For Immediate Release
Contact: Barbra Ramos, National Communications Director
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Rise Up Against the Missed and Missing (in) Education – We Seek Liberation, Not Assimilation!
AF3IRM Joins the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
NATIONAL–November 25th begins the international campaign for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. AF3IRM, in solidarity with women and allies the world over, recognize all too well the violence inflicted upon women, from the streets to the home, and this year we join others to raise awareness around gender-based violence and education.
Time and time again, we witness how educational institutions fail or harm students, particularly people of color and women in the United States. As transnational women of color, we must recognize that anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, denial of indigenous genocide, rape culture and murderous misogyny have been pervasive in schools around the country, from Mizzou to Yale to Umpqua Community College and San Diego State. We in AF3IRM realize that we, as individuals and as communities, will not survive if we accept the systems and attitudes of violence and oppression that are fostered and faced in schools.
Academic institutions often breed an unsupportive and hostile environment. They fail to accept, support, and retain more students of color, students of marginalized genders including transgender students, undocumented students, and students with disabilities. They lack diverse faculty and curriculum such as courses in ethnic, gender and LGBTQ studies. They often disrespect the community in which they are situated and turn a deaf ear to hate incidents on campus. Student activists who speak out and demand accountability from these institutions of higher learning are met with threats or disciplinary action.
For women of color, rape culture has destroyed the veil of safety and trust. One survey found that 1 in 4 college-aged women have survived rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Other findings have shown that college-aged women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault. Women are continually faced with the reality that they are not safe from sexual violence, whether it be unwanted touching, dating violence, stalking, or rape- on or off campus, by other students or even faculty, and are often met with slut-shaming or victim-blaming. Institutions provide little or no means to support victims.
Students today also live with another fear – for we have witnessed far too often now the violence committed during mass shootings by enraged misogynistic white males who decide to inflict their own pain and prejudice with bullets on college campuses. In school shootings, women are twice as likely as men to die and investigations have shown some shooters cite rejection by women as one of their grievances.
Around the world, we know that education for girls and women of color and the educational spaces we occupy are continually attacked and violated. There are girls and women that are still barred from receiving the education they deserve. Many who do have access are shot, disappeared or murdered for being in school. In some countries, war, displacement, and extreme poverty make education a luxury. And there are the realities here in the United States that aren’t often discussed – such as the girls of color who have gone missing from their middle schools and high schools, whether through the sexual assault to prison pipeline or from sex trafficking including prostitution.
Indeed, we know that for each one of us who makes it to the classroom, there are many more who never will. Yes, it is our duty to fight for theses spaces but we must recognize that for those of us who do make it, the reality of education, especially higher education, means that we are lucky and damned at the same time. Whether it involves not being able to afford college, the perennial state of debt, the lack of support services, the difficulty in caring for families or children while in school, or having to choose between a textbook or food on the table, the pursuit of education is a struggle. Even once we get our degrees and despite 51% of women getting their post-secondary degrees compared to 41% of men, we still face the wage gap and women of color especially trail in terms of pay.
But we choose education anyways, in and outside of the classroom, because we know that these oppressive structures cannot hold and that an educated woman is a threat. When we are in the classroom, we are told to assimilate – that our voices ringing out loud is unacceptable, that speaking our pain and truths is unacceptable, that making known the injustices we face every day is unacceptable.
We choose education anyways, but we do it our way. We seek liberation, in and outside of the classroom. In the face of such violence, inequity and indifference, we must seek an education that is for us. We challenge the racism, sexism, classism that uphold these skewed systems. We commit ourselves to the difficult work of undoing this education that ingrains colonized mentalities and self-hating tendencies, of undoing the violence of erasure and denial that ignores our histories and our cultures and diminish our worth. We demand more diverse representation within faculty, curriculum and the student body. We choose to disrupt this movement to treat education as a mere capitalist enterprise set-up to maintain class society. We refuse to bow down to male fragility and white supremacy that expect women to be sexually available even within institutions of learning. We push for safe spaces and protections for women and communities of color.
Beyond the classroom, we affirm the strength, power, and brilliance of women. We in AF3IRM choose to write our own transnational feminist theory and to remember our histories and document our stories. We provide alternative spaces of learning through public educational discussions and Summer Schools of Women’s/Youth Activism. We learn and honor the healing traditions and practices from our ancestors. We defy this “choice” we are dealt of being disappeared or dying by the system and we organize so that fewer and fewer of us are to be counted among the missing, murdered, and forgotten. We seek not the reformation of our societies – but its absolute transformation from its current heteropatriarchal, classist, and racist state.
Our survival is not dependent on what institutions can teach us, but on what we can do to change these systems and structures so that we may thrive. As Audre Lorde once said, “survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.”
Even in the midst of fear for our safety and for our communities, of the failure of educational institutions to support us on all fronts, we persist and we continue to seek to liberate ourselves, not just in the classroom but beyond it. Collectively, we will survive these assaults on our bodies, minds, and spirits. It is from what we learn from each other, our movements, and our reclaimed histories that our true liberatory education and our journey towards freedom will begin.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence includes: the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov. 25), International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (Nov. 29), International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (Dec. 2), Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (Dec. 6), and International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10). Throughout the 16 Days, AF3IRM chapters will engage in political education, subversive acts of resistance, and important dialogues that challenge the militarization, exploitation, and erasure of women and our communities. Visit our website for a calendar of events.