Is Your Family Safe for Women and Girls? PT. I

As we co-create a world where the feminine is respected, female bodied persons are safe, and our humanity shines as our point of connection – where might we first place our attention?

To think of changing the world always seems like an awesome task.  We may at some point feel the deep need for the world to tip its balance towards a way of collective action that is more cooperative and fair.  With so many of us walking the globe, how can we, how can I, change things?  If I am but one person, what can I do?  Especially, If I am marked by race and gender and class as “other”and “marginal”, what can I do to shift the power balance?

Campaigns and catchy slogans are meant to inspire us, and they do often succeed in that task.  In addition to pledging our support to a larger entity or organized effort, is it possible to see the results of our efforts a bit closer to home?  Even those of us who focus our careers on social justice wonder how to bring our efforts into our familial networks.  It is easier at times to work publicly against all forms of gender based violence than it is to work intimately with those same issues.  We can become “fans” of socially oriented pages here, “tweet” the good news there and stay up on the latest releases from our favorite cultural critics, but how does that translate to the growth or lack of the girl children’s breasts and hips no longer being the subject of conversation at family dinner?  At what point do we feel strong enough to confront the issue of that uncle or cousin, rather than just warning the children to keep their distance.  When do we get to dismiss the silence around how our aunts arm was really broken?

The gender violence that happens in family networks can be deeply enmeshed in the ways we interact with and negotiate intimacy with each other.  It is no wonder that we might be re-traumatized in the simplest effort to be with family.  And since the same cycles are often repeated over and over, we have often experienced the violence as children, that we witness or condone through our silence as adults.  Violence becomes normative in families, but its harm is never diminished.

We can reclaim our power in our own families.  The issues that make us limit our visits and specialize in quick phone calls, are never unknown.  There is often at least one other family member that knows what isn’t working.  We can collectively confront the violence in our families.  Family members, regardless of age, can challenge negative family patterns as a unit, by modeling loving interactions.  The next family reunion or spontaneous talent show can feature a poem, song or announcement about how certain remarks and interactions make you feel. We can tell the people in our families how we want to be loved.  We can engage each other in conversation, and while asking for the quality of love we need, we remind the other of the quality of love they deserve.  We can also invite our family members into our professional and public spheres, where our activism is more apparent.  We can decide when and how we gather.   The next time we are volunteered to speak or say the prayer before a meal, we can speak our vision of hope and love to our families.  We can choose which conversations to participate in, which to interrupt.

Every word and intention counts.  We always have power in the present moment create and transform.  Each moment is ripe with possibility.

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