By Ariana Barer
For the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, I’m thinking about the courage it takes to tell anyone about sexualized violence and the nothing-less-than-heroism of making it public enough that this strength becomes a life-line for others. I’m thinking specifically of Angel Haze’s song Cleaning Out My Closet and her powerful, graphic, and honest words about growing up with sexual abuse [trigger warning].
Music can reach out and grab us when nothing else can. I want to honour this spectacularly feminist use of social media and hip hop to let young people know they are not alone. Angel Haze has a life-saving message for those who are considering suicide: she’s been there, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to see just how much more effective these two little videos are than whatever symptoms the latest anti-bullying policies are trying to tackle while ignoring root causes of violence. Do we need more closed door discussions from government, taking precious time to find their version of the truth of what is killing young people?
What if we really listened to girls, queer youth, First Nations youth…? What if we heard what they were already telling us… what we already know…? Oppression is responsible for taking lives and bullying is learned from men committing acts of violence against women with impunity, police committing acts of violence against protesters with impunity, governments waging bloody wars for economic gain with impunity, politicians ignoring decades of oppression with impunity, advertisers waging war on self-esteem with impunity…
The best anti-bullying, anti-suicide strategy is systemic, social, and attitudinal change. Our lives depend on seeing value in each other.