Sunday, February 14, 2010

Facing HIV/AIDS: How Dominant Society and Marginalised Community Conspire to Kill. Racism + Misogyny + Heterosexism + Classism = GYNOCIDE for Black Women

[photograph of Linda Royal-Herman is from here]

What is blockquoted is from *here*.
Look at me, take a long, hard stare.
I'm the face of HIV. I represent every woman 25-34 who has died or is dying from AIDS.
AIDS is the leading cause of death in African American women in this age group.
So, LOOK at me!

Do you think I'm ready to die? I'm not ready. I don't want to leave my children, family, and friends. LOOK at me!

Can you honestly tell me we can't change the statistics by raising awareness? Can we not see the Consequences of our actions? Oh God, is anybody even listening to me? LOOK at me!

Now, take a long hard look at yourself and answer this question:
What am I going to do today to raise awareness of HIV & AIDS?

To learn more about Linda R. Herman and her passion for saving lives by raising awareness, please visit
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What follows is from *here*.

Reproductive Control and Race: the Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
6 07 2009

Please try to overlook the amateur and somewhat sensationalist writing style of the author and read this very important and revealing article on reproductive control in abusive relationships between men and women.

Now, for many of you reading this, this may not really be news. Many of you seasoned feminists/women’s liberationists are familiar with the fact that abusive and controlling men use various methods to oppress and control their female partners. Hell, these abusers all seem to follow a “Domestic Violence for Dummies” manual. But rarely ever do folks in the mainstream, and, more disturbingly, most social workers, doctors, nurses, and counselors, recognize pregnancy or repeated requests/questions for and about contraceptives and condoms as red flags for spousal abuse. I’ll admit, I didn’t really think too hard about the particular issue of reproductive control until reading the above article.

But here is a part of the article that really stuck out at me:

And it’s not just about pregnancy. Dr. Anne Teitelman, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, is an expert on partner abuse and HIV risk. In her published review on this link among adolescent girls, she found six studies identified an association between intimate partner violence and increased risk for HIV (as in condom non-use). Among adolescent girls, survivors of partner abuse are significantly more likely than others to be diagnosed with an STD.

When I lived in the Washington D.C. area, and marched many years ago at The March For Women’s Lives, I remember learning that D.C. has some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country. D.C. has a huge black community, and black women, in particular, are at much higher risk of HIV infection than their male or white and other non-white female counterparts. This should be raising a red flag. Nay, sounding an alarm call!

So why do many folks not associate higher rates of HIV/STD infection with possible partner abuse? I think there are many reasons: one, that consciousness regarding domestic violence and partner abuse is practically nill in our society; two, that much of the dialogue we DO have about hetero male-on-female partner abuse is rife with myths and misconceptions (“she drove him to get angry and hit her,” “he couldn’t control or help himself” “visible bruises and lesions are the main or only indicator of spousal abuse” etc. blah blah de blah) combined with the fact that dialogue surrounding HIV and STDs is also laden with misogynist myths (“people (i.e. women) who sleep around are more likely to get STDs/HIV,” “gay people are much more likely to get HIV/STDs because they’re promiscuous, evil, etc.” yadda yadda); and three, black women (who are, in various regions of the U.S., at much higher risk of HIV infection) are certainly not thought of as typical victims of domestic violence. If you are fortunate enough to even get a news report on a homicide related to domestic violence, you often hear about a pretty middle-upper class white woman who’s been shot or stabbed by her husband. If one was to use the news as a representative of all that’s going on in the world (and, yes, many folks do this, without even knowing it) one would think that only pretty, affluent, virginal white girls are the victims of rape or abuse.

But this is not the reality. The stereotypes surrounding black women include the idea that they are too “tough” or “unfeminine” to be physically or mentally abused by male partners, that they have animalistic or “wild” sexualities that make them “unrapeable.” Add to that the oppressive and eerie silence withing the “Black community” regarding domestic violence, incest, and other forms of violence against women…And the fact that society and the media don’t really care about the lives of black and poor women. These misogynist and racist tendencies in our culture make it hard for people to consider that many black women are indeed on the receiving end of partner abuse. In fact, out of all of the racial and socioeconomic groups of women in this country, black women, I believe, are the most susceptible to rape, domestic violence, and spousal abuse particularly BECAUSE of the stereotypes that surround black female “sexuality” (as if there was only one) and femininity. I am not at all arguing that other groups of women do not experience rape and abuse at the hands of men on a massive scale. But I am claiming that pervasive ideas about black women and sexuality/femininity in American culture have created dire consequences for many working class and poor black women (I am not even going to debate with anyone on the clear link between classism and racism in the U.S.) who are stuck in abusive relationships. If a poor black woman is even lucky enough to have access to condoms or birth control at a clinic or institution, it might more easily be tampered with or taken away by an abusive male partner that wants to control her through her body. Combine that with the idea that black women are immune to, or “tough enough,” to handle such a boyfriend or husband and you have a recipe for disaster. The crazy and disturbing thing is that these misconceptions about black women are pervasive both in mainstream (white-centered) society and the “black community.”

We need to deconstruct and rid of common myths regarding women’s bodies, black women’s sexualities and lifestyles, and men’s behavior, in addition to lifting the shunning silence surrounding violence against women and girls among many black folks, if we want to make a change.

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