Not Far Enough, Baby


POINT is pleased to welcome T. Dean Adams to the fold with this first offering of what will be a regular column dedicated to exploring feminist issues and ideas.

Recently I tried to stay calm while confronting blatant sexism in a business meeting. Maybe the men truly did not understand what they were doing was wrong. Or perhaps they were just not used to being called on it.

A few weeks before, a male friend had said, "I sincerely don't know women are still fighting for. What's still unequal?" I was horrified at the question, and more horrified at my inability to answer the question thoroughly.

Passed down from one generation to the next, ideas about `real men' and `a woman's place' are instilled at an early age and are difficult to change... At least one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way.

United Nations report

There is so much work to do. Being an activist is tiring. I am eternally grateful to the people who do it all the time. The guilt of not being an activist is also exhausting. But being an activist doesn't have to mean that you go to every meeting and be involved with every organization. (Though it's also very fulfilling.)

Educating people you interact with in your day-to-day life is one of the most effective things you can do to promote feminism. And as I have humbly realized, you can't educate someone if you don't know the facts yourself. The purpose of this column is to empower you to provide information when the need arises.

So what should we be active about?

Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, recently wrote, "With the (Supreme) Court balanced 5-to-4 on abortion, and several justices expected to retire shortly, con-stitutional protection of abortion rights depend on the next president and the justices he names. As we head into this election season, we have never had more at stake."

The State of World Population Report 2000, released in September, said discrimination and violence against women "remain firmly rooted in cultures around the world," stopping many from reaching their full potential.

"Passed down from one generation to the next, ideas about `real men' and `a woman's place' are instilled at an early age and are difficult to change," the report said. The report also said that at least one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way. One in four is abused during pregnancy.

The statistics on violence against women in the United States are disturbing. Here are just a few:

  • Every day, four women die at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends. That's about 1,400 women a year, according to the FBI.
  • 572,000 reports of assault by intimates are officially reported to federal officials each year.
  • Conservative estimates are that 2 to 4 million women are battered each year, with 170,000 of those incidents serious enough to require hospitalization, emergency room care or a doctor's attention.
  • About 132,000 women report being victims of rape or attempted rape, and more than half knew their attackers.
  • Two to six times as many women are estimated to not report being raped.
  • Every year, 1.2 million women are raped by their current or former male partners, some more than once.
  • Young women, women who are separated, divorced or single, low-income women and African-American women are disproportionately victims of assault and rape.
  • Violent attacks on lesbians (and gay men) have become two to three times more common than they were before 1988.

Statistics can be overwhelming and leave you wondering what impact you can really have. But there are many ways to make a difference.

Women from more than 145 countries are organizing the World March of Women 2000 on Oct. 15 to show the world that supporters of women's rights are the overwhelming majority.

Organizers planning the Washington, D.C. events have a mission. "We unite with women around the world to demand that leaders of the United States, the United Nations and other institutions of power work to: Eliminate poverty and ensure a fair distribution of the planet's wealth between rich and poor and between men and women; Eliminate violence against women; and Ensure equality between women and men."

International Women's Day in March began the events worldwide, and on Oct.17, the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, women representing every participating country will meet at the U.N. to demand improved programs to eradicate poverty and violence again women.

Also in Washington, DC, on Oct. 12_14, NOW, the Women's Institute for Sport and Education (WISE) and the White House Millennium Council will hold "A Century of Women: The National Symposium of Recognition" to highlight the contributions women have made over the past century. On Oct. 14 _16 feminists from around the world will address serious health issues for women at the Women's International Symposium on Health (WISH). A Virtual March is being planned for Oct. 17 so activists around the globe can show their support.

You can get involved even if you can't attend the march by visiting and filling out a postcard that will be sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations stating your support of the march's mission. You can reach the NOW Naitonal Action Center at 202-628-8669 (ext. 0) to have petition forms sent to you.

If you have information on events, legislation, organizations or topics that seem appropriate for this column, please contact me at or through the POINT office.

Remember, silence is approval. So here's to getting the facts so we can speak up with ease and power. Keep the faith and spread the word!

T. Dean Adams lives, works and teaches writing in Columbia.

Home, Please

© Copyright by POINT, 2000