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.

 

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 77 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner 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? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

July 06, 2017
· 22 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

July 09, 2017
· 5 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.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

Running for the National Political Committee

July 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join this call to hear a presentation and ask questions about the role, duties and time commitment of a member of DSA's National Political Committee. In the meantime, check out the information already on our website about the NPC.

Feminist Working Group

July 12, 2017

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 11 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.