As many of you already know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. All over, people will be holding awareness raising events, engaging in activism, telling stories about their own experiences with sexual violence, and wearing turquoise ribbons.
But a common critique of “awareness” campaigns is that too often, the issue is one that most people are well aware of already. The problem in a lot of cases — not all, certainly, but many — is not making people aware that there is a certain issue in the world, but getting them to actually care enough to act and change oppressive social structures. Awareness is important, but on its own it’s not enough, especially when the most popular awareness campaigns center the most privileged voices.
Last month, Kaninchen Zero wrote a truly excellent post over at FWD/Forward, entitled We Need to Consider More than Universities. In it, she discusses the recent large discussion in feminist communities about sexual assault on college campuses, an issue that was featured at this blog as well as many, many others. She notes the importance of this discussion, but also points out that the sexual assault victims who are the most privileged and already visible are the ones who also receive the most attention in conversations about sexual violence. And she asks when we’re going to center the voices and experiences of more marginalized survivors.
Tying these two points together, it’s not necessarily that awareness raising work is done because most people are fully aware that sexual violence happens — it’s that a lot of awareness raising work is covering the same ground over and over again, and still failing to focus on the experiences of those most marginalized, those whose experiences and issues many still are “unaware” of.
In huge part thanks to inspiration from Kaninchen Zero’s post, Feministe has decided to run a short guest series throughout the month of April. For this series, we’ve asked numerous bloggers to write for us a single post each, designed to raise awareness about an issue that is too frequently overlooked and pushed to the edges of mainstream feminist discussions and anti-violence activism. We hope to have a couple of these posts appearing each week throughout the rest of the month.
We’re under no illusions that this is a “fix” to the problem of centering privileged voices in discussions of sexual violence, in feminism in general, or even at this blog. It’s rather intended as a very small step in the direction of decentering privilege, and an attempt to keep a dialogue open and to open new dialogues. It should also be stated that no post that you’ll read as a part of this series is in any way intended as some kind of definitive statement on the issue it addresses. Each and every issue discussed throughout this series is one that would take a full guest series of its own written by multiple authors, at the very least, to address fully and comprehensively. We’ve also left the style and angle of the posts up to our individual guests, and they will likely take a variety of forms, from factual analysis to personal narrative to anywhere in between.
As a final note in this lengthy introduction, I want to briefly discuss the subject of comment moderation. As always, we hope and expect that commenters will treat our guest bloggers with the same respect and consideration shown to the regular bloggers here, if not more. Further, in this particular series, a lot of difficult, triggering, and sensitive issues are going to be discussed, and we ask you to be mindful of that in composing your comments and criticisms. Many of our guests will be speaking from personal experience with sexual violence and marginalized identity — and it’s important to note that like always, you and I won’t necessarily know who they are. Many of our guests will also be stepping outside of their normal safe spaces where their voices are centered to speak to an audience where their voices are frequently not centered, and that can be a scary and unsettling thing to do. We’re incredibly grateful to all of those who have decided to make that move as a part of our series here, and hope you’ll show them the same gratitude. And as always, rape apologism will not be tolerated, and the comment policy stands.
This series is perhaps the last thing that could be called “fun,” but we are looking forward to it all the same. The first post will be appearing soon.
- President Obama Officially Recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month by Cara April 13, 2009
- Sexual Trafficking of Native American Women is Widespread by Cara December 22, 2009
- Making the connections: Sexual Violence in Native Communities by Cara April 19, 2010
- It’s Guest-Blogger Season by Jill July 2, 2012
- Confronting Citizenship in Sexual Assault by Cara April 14, 2010