Why I hate the #16days of activism

Ok, so the title might be a little strong but, in the light of the most recent events, 16 days of activism sound like a teasing joke.

1 woman in 3 is bound to be victim of physical, psychological or sexual violence in her life time.  One in three means that I have a mum and a sister, statistically one of us is gonna be a victim of violence.

Rape is off the charts, even more off the charts when it’s rape in conflict zones.

Brides are bought and sold every day by the dozens -Boko Haram and ISIL are two of the latest cases but just because they deal in huge numbers it doesn’t mean that the small countryside broker in India or China is any less responsible…

Women still die of childbirth, are still trafficked for commercial sex, in some countries they are not allowed to vote, drive the car, love who they love.

There are myriads of rights that we are deprived of on a daily basis, will 16 days of activism change the situation?  No.

It is true that a day is quickly forgotten whereas a whole two weeks are easier to stick to one’s mind.

What I’m suspicious of is the communication behind it.  It’s very thorough and very accurate, but often targeted only to those who already are sensitive to the matter: after a quick survey among my friends (n = 20) I discovered that only the 5 who work in the development sector were familiar with the campaign (25%), 7 had heard or seen something about it but hadn’t investigated further (35%) and 8 people (40%) had neither heard or saw anything about it -or maybe they don’t remember, but that’s exactly my point!-.

This means that from my rather small sample (but chosen quite accurately to reflect different sectors, jobs, age groups) 75% of people were, to different extents, unaware of what the #16days campaign is.  all of them work in the private sector or are currently unemployed but have a private sector background (it is true that the percentage of people working in development/social sector, in Italy, is negligible…)

So, in my country, where a woman was killed every two days in 2013 (and the data for 2014 is not out yet but it doesn’t seem it will be much better), most perpetrators are workers -often doing unskilled jobs- with a limited education and an unstable job.

Gender based violence IS a cross cutting issue, and denying that would mean denying recognition and support to women who are the victims of educated, wealthy men.

But not addressing the categories that, country by country are more at risk, is as big a crime.  In the majority of cases VAW in Italy is increasing due to work instability and the changing role of women.  Women still earn less than men and therefore, very often they remain the only breadwinners in the family, in a machista society that sees the man as the head of the household.  Suddenly the man, no, sorry, The Man has to cook, do laundry and care fore the kids, he has to ask his wife for money for cigarettes and gets reproached for going for a drink with his friends coz the money he is drinking was not earned by him.

It is far from my point to point the finger at less wealthy and less educated men, but it seems like this “we are all equal” rule is working against us.  If we don’t recognize differences we are never going to be able to face problems for what they are.

You, me, a man in Finland as much as a trangender in Australia are, with very few exceptions, shaken by the loss of their job.  Losing a job in most cases means losing, even if just temporarily, livelyhood and therefore needing to look for alternatives.  Worse is if you have a family.

If you transfer the sense of despair to a man who was raised in a society that brainwashed him since he was born with the concept that he is a MAN and has to provide for his family despair becomes depression and frustration.  He is not fit for his role.

Now, a lot of people have had the chance to experience different lifestyles, anglosaxons tend to be more open about stay at home daddies and spouses who follow their wifes’ career choices, but Italy is not there yet.  And until we face the fact that we can’t have the same campaign in Italy as we do in Canada, our campaigns will be useless.

This discrepancy reminds me of one of the biggest failures in public health history: HIV.

After the first cases were reported and after it was clear it was a sexually transmitted disease some genius pointed a finger at the gay community.  For years the solution was simple: as long as you don’t have gay sex you’ll be fine.

No one talked about drug users until the 90’s, then it was the time of the MTCT (mother to child trasmission) and women around the world looked at the languishing african mother unanimously thinking that her husband certainly slept with another man or a prostitute and she had to bear the cross of his sin.

How many lifes could have been saved if, right from the beginning, we had told people: “listen dude, anal sex and needle exchange are the two most likely ways of getting HIV, so please use new needles, condoms and lube.  Oh, for the record, if neither you or your partner have lesions and either you ar she are HIV +ve the chances to trasmit it are i in 300, you are more likely to get hit by a car in LA”.

We didn’t do it because talking about gays and drug users was (often still is) a taboo as much as saying to women “use a condim when having anal sex” -coz of course women aren’t supposed to even know what anal sex is, that’s for filthy gays and sinful whores!

So, we fucked up with HIV, it’s the history of humanity, trial and error, but now that we know how communication SHOULD be done, can we please proceed to save the lives of those who are still alive?


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