When I learned that TEDxWomen was going to be held in Rosario, I thought to myself: “Yet another event to talk about gender-based violence! You know what, I’m tired of it”.
It’s not about the subject, but the approach. I think that we do the same with many other issues and we do not even realize it. We don’t try to understand them or analyze the causes, we just focus on their consequences and implement quick fixes. Two things come to my mind when I hear people talking about gender-based violence:
- The problem is not really about gender-based violence but violence itself. We are a violent society.
- Women are not victims, they have the power to stop violence.
In Argentina, I think that gender-based violence is part of a bigger problem.
I’m sure many of you are thinking: “I never hurt anyone” or “I wouldn’t hurt a fly”. However, how many of you said good afternoon to the people you came across today? How many of you stopped for pedestrians in the crosswalks while driving? And what about the excessive use of car horns? We see violence outbreaks inside and outside football stadiums, where fanaticism shows its darkest side. Think about the football chants addressed to the rivals. Undoubtedly, violence is everywhere. What I’m trying to say is that gender-based violence is just another form of violence.
I remember one occasion when I was little and my mom was driving me to school like every day and a man yelled at her: Go wash the dishes! This everyday example shows, on the one hand, how intolerant we have become and, on the other hand, the machismo and roles that our society has defined for each of us.
That day, like “Bombita Darín”, my mom replied to this gentleman: “I’ve got a dishwasher”. These were the two fundamental lessons that I learned that day:
- I was not born to wash the dishes. There are machines that can do it for me.
- I would not let anyone tell me what I can or have to do because I am a woman.
I’m not saying that we have to start shouting out loud but that we need to understand that we are responsible for the current situation in which millions of women suffer from gender-based violence. It’s not only about physical violence but also about aggressions in the private or public sphere. We see it on TV, on magazines, on the streets.
A few days ago, I read an article that sums this up in a brilliant way.
“This article is about fairy tales that tell girls how we have to wait to be rescued by Prince Charming and how important it is to wait for our significant other. Cinderella can only be happy when Prince Charming rescues her. Before that, she can’t do anything for herself.
Ads show moms telling her daughters how frustrating it is when stains won’t disappear from clothes. I think there are other things that could be a little bit more frustrating.
Ads also tell us that we can only have some rest once we are done with all the cooking, dish washing and even after we use all the body lotions they try to sell us. And please don’t tell me your skin is dry and you have some extra pounds. The world wants us to be perfect.”
In 2013, I was involved in a program for women where I was assigned a mentor to support me on developing women in Argentina for a month. Joan is a unique creative person, very perceptive and full of energy. During the month we spent together, we came to know each other very well. She has a personal motto that fits in right here. She always says that we have to accept that, at some point in our everyday lives, we are average students. Sometimes we are going to be average wives, average mothers and average employees. When we accept that, we are going to be happy with ourselves.
I don’t want to sound feminist, but my point is to make us aware that this is a situation we all create (men and women). For this reason, men and women alike hold the responsibility to change it.
We live in a country where women’s rights have been guaranteed from a long time ago, at least in writing. There are women who run companies, drive taxis, fly planes and even run a country. Our generation was lucky to be born with certain rights that are now taken for granted. However, it seems that women are not able to get rid of machismo and prejudices.
How many times do we hear: “Girls don’t do that” or “You should not hit women”? And this is generally coming from mothers when talking to their own children. What is it that girls can’t do? Who says they can’t? Is it because they are girls that they can’t be hurt? Or is it because they are human beings that women can’t be hurt and should be respected as any other human being?
I think that it is pretty simple. Nothing is going to change until women are truly convinced that we are equal to men. Only then we will be able to stop seeing ourselves as weak persons or victims. There can be a million laws that make us equal, promote or guarantee our rights, but we have to change in our daily life to make a real change.
Why am I saying that women are not victims but have the power to stop violence? I’m not saying that women are responsible because they wear a short skirt or, in the words of a famous TV hostess addressing a guest: “What did you do to get hurt?” I’m not saying this at all. What I’m trying to say is that, from the moment we stop believing in ourselves, when we consume without asking questions or when we choose to follow certain role models, we become responsible.
So, the first step is to want and believe in something because we want it and believe in it. The rest can be summarized in one word: SELF-ESTEEM.
The key is to increase self-esteem, ours and that of a friend or a colleague we want to help but don’t know how. How do we do this?
I’ve been working for the last 7 years on developing young people. I used to work from 8 to 5 in the Human Resources office in a car factory and, in my free time and even during work hours, I volunteered in a foundation where I work now as a Program Director. This did not happen overnight and it wasn’t easy. The truth is that I took the chances. I always say that there is no turning back on this path I chose.
Along this path, I become a girls’ mentor – teenagers who live in Rosario and also other women living here and in other parts of the world. I learned that mentoring is more about listening rather than talking and more about listening to the things that are left unsaid. If we really listen to others, we will be able to understand everything about them, to return them their self-confidence and to help them follow their own paths and be whoever they want to be, instead of waiting for Prince Charming to rescue them because they own their future.
I think that we need to understand that gender-based violence is just a part of a bigger problem, that we are all victims and also responsible for it. Once this happens, we will be part of the solution instead of the problem.
Program Director El Desafío
May 28 2015