Post by WAVAW Relief Staff, Jane
“Laugh and cry and tell stories. Sad stories about bodies stolen, bodies no longer here. Enraging stories about the false images, devastating lies, untold violence. Bold, brash stories about reclaiming our bodies and changing the world.”
― Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, I am thinking of the ways in which we honour and remember women who are missing, who have died, and who have experienced or been effected by violence. These next few weeks, which will include WAVAW’s “Feminist Understandings of Violence Against Women” discussion at VCC on December 3rd and the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women present powerful opportunities to commemorate, to grieve, to love, and to renew our ongoing struggle against violence against women. When discussing the 16 Days of Activism this morning, WAVAW women reminded me of the magnitude of this task when they said that it’s not just sixteen days, but every day that so many of us push back against gendered violence. I included Eli Clare’s quote above because while he specifically addresses disability and sexuality, he remarks beautifully upon how resistance is embedded in our every day, in small gestures of storytelling and laughter, and in our very bodies. Like the Marker of Change Memorial in Thornton Park, unveiled on December 6th, 1997, which honours all women murdered by men, the women who honour them daily in feminist work span time through their unshakable and resilient nature.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are a powerful reminder of the incredible feminist legacy that so many of us are a part of. Locally, we are able to reflect on the incredible work that women have accomplished in Vancouver. As a global event celebrating the incredible diversity of feminist activism that flows across borders, we have so much to reflect on in our present moment. Acknowledging the many Muslim women who are experiencing a new wave of violence after the Paris attacks of November 13th, the Syrian women and children fleeing their homes, and the strength of women resisting globalization, colonization, and white supremacy across the world will be an important part of these weeks for me. That women across the world resist the same oppressive, patriarchal structures is clear, and I am delighted that 16 Days of Activism addresses this through a strong international coalition politics.
Marches, memorials, and days of recognition provide radical spaces for celebration, conversation, challenging work, and imagining a world without violence. Supporting one another through shared stories is integral to feminist activism, and I know that the days to come will be energizing, allowing us all to bring strength and passion to our work. Resisting patriarchy, colonization, capitalism, and all of the other systems that perpetuate gendered violence often feels like an insurmountable project. Swimming upstream, or climbing a never-ending mountain, to use a popular Critical Disability Studies metaphor, is what feminists do. In fact, this work never stops after the rally or the memorial. Even when our posters and handouts begin to fade, we carry the women we have lost in our hearts, and the women we love and work alongside sustain us. Our work is rarely left at our desks or our gatherings, but becomes integral to who we are and what we dream of. Longing for justice, healing, and safety is a collective process that we never leave. As WAVAW women also remind me, you never do leave WAVAW, feminism, or activism. The work we do is only possible because of our enduring calls to action. I imagine not only sixteen days of activism, or one international memorial day, but a world in which we celebrate women in every moment, in every story, in every laugh and smile, in every breath.