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What will it Take?: Bringing the Violence Prevention Community Together for Change

Tuesday, 31 October 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

I attended a lecture last Friday at the Chicago Foundation for Women. The lecture was given by Sujata Warrier and conversation was facilitated by Beth E. Richie. Both parts were outstanding. Please find my summary and analysis below.

Presentation Entitled: We Own Our Lives: Global Politics and Violence Against Women

An Old Berber Song sets the stages… So vast the prison crushing me, Release, where will you come from?

Not you/Like you:

  • Diving lines–between us and within us
  • Search for what?
  • And what tools do we need to journey together?
  • Is there an “authentic self” and an “authentic victim”?

Intersecting Webs:

  • Four intersecting webs in the global commercial arena
  • The global cultural bazaar–creating and disseminates images and dreams through films, TV, radio, music and other media
  • The global shopping mall–a planetary supermarket that sells things to eat, drink, wear and enjoy through advertising, distribution, and marketing networks.
  • The global workplace–a network of factories and workplaces where goods are produced, information processed and services rendered.
  • The global financial network–the international traffic in currency transactions, global securities etc.

Continuation of thinking about Intersecting Webs:

  • In each of these webs, racialized ideologies of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality play a role in constructing the legitimate consumer, worker and manager.
  • Meanwhile the psychic and social disenfranchisement and impoverishment of women continue
  • Women’s bodies and labor are used to construct dreams, desires and ideologies of success and the good life.

Violence Against Women:

  • Occurs on a continuum–beginning w/ female foetcide and ending w/ women murder and includes female infanticide, incest, sexual harassment, poverty and domestic violence.
  • More than just physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
  • Its about living in a climate of fear, misery, loss, humiliation and despair
  • Any system, issue or activity that destroys a woman’s agency is violent.
  • This broad framework is an essential element to furthering our work.
  • Patriarchal domination varies in shape, form and texture, so does violence against women [the continuum]
  • Since violence is used to control women in patriarchal societies, it is important to understand the nature of patriarchy and its relationship to other forms of oppression such as racism, colonialism, heterosexuality, etc.
  • Our work focuses on restoring agency to women.
  • Understanding the contextual nature of violence against women during her life cycle is crucial to resolving trauma and restoring agency.
  • Violence against women is a worldwide phenomena occurring in all communities and groups.


  • People live multiple, layered lives derived from social relations, history and the operation of the structures of power.
  • Understanding intersectionality exposes all types of discrimination that occur as a consequence of the combination.
  • Something unique is produced at the point of intersection–full complexity of experiences.
  • No slotting people, no single form of discrimination–exposes full range of vulnerabilities as it links all structure of oppressions.
  • Attention to specific contexts and distinct experiences
  • Values how policies and practices that shape the lives of those impacted
  • Intersectionality is a tool for analysis, advocacy, and policy development that addresses multiple discriminations and helps us understand how different sets of identities impact access to rights and opportunities.


  • Layers of totality exist and forms one
  • Hegemony and rules standardize and erase contexts and expectations leveling out differences [living under erasure, perhaps?]
  • Interdependency is not mutual enslavement


  • A tolerance for ambivalence and ambiguity
  • A tolerance for contradictions and conflicts between and within
  • Habits, patterns, rules are the enemy that inhibits survival and journeys…rigidity is death [ambivalence is perhaps the answer to the binaries?]

The Journey…

  • Take inventory–what did you inherit? What is the weight you carry from the past?
  • Put history through a sieve
  • Conscious rupture w/ oppressive traditions documents the rupture…[is she referring to an epistemological rupture?]
  • Reinterpret history—look for the pauses, ellipses, silences
  • Share open to vulnerabilities
  • Surrender notions of safety
  • Braid at the borderlands to release from the prison of safety…

In Conclusion…

“It seems utopian, but the world must recover its capacity for dreaming and in order to start, a new paradigm is required…” Celia Lopez


The analysis part of the presentation will take some effort on my part, because in many ways I agree with what Sujata presented. Where is the flaw or flaws? Where are the misguided and utopic ideals that will NEVER be accomplished in the violence prevention communities?

One question I do have is whether the, as the CFW has listed, violence community is singular? Sujata’s presentation seems to lift up a plurality of experiences within a world full of violence and full of pluralities. The exposure of a plurality of experiences helps situate Sujata’s idea of a continuum of violence, but this also helps reveal the problems with the “either”/”or” tendencies when conceiving violence and prevention. It is either the abuser’s family of origin OR it is the stress that the abuser is experiencing. This would be one way to think about the dilemma of “either”/”or” tendencies. Could the problem or dilemma with an abuser be both family of origin and stress?

The climate of violence seems pertinent when addressing ideas concerning prevention. Where are the intersections with the varying climates of fear, violence, and rage? How are climates situated within communities of violence? How does migration play a role in prevention and perpetuating violence?

In many ways, Sujata’s presentation created room to begin to collaborate as a community grasping for prevention and peace. But, it is necessary to remember that this community has a plurality of experiences and does not purport to have any sort of monolithic message or experience. While the media, law enforcement, and other agencies might very well purport the idea that the prevention community is small, singular and lacks plurality, it would be important to engage Sujata’s presentation as one that deconstructs the practices of working in silos and creates room for interstices and intersections. How might we weave together our various frameworks of understanding violence and our attempts to eradicate violence from our every day experience?

Perhaps we could continue to ask the question of “What will it Take?” to begin to take steps toward the other and perhaps develop ways in which we can continue to come close to one another in an effort to undo the hegemony and make a difference in life and love!

Categories: Society
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