*note: this blog is an entry from 07-13*
In our class discussion, the main focus we had was on women's rights and violence against women. As an introduction to this, we watched a film called "Difret." I was confused by the title and not understanding its context but as soon as the first ten minutes passed my attention and eyes were glued to the screen. The story is about a fourteen-year-old girl who gets abducted by a group of men on the way home from school as part of the traditions in certain areas of where she was living. One of them had knocked her unconscious then proceeded to rape her and then make her his wife. She had escaped and killed the man using his own rifle and awaits a trial where she is being prosecuted for murder. Being forced to leave her family and home to be in protective custody for her own safety from the men who want her dead, she struggles fighting for her rights as a human and a woman along with the help of her attorney.
This story literally broke my heart while watching it. I could not imagine the pain and sorrow she must have been after going through all of that. If I was in her position I don't even have faith that I would be able to stay strong myself. I knew about the hardships it was in other countries with rape and loss of human rights, but I never understood it until actually witnessing it with my own two eyes even though they're just actors. It was a true culture shock that I believe many people need to see.
Once the movie was finished Angie had given us a lecture about the Women's Movement and Feminism along with intersectionality. Throughout time women were left out of equality movements and weren't taken seriously as people especially during the 18th-19th Centuries when we struggled for suffrage. Throughout different aspects in time, women made different movements that contributed to claiming their rights as citizens and to me their own choices such as the first women's rights convention in 1848 and the Declaration of Sediments where men and women were finally made equal on a written document. A lot of the times women were not given the credit that they deserved for the work they’ve done such as the labor in the factories during WWII and being such strong abolitionists protesting in the march for the Civil Rights movements. Women were judged based on the stereotypes and social construct of what they are "expected" to do. In 1966, the National Organization of Women was established to kill these false and misleading images of women and reinstate new ones.
As time went on women slowly began gaining their rights throughout time. In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on gender and by 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendment bars bias due to gender too. This allowed more of an equal opportunity for women to get into college, find a job, play on a sports team, etc. If women had not protested and raised awareness about NOW, I am not even sure if we would have our rights now. They used intersectionality (theory used to describe people who are being discriminated or have violence against them in multiple forms) as a way of unity and the Stand Point Theory (common experiences or challenges that join people together). Women may still not be completely equal to men as of today, but at least we are more respected than before.
In the afternoon, the guest speaker Dr. Salamishah Tillet, showed us a presentation on the different types of ways freedom was incorporated into music. From past to present day music is used to send messages of different meanings in an artistic and influential way. She introduced to us artists such as Nina Simone, Shirley Verrett, Abbey Lincoln, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce and how their music has shown strong influence in their own definitions of freedom and justice. Other leaders such as Harriett Tubman, Harriett Jacobs, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells are also major influences who expressed their truths in different ways, most of which were associated with freedom for slaves and make peace with those lynched or passed.
It’s hard listening to the hardships and struggles of those from the past as well as the present. The reality of the world is so much harsher than what it is perceived to be. I have the most respect for these people and I appreciate their effort in making a social change within their society. Hopefully all of us will learn from these activists and push forward a better future not allowing history to repeat itself.