photo courtesy of Marvel Comics
The Conference on the Status of Women, 20 years since Beijing, is both great and awful. It's great because it brings strong and vital women from all corners of the globe to learn, research and share information on the status of women worldwide. It is bad because a great deal of the information is heartbreaking.
Forget the paucity of female leaders in the world. Before colonialism, there were many more female heads of community and tribe. But that all changed when patriarchy dug its boots in and as we all know, even the U.S. still hasn't had a female head of state.
What is more disturbing to me than the economic imbalance (which of course, ultimately affects everything else) is the continuing level of violence against women. In so called civilized world, human trafficking is a huge business... it is organized crime and women for the most part are its more constant victims. I think I know good and sane men, but there are plenty of men in the world who wouldn't think twice about the background of a girl they hire for casual sex... what got her into the spot in the first place, who is controlling her money and her life, let alone how she actually feels about having sex with him. This is possibly too much for a John to consider. After all, the world has been much more his oyster than it has women's, and the imbalance of power is quite a hard thing first to face, and secondly to give up.
That there are 13-year-old girls who are being trafficked is deplorable. These young girls are so young they can't even get a hotel room. They are everyone's daughter, niece and sister... truths that are forgotten in the heat of sexual commerce.
There are organizations like the Jewish Coalition to end Human Trafficking, among others, who work diligently to help the victims and global organizations ready to prosecute the perpetrators of this form of modern slavery. And there are other aspects of the organizations, like Caravan Studios, that work on giving the victims a chance to heal from the trauma.
Another infuriating topic is elder abuse. This subject interested me because I once made a film about Celtic witches. It was about the state of mind of witches, both men and women when they are thinking magically and the history of witches in England. But many elders in Papua New Guinea, and Africa and India, are accused of being witches, because they are old, disabled or without family protection. These are innocent women who are being tortured today. They are being blamed for a huge assortment of community maladies -- a family without a son, bad economic times, etc. the ancient role of sacrifice has never finished. Children who are a little different are also the scapegoat for the troubles of others and are tortured in ways too offensive to describe here. These are human right issues. It is the women who are pointing them out because it's mostly women and children who suffer.
In India, where so much violence against women has been recorded in the last year, how much work must be done to get the police and authorities, first to care and secondly, to do something?
When I leave these events, I'm exhausted. Tired from the horrific tales of global truths that are shocking -- and incredibly unjust. And tired from the energy it takes to not think about them all the time. But I do try and remember that at least these truths have shown up in New York City 2015 and that the first step in eradicating the problems is recognition. And that women, despite all the travails of sexism, are ultimately unbroken and more courageous than any sniper. And that there are even a few good men in attendance. Still, I won't sleep well tonight or for a long while after.