.

    It would be great to have Shamila’s contact details. I’d like to email her and thank her for all she’s doing. Don’t think I can meet up by Tues. though. But send us info and I’ll see if I can make it.

  • Melisa, I think it’s cool to make bold statements like that. Sometimes we get so caught up in talking proper that we forget that off the cuff remarks can cause critical thinking too. From the person that I know you are, I know you don’t think in terms of total-ism (is that a real term?) or fatalism. I think it’s OK that you said that. That stat did get thrown around another time last night and then a co-worker this morning said that he had seen that too. I think even when there are “myths” the important thing is to think critically about it like, “is it true?” and “why would it be true?” Because at the base you are trying to get to why humans are so abusive. There are very real scientific studies that corealate alchohol to violence. And questioning some myth is a great mental excersize to test our ablities to make a “back of the envelope” analysis.

    For the record. As a 3rd party, I’d like to verify that Melisa doesn’t think Men Suck. I’d also like to verify for the record that the homegirl is badazz. It’s ok to think outloud, right? And for the record, unless a blog or (other open media) has a reference to source any statistic, you should not believe it.

    Gianna, I can’t find a reference to this stat, but I remember it being mentioned that only about 2-5% of domestic violence cases the target is a man. I have no idea how scientific the study was and where the sample set came from (Just US? Global? just some random study of 1000 people?, legal cases? police reports?) A percentage doesn’t really mean anything unless you know how that number came out, so I guess that isn’t really a good stat afterall. Maybe it’s kind of dangerous to conjecture without all the facts.

  • rucha

    hello. great discussion thread! so of course i have to share my thoughts on DV and some of the things that came up for me while reading supun’s blog and the comments that followed.

    i think that although most people know it, or maybe they don’t and i would just like to think they do, when violence escalates it’s part of the “cycle of violence.” i think it’s convenient to isolate domestic violence to a one time incidence, but the majority of DV happens in a cycle. so whether it’s hyper-masculinity or agression or whatever the reason on the day of superbowl sunday, abuse has usually been present in the relationship, it could be verbal, emotional, monetary, using one’s children, or threatening immigration status.

    also, one of the biggest myths of DV is that alcohol causes someone to become violent and abuse. it’s not a cause, but rather a factor. i am by no means saying that supun, melisa, or gianna meant it that way, but i am more writing for the general audience out there. no one ever gets drunk and says, i feel like beating the crap out of someone now, especially an intimate partner. DV is about having power and control over someone.

    let’s not forget that looming oppression called masculinity that affects both men and women. also, partner violence escalates when women are pregnant and also when they are trying to leave the relationship.

    here is an article from a credible source, the family violence prevention fund:

  • Great Point, Rucha! Thanks for contributing. It’s nice to finally have a post going on this blog with more than 2 people contributing. So many great ideas.

    I’m glad you mentioned the cycle of violence that exists in abusive relationships. It’s a very important to build that awareness.

    You are right about alcohol being a factor and not a sole reason. Alcohol is not the reason humans are violent, but I think it sure would help if some of those jack-asses wouldn’t take intoxicants.

    I have a slightly different spin on what you call the “looming oppression called masculinity”. How can we change the general public notion that a man that uses violence is expressing his masculinity? I agree the notion of masculinity in it’s current state in this society is not very manly…

    To me a man that takes advantage of women immediately emasculates himself. There was a really cool paster in Oakland that worked with ex-cons that were released back into the public after being in prison for violent crimes.

    He had kind of like a 10 commandment system. To him the most important of those was “Don’t hit women”. There were others like “don’t sell drugs to children” and “don’t use guns to fight”. He mentioned that his father was abusive and “did his mother bad.”

    His idea was that for those men that had gone the way of violence to cultivate a new culture of values inside them. He loved the cliche “Real Men don’t hit women” and made T-shirts with that.

    I know this might seem lame to some, but I really liked it when I heard him talking and he said berated a really big man saying that “women beaters are punk bitches”. I think those harsh juxtapositions made some of those guys think critically of themselves at some level.

    I only met that guy once and I still think about how aggressive and confident as he was in trying to get his points across. He wasn’t very physically dominant but he was masculine man and I looked up to how him. I wish I could remember his name and see if I can google him to see if there’s an articles about him…

  • gianna

    Rucha! Miss u!

    I think it’s right what you mentioned re: alcohol not being why DV happens. I agree with Supun on this: “Alcohol is not the reason humans are violent, but I think it sure would help if some of those jack-asses wouldn’t take intoxicants.”

    I definitely think there’s a cycle of violence…it’s just not going to all of a sudden occur on superbowl Sunday. Most likely, it has been occurring all year long and maybe there are just more reports of DV on this day? But it sounds like there are not too many conclusive reports to conclude that this is true or not. In my blog comment above, I didn’t bring in the alcohol factor, but I’m sure that doesn’t make things better. I’m a newbie in the statistics of things for DV, etc. It’s so great that this is all being discussed.

    What an awesome guy, idea (from what Supun wrote above):

    “There was a really cool pastor in Oakland that worked with ex-cons that were released back into the public after being in prison for violent crimes.

    He had kind of like a 10 commandment system. To him the most important of those was “Don’t hit women”. There were others like “don’t sell drugs to children” and “don’t use guns to fight”. He mentioned that his father was abusive and “did his mother bad.”

    His idea was that for those men that had gone the way of violence to cultivate a new culture of values inside them. He loved the cliche “Real Men don’t hit women” and made T-shirts with that.”

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