Mapping Anti-Violence Strategies

body_map.jpg

Among the often unacknowledged side effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the war on drugs are the economic and physical violence they inflict on women, particularly brown and black immigrant women. Driven from their homes, where U.S. policies and practices make it difficult or impossible for them to earn a living, or widowed by the disastrous militarization of the war on drugs, which has killed an estimated 120,000 people in Mexico in the last nine years, or fearing for their lives, as femicide against workers and students throughout Mexico has increased, women go north. 

They may be in economic thrall for years to the “coyotes” who smuggle them over the border, but the real physical dangers cannot be overstated. One sign of such danger is the growth along the U.S.-Mexico border of small storefronts that offer women short-term contraception or pills. The women know that they have a very high probability of being raped on their journey north and want to prevent pregnancy.

If the women make it to their destination, new types of violence and exploitation await them. In research in Chicago, my colleagues and I heard heart-wrenching stories. The women we worked with described daily assaults on their emotional and physical wellbeing, ranging from being denied bathroom breaks to being hit on by supervisors to barrages of invective.

Economic violence often results in physical violence. Therefore, we have to pay attention to and care for the bodies of the women affected. Rather than seeing themselves as helpless victims, women can act on their own behalf, and many are doing so to gain control over their violent environments.

As an example, my colleagues and I have worked with immigrant women to first identify their bodily harm and then map the places in their communities where they are most vulnerable and plan strategies to change the environment. The women work in small groups to develop trust with each other, then they draw life-size silhouettes of themselves. The group facilitator asks questions about the impact of violence on their bodies, and they paint, draw, collage, and write their answers on their “bodies.”

From the personal maps of their bodies, they go to the political maps of their communities. They discuss the different uses women make of spaces in their community, their right to use space, and when and where they are afraid to walk or enter. The next step is a community audit, in which the women walk, observe, comment about, and take notes of what is safe and unsafe, what is useful or not, and what is accessible or not in their environment. During walks in Norristown, Pennsylvania and Yautepec, Morelos, Mexico, the women cited cracked sidewalks that made it difficult to pass with a baby stroller, the lack of trees for shade on a hot day, shot-out street lights, and mounds of garbage in some of the alleys that provided cover for assaults. After the community audit, participants draw a map of their community and mark the positive and negative spaces. The group decides on the issues it wants to address and develops a strategy to make changes.

In Norristown, the body maps will be used in a public exhibit to raise awareness about gender violence, and the participants are working on developing a cooperative piñata-making business that will also give them some political leverage. They are working on electing council members who can be pushed to change the map of their community. In Yautepec, the women helped one of the group members who was robbed of all her flea market merchandise. They all (very poor women) pitched in and gave what they could of old clothing, tools and kitchenware so that she could resume selling. They have also organized to work with the local government to close down a drug/party house in their neighborhood.

Although not yet widespread, this comprehensive mapping shows promise as an inclusive way for society to challenge patriarchal and consumer-driven economics that contribute to unsafe cities for women. 

Sweet.jpg Elizabeth L. Sweet is a visiting assistant professor at Temple University in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies. She researches connections between the economy, violence, and identity in Mexico, Russia, Colombia, and the United States.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2015 issue of the Democratic Left magazine. 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.