National Organization for Women 2011 Conference in Tampa looks at violence

06/27/11 Lachelle Roddy
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NOW is a national advocacy group focusing on fighting all forms of sex discrimination. NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, joined NOW and kicked off the weekend with a panel on feminist men in relationships. Ben Atherton-Zeman, the director of Voices for Men, said women have an understandable reason to still question the motives of feminist men.

One member of the Young Feminist Task Force, Micah Bochart, said feminist men have a responsibility to speak out against sexist crimes.

Neveen El-Nawawy is a Muslim community activist. She thinks women in Middle-Eastern states which manufacture oil -- or places with a higher standard of living -- are less likely to speak out about violence. She also says Islam and Feminism are not conflicting ideals as some would think.

Jerin Arifa, a NOW board member, said Americans should focus more on stopping the abuse of the women in their own backyard rather than the women in the Middle East.

A psychologist for sexual abuse, Juanita Baker, was a member of the audience during one panel discussion. Baker compared how Americans judge rape victims and how they dress with the way Islamic women are judged on their cultural dress. Amala Abdur-rahman, a recent law grad and member of CAIR-Tampa, said she wears her hijab as a way of expressing her American rights.

Fewer than five percent of sexual violence victims report the abuse to their school campus, according to one of the speakers, Holly Kearl, author and founder of Stop Street Harassment. Kelly Addington, CEO and President of One Student, said students should enact change and encourage their schools to join the No Woman Left Behind Campaign, an organization dedicated to stopping sexual violence against women.

The group Girls Inc. of Pinellas received the Girl Powered Media award for taking a stand against a sexually explicit billboard on 66th street. Girls Inc. takes the position that there is a correlation between sexual images of women and the violence their generation is facing. Melanie Campbell, the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, motivated the crowd with a victory chant.

Previous WMNF coverage of NOW panel on health care for women



One Student


No Woman Left Behind

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My comment

Thank you for the coverage of the NOW National Conference from so many of the different workshops; I loved the variety of workshops present. I just wanted to clarify my statement, to avoid any misunderstandings. As a global feminist, I am concerned about the violence against women in EVERY nation. However, when we constantly focus on gender-based violence in other nations - whether it's "honor killings" in Iraq or "dowry deaths" in India, we shift focus from similar incidents of domestic violence in our own communities. One of the points I made during the presentation is the problem of using terms such as "honor killings" and "dowry deaths." Both are terms used by abusers to justify domestic violence, and make it more difficult for domestic-violence victims to come forward if their abuse does not fit into those boxed categories. In Bangladesh, for example, if domestic violence murders are really "dowry deaths," and caused by the inability of poor families to pay the dowry to grooms’ families, it makes it that much more difficult for a victim whose dowry was paid to be recognized as a victim - both by herself and others. As someone who has worked in the anti-domestic-violence field for over a decade, I hear abusers from EVERY culture use culture as an excuse: whether it's a Muslim father using "honor killing," a Latino husband claiming it was the machismo aspects of his culture, or an American boyfriend claiming he didn't know any better because his father did the same. In each of these cases, there are plenty of men in similar circumstances who do not abuse their loved ones, despite swimming in the same cultures as the abusers. When we term domestic violence in culturally-specific terms, we enable abusers by allowing them to use the following excuse: "It's not my fault I was abusive to her - it's just part of my culture." We also put the victims in additional danger because they might not want to seek help when doing so would make them and their entire culture vulnerable to further racist attacks. If other cultures/religions were responsible for violence against women, how does that explain the high rates of domestic violence among Americans? One in four AMERICAN woman will/has been the victim of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Every 12 seconds, a woman is battered or raped in America. Every day, at least three women are murdered by their intimate partner. We must stop thinking of violence against women as a problem “they” have, and deal with the sexism within our own country if we want to help women globally. Thanks again, N. Jerin Arifa National NOW Board of Directors National NOW Young Feminist Task Force, Chair NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force, Chair National Organization for Women (NOW)

A minor correction

Thanks for your coverage! It was great to have you there, and I very much appreciate your spreading the word. I would make only one correction: while it is a highly admirable organization, NOMAS did not, in fact, produce the panel on male feminism in which I presented, nor am I a member of NOMAS. The panel was instead something that my co-panelists and I put together on our own. Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

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