Preventing violence against women is a long-term endeavour. It requires deep cultural change in the way that we, as a community, practice our gendered interpersonal, family, workplace and social relationships. Alongside that cultural change, it means building women’s equality into our systems and structures, laws and policies.
We’ve already come a long way. Today, we know that gendered inequality is a key driver of violence against women. However we also know, but not quite as well, that focusing on gender alone will not change the story for all women.
The good news is that we are not starting this huge undertaking from a blank slate, thanks to feminism. According to our documented history, feminists around the world started eliminating violence against women hundreds of years ago. In Australia, for example, women’s rights activists like Rose Scott and Louisa Lawson campaigned to stop violence against women since the late 1880s, advocating for women’s suffrage as a route to autonomy and equality.
But as we are well aware, the suffrage movement had its exclusions, based as it was on winning the vote for white women only. When it comes to eliminating violence against Aboriginal women and migrant women in Australia, we don’t have the same head start, which is not to say that we haven’t been fighting and winning our own battles for women for centuries.
At least since the 1970s, drawing on intersectional thinking from the United States, migrant and Aboriginal feminists have been raising awareness about the ways that racism intersects with gendered inequality to contribute to violence against women. Strategies to prevent violence against women must oppose racism as much as they oppose sexism, in order to be meaningful, not just for Aboriginal and migrant women, but for all women. Without addressing all forms of violence, without addressing all women, we only band-aid the problem. An intersectional approach to prevention is needed in order to truly leave no one behind.
This of course is our next major challenge and here at MCWH we’re on it. Keep your eyes out for our latest resource, ‘Intersectionality Matters’, on our website in early December and get a head start on taking an intersectional feminist approach to prevention.