16 days and counting
Posted on December 10, 2011
It’s International Human Rights Day today, which means it’s officially the final day of the 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign. But 16 days isn’t enough is it? Not when you consider that violence against women and girls continues to be perpetrated day after day after day, 365 days of the year.
Sixteen days of awareness raising and speaking out isn’t enough, not when you consider that at any point, day or night, somewhere in this world, a woman or girl is being subjected to rape, or domestic violence, or FGM, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, or a so-called ‘honour-crime’. Sixteen days of blogging, tweeting, marching, chanting, shouting about this isn’t enough when at any moment you care to pick a woman or girl is being prostituted, or trafficked for sexual exploitation, or is enduring any one of a number of other gender hate crimes.
Andrea Dworkin once famously said that she wanted a 24 hour truce in the war against women: “I speak for many feminists, not only myself” she said, “when I tell you that I am tired of what I know and sad beyond any words I have about what has already been done to women up to this point, now, up to 2:24pm on this day, here in this place.
And I want one day of respite, one day off, one day in which no new bodies are piled up, one day in which no new agony is added to the old, and I am asking you to give it to me. And how could I ask you for less–it is so little. And how could you offer me less: it is so little. Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape….
….And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can’t begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives–both men and women–begin to experience freedom.
If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die.”
But I say, one day of freedom isn’t enough.
Sometimes I read stories of absolute horror, like the one I tweeted earlier today – ‘101 people knew what he was doing‘ – I read about how an Irish health board knew, as far back as 2000, what this man was doing to his daughters, and about how they did nothing about it and thus allowed the rapes and the sadistic violence to go on for another 10 fucking years, and I know, a 24 hour truce would have done nothing to help those girls. A 24 hour truce would have been meaningless to the living hell those girls and young women were forced to endure. No, a 24 hour truce isn’t enough, just as a 16 day campaign isn’t enough.
So, I refuse to set my sights so low. I refuse to simply settle for crumbs from the table, to be grateful for any tiny concession, any slight tweak of the law or bullshit lip service pronouncement that has no substantive impact on the lives of 50% of the world’s population. I refuse to settle for a break of 24 hours, or for 16 days: I refuse to settle for anything less than an end to it. Because I want the rape and the violence to stop. Not for 24 hours. Not for 16 days. But for good.