Let’s Talk – A debate on sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence

At least one in five of the world’s female population has been physically or sexually abused by a man at some time in their life: this is one of the most important data that all the society must deal with. On February 18th in APY office took place an interesting debate about three very “hot” topics not only in Armenia, but in the whole world: sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence.

The three of them are very connected to each other, the main reason is that our culture, education, traditions taught us a way to think which is basically not more appropriate nowadays. During the debate a lot of people start a “little revolution”: the simple act to join a meeting and talk about these topics is very important to make the first step of change into the society: that’s how the peaceful revolutions are always starting.

Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex. It is the prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls. During the slides-show, we had the chance to discuss about some advertisement pictures which we found very sexists: in some pictures women were mistreated, or showed just like men’s objects. Someone of the participants of the debate claimed that maybe some behaviors that we consider as sexist ones are instead just “funny” male jokes, but after a little discussion we concluded that it is not just about silly jokes or behaviors, it is about the prejudice that underpins the sexist culture.

Why is it so dangerous for the society? Because everything that we think, that we say, that we do can make possible some sexual harassment, abuses or discrimination. The male chauvinism is simply the belief that men are superior to women: these men patronize, disparage, or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit. It comes from the patriarchal society, which imposes different roles for each gender. No one from the group agreed with this mentality: everybody asserted that this way of thinking is outdated and very shameful. Although one of the boys said that even the religious tradition brings a lot of examples in which the female role is lower comparing with the male role: during the marriage ceremony the groom “takes” the bride as his own property, and this could be seen as a sexist tradition.

During the discussion we came to the idea that even if the ritual is outdated, the most important thing is the intention of the groom and the bride to be equal, and to have the same opportunity and treatment. We asked to ourselves: how can we reach this important goal for the society? Here is the answer, from different points of view: Education plays an essential role: it should eradicate these two dangerous ideas (sexism and male chauvinism) from every child’s mind, otherwise they will flow very easily into the third and most dramatic problem: the gender-based violence.

When schools ignore sexist, racist, homophobic, and violent interactions between students, they are giving tacit approval to such behaviors. And the society will pay the dramatic consequences: “Violence against women” as a synonymous of gender-based violence is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and means all acts of gender-based violence that result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women. The debate was very lively at this point and the result which we reached is that violence against women is not just a “women issue” but it is an issue that concerns all men, and not just the perpetrators. Everybody could give an example in which he or she was involved in this topic.

Personally I can tell the story about my neighbors’ fight: when I’ve heard the punches I called the police, they should protect the victims of violence. One boy told us that when he saw a boy beating his girlfriend he immediately interposes himself to stop the fight. These are very simple but effective examples that we should take in consideration every time we see violence around us.

Some slides reported the important data about gender-based violence: around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime. If we want to stop this shame nobody should justify any form of violence against women by saying that this mentality is rooted in cultural institutions, traditions, beliefs, norms and practices. There is no justification for violence. Stop thinking sexist, make your own revolution, prevent violence!

Ester Violante, 
EVS volunteer in APY