Monday, November 29, 2010

Days: 4-5: Be Your Own Expert; Women-Human Rights: Violence is Not Our Culture

Day 4: Who's the expert? Break a Myth!

See the assorted actions that challenge media's self-appointed experts and consider even starting your own wiki (if you are not sick of wikileak stories that ignore women's issues)...

We also need to acknowledge our own expertise. In Patricia Hill Collins' book, Black Feminist Thought (chapter 11, 2nd ed): she challenges definitions of positivist experts and proposes a Black Feminist Epistemology (how we know what we know) or four criteria that are helpful for all of us.

1) We look at/respect the "experts'" lived experiences and their knowledge-wisdom
2) We use dialogue in assessing claims re knowledge or expertise and willingness to share back and forth.
3) We use ethic of caring--talking from the heart & respect.
4) We have personal accountability for one's expertise and how results or expertise are used; motives

These four points are in contrast to positivist methodology that emphasizes:
1) distance between research and subject;
2) absence of emotions;
3) "value" free
4) adversarial debates decide truth

For dealing with statistics and VAW, Hill Collins' criteria have guided my own work as a sociologist-feminist from the North. I value women's lived experiences with VAW and their own lives through my own research and spending time in women's lives and experiences in Bangladesh. I listened to and engaged in dialogue about my own understandings and women's and men's understandings. I also learned to be open about my own values, roles, and perspectives in gathering the oral and statistical data. Some times, based on these experiences, dialogues and feedback with Bangladesh colleagues, staff, and respondents, I changed my research questions, methodologies, and perspectives.

For example, instead of just listing signs of an abused woman in the Bangladesh domestic violence resource brochure, AKM Saiful Islam and I listed the signs of a good relationship (eng p2;. bn p2) first and signs of abusive relationships second. At the same time, I maintained that VAW was NOT just a matter of culture. Finally, I sought to be accountable for my research and my presence as well as the consequences for women participants and staff as I shared the research.

I suggest incorporating these criteria on our ways to empowering women to become experts in their own lives: listen to the women and their expertise because they have lived through VAW and suffered the consequences as well as being experts on survival. Support those who work through legal, political, and institutions to end violence against women. Share your experiences with one another inside and outside of the family to end the isolation and conspiracy of silence to maintain honor. Finally, reach out to one another if you suspect abuse.

Likewise, often when men heard that I was doing research on VAW in Bangladesh, they told me that they also were abused. I started listening to their narratives and learned what experiences they had defined as abuse: harsh words-actions from their spouse, socio-emotional dynamics of couples, and dowry and other pressures from their families. Although none of these narratives justified the physical, socio-emotional abuse, and abandonment of wives, the men's narratives gave me more insights on domestic violence in Bangladesh and possible solutions.

Day 5: Violence is not Our Culture--International Campaign

Read more about the campaign to stop stoning, honor killings, and other violence against women in the same of culture, religion, or tradition. Support women who bravely speak up for women's and human rights rather than demonizing and punishing them in the name of culture, religion.

Likewise, hold politicians accountable for what I call "opportunistic use of gender", where they use women's issues, rights, and/or violence against women as justifications for military action most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other arenas. Then assorted leaders turn to "cultural" reasons for ignoring women rights, empowerment and well-being in these countries' new/old regimes and in the presence of USA and allied forces for nine years! Ann Jones in argues that "Afghan women have already been abandoned." For example, escalating violence against women is cited as a reason for the USA presence in Afghanistan despite increasing Talibanization of Afghanistan. Male leaders have excluded women from negotiations-deliberations about reintegration of the Taliban.

So please read these and the women's stories from around the world on the campaign website...culture increasingly has been used to justify violence in the USA- Dr. Tiller's murder as well as around the world.

See also: Zainab Salbi: Women, wartime and the dream of peace | Video on

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