I am a great believer in the fact that if you pay enough attention and stop interfering in your own life, the universe often answers the questions you ask it. Today that was really brought home to me.
As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about violence and the damage we do to each other, the violence inflicted on women in particular, and the vulnerable in general. I’ve blogged about it on several occasions in the last week or two in one way or another.
In my last blog post I had come to the conclusion that punishment after the fact is not really an option in terms of stopping this stuff happening and moving forward. I’m not saying that people who do terrible things don’t need punishing by the way. I’m saying that it’s not how we solve the problem.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that meeting violence with violence is not the way. It really isn’t. I’ve had to think a lot about this recently. Tilly turns sixteen this summer. She is going to Sixth Form College. To all intents and purposes she is a woman. She will be virtually independent.
We have had discussions in the family about whether martial arts classes might be a good idea to help keep her safe when she’s out and about. The options have been wide and the discussion has been pretty intense. In the end Tilly decided for herself that she didn’t want to do them, in whatever form. She has agreed, however, that we will look at courses for women on being street smart, and how to avoid or get out of potentially dangerous situations. There will be elements of self defence involved, but it is not the main focus of the course, and they look at using violence as a last resort.
The discussion has raised lots of issues, but I think we have hit on the right solution. Just because she may meet violence doesn’t mean that she needs to engage at the same level. Violence, in my opinion, only breeds more violence.
I believe we need to change our thinking, not just men, by the way, everyone needs to address their thinking. I believe we need several things to happen:
We need to educate everybody, not just boys, and not just in academic subjects. Until there is parity in education, and until we address issues like equality and fairness and humanity, and treating each other with dignity and grace as a part of that educational process, I really don’t think we’re going to get very far.
Today I signed this petition, the Stand #Upforschool petition, which is trying to reinforce the commitment made by the United Nations in 2000, which wants to see every child in school by the year 2015. Currently there are 31 million girls worldwide, being denied an education. Let’s change that. You can sign that petition here.
I believe that education is not just for schools though. We need to teach our children, right from when they are babies, about what is right and kind and generous and beautiful about each other. We need to reinforce that every day, whether it’s through simple good manners, or helping people in need, or sparing a thought for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
I believe we need to instil in our children the understanding of our shared humanity, not what divides us. I believe we should celebrate what makes us unique and come together because of the traits we all share. Today I saw this, and it summed it up perfectly.
We also need to talk to our children, and our peers, everyone in fact, about things we would sometimes rather not talk about. We need to stop keeping quiet about things that make us uncomfortable, or disgusted, or sad, or things we feel are inappropriate. I am not saying, by the way, that we need to be utterly graphic, but how can we stop things like the thirty odd years of Jimmy Savile’s abuse of the most vulnerable people in our society if nobody speaks, and nobody listens and people turn a blind eye?
We tell children these days to speak out, but if we don’t like to talk about the things they’re supposed to speak out about how can they learn to be unafraid and have a voice if the people they’re supposed to be trusting with information are afraid and don’t use their voices? What example do we set if we do not speak?
I believe we need to stand up for what is right. Someone asked me if I really thought the things I write and say make a difference. They asked me if I thought that my tiny voice against all those other voices, or all that hate, or all that violence would really do anything to change the world?
I don’t think Rosa Parks thought she was going to change the world when she refused to get up for a white person on a bus one day. I think she just thought she was doing her small part. That small part became massive, because one tiny action was a catalyst for others to do their part, and together all those little actions, small voices, tiny gestures, changed history. Rosa Parks was an ordinary woman. If an ordinary woman can stand up and do her bit and help change history, we can all stand up and do our bit and help change history.
Here’s what I think. My tiny voice might only reach one person, but if that one person reaches another, and another, things will change. If my tiny voice only affects my children, it will carry on with their children and so on. I don’t think I’m going to change the world overnight, but I KNOW that I can change my own reality, and I KNOW that there is a chance I can change more. Why not take that chance? If I sow the seed, it might grow. If I keep it in the packet, it won’t.
And my tiny voice might just sit alongside someone else’s. I read this interview with Caitlin Moran today and what she says at the end really resonated with me. It’s on the subject of feminism, but I’m applying it in the wider context of showing up and speaking up here:
Feminism works like a patchwork quilt. We all do our little square and we stitch it together. If you are waiting for a super feminist to come along, if she fucks up once, everyone will go, “Oh, that’s feminism over and done with for another decade.” But if we are all doing it together, we can never break it. Feminism is as strong as whoever is taking part in it, which is why I invite you to come and be a feminist now. Come and make it stronger. Come and take part in the quilt. We’ve got booze. You can wear whatever shoes you like. It’s going to be a riot!
It made me think of the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the powers Buffy has become shared universally so nobody is powerless against their demons again. You don’t have to wait for the super hero to show up and save you. You are the super hero.
I’m polishing up the bit of me that’s Buffy.