Vanessa Vazquez Laba, a scholar feminist and researcher in gender studies in Argentina, with whom I share a first name, activism, and intellectual interests, hits me on Valentine’s Day with the following message:
There have been 57 femicides in the first 43 days of 2017 in the country, and the government has suspended the funding of universities for research on gender based violence.
57 femicides in 43 days…
A heartbreaking message to receive in Valentine’s day, isn´t it?
What does this mean? According to the definition accepted by the majority of women’s rights activists and scholars, “Femicide is a sex-based crime, generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women.” . The World Health Organization states that a Femicide is:
Usually perpetrated by men. Most cases of femicide in the world are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.
57 women in 43 days… It means 57 human beings were murdered, most of them in the hands of someone they trusted and shared an intimate relationship with, after a painful process that included different types of violence to deplete their sense of value and personhood.
One woman murdered every 18 hours.
57 women most of whom were abused for one they loved.
Maybe you are wondering, as in the famous song performed for that outstanding singer and domestic abuse survivor Tina Turner: What’s love go to do with it?
When we realize that the most of these women lost their lives while being at home at the hands of their partners, husbands, boyfriends, fiances… we know that love has all to do with it: “Romantic Love” is a patriarchy’s device that keep us in relationship based in inequality and makes us vulnerable to dismissing, violence and .. death.
Dates such as Valentine’s Day promote a kind of love based on patriarchal patterns, rooted in ideas of submission and co-dependence, macho-alpha masculinity, and pleasure through the consumption of goods. In this scenario, women’s bodies are goods subject to the discipline and power dynamics of heterosexuality.
Patriarchy contaminates everything including also the way we “Fall in love” and understand “Love.” Patriarchal romanticism is a cultural mechanism to perpetuate and legitimate inequality, much more powerful than laws because through it, inequality nests in our hearts. We come to think of love through the concept of private property and from the basis of inequal power between men and women. Our culture idealizes female love as an unconditional love, selfless, surrendered, subdued and subjugated. Women are taught to wait for and to love a man with the same devotion that we love God.
Sociologist Coral Herrera Gomez says: “Women have been taught to love man’s freedom, not our own”.
For love, we women hold on to situations of abuse and exploitation.
For love, we join with horrendous kinds of men that at first seem charming princes, but then they cheat us, take advantage of us, or live at our expense.
For love we endure insults, violence, contempt. We are able to humble ourselves For Love, and at the same time to boast our intense capacity to love.
For love, we sacrifice ourselves, we let ourselves be annulled, we lose our freedom, we lose our social and affective networks.
For love we abandon our dreams and goals.
Romantic love is a cultural device that also aborts any possibility of encounter, understanding and sorority among women, because:
In the name of love, we fight against other women for the exclusive attention of a man.
In the name of love, we see other women as enemies.
In the name of love, we speak ill of the ex-wife of our present object of affection.
In the name of love, we blame “The Other Woman” for the infidelity of our husband or boyfriend, removing accountability from who actually must be accountable.
And we compete with other women with enmity forever, we lose everything.
This kind of “Love” is so dangerously relevant for women, because it is from this that we have been socialized to build our identity as individuals, rather, as a reflection of other individuals who are considered to be actual people in this world.
Because we have been taught that this LOVE, will purify us, dignify us, give us visibility, a place in the world, a role, a status, will elevate us above the rest of people; is more, much more than love: It’s salvation and redemption. We won’t be perceived as losers, as failure, as leftovers. We will be people with value and purpose: Wife, Lover, Mother, Help. And for this prize, we are told we must forget about ourselves, because “Love is worth the sacrifice.”
We do not see or do not want to see how this isolates us and makes us vulnerable in a patriarchal system in which our lives are worthless because, for a start, we are not considered people, so we have to fight every day to claim our humanity.
In order for women to stop dying in the “domestic peace” of their private world, the concept of love, as well as the relations and dynamics of power that manifest in its framework, must be addressed, challenged and eradicated. The personal is political: Intimate relationships reproduce the inequalities that we live in society as a whole.
Coral Herrera states:
It is vital that we understand that love must be based on good treatment and equality. But not only to the spouse, but to the whole society. It is essential to establish egalitarian relations in which differences serve to enrich each other, not to submit to each other. It is also essential to empower women so that we do not live “in love,” and also to teach men to manage their emotions so that they quit violence, control and need of domination in the way the interact with women and can control their anger and their fear, to embrace that women are not personal objects, but life companions.
We need to push for social justice and equality from the very depths of our lives. As Chilean activist Margarita Pisano (RIP) used to say: “As women, we want and deserve a social justice that starts from our beds to the workplace and towards the streets”.
Other ways of “being in love” for a fairer, safer and more compassionate society. A love that includes dignity and rights.
57 in 43 days.
57 more for each day, in every city, anywhere in the world.
They loved and trusted.
They were deadly in love.
Till death tore them apart …
“This day is to celebrate women who hold roses, but also to remember the women who have bloody noses…” – Zubeida Shaikh
Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente works in community development, gender equality and communication for social change. She has led initiatives for women’s empowerment in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Morocco and South Africa. As a Gender Justice advocates with a broad scope of interests, she is a social and digital entrepreuneur commited with the strengthening of grass roots organizations and the developing of an independent pathway of thinking, research and academic writing around Gender, Politics and Religion. Loyal lover of books, cats and spicy Chai.