Every year for the past three years or so, on February 14th- Valentines Day, I see this picture all over social media. People comment, “Like”, laugh and move one. And every year I am angry, I am disgusted, and just disappointed. The caption in the picture is interpreted in English as ” Happy Valentines Day”.
Valentines Day, in the United State and other parts of the Western world is an unofficial “holiday” where people express love for one another through gift giving, art, etc. What always intrigues me the most about Valentines day is how actively U.S children participate in the holiday, they usually bring cards and candy to school and exchange gifts with their friends. They believe in this holiday just as much as they do in holidays like Christmas, Easter, Ramadan. I asked a young girl what valentines day is to her yesterday at a community center and she told me “A day of love, duh!”
Hmmm…so this picture takes the idea of Valentines day, “a day of love”, and turns it into a sick, sarcastic joke by incorporating it onto a violent image of a man hitting a woman. Because the caption is an Amharic, one of the languages of Ethiopia, I am interpreting both the man and the woman in the image to also be Ethiopian. And the following statistics and comments is specifically about violence against women in Ethiopia and Ethiopian diaspora, however violence against women is prevalent in every society and culture all over the world.
I am all for humor, I am all for critiquing ourselves by laughing at ourselves, but I say this with every cell in my body when I scream THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY OR HUMOROUS ABOUT THIS PICTURE.
The violence that is committed against women, women of color, Black women, African women, Ethiopian women is not a joke to laugh at.It is real. It is serious. It is happening every minute of every day. The Patriarchal structure in Ethiopia’s society and culture results in violence against women. The United Nations describes violence against women as “An act of gender-based violence results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” The type of violence displayed in this image is domestic abuse. A study of domestic violence in Ethiopia done by the World Health Organization showed that 71% of ever-partnered women experience either physical or sexual violence. Of these 71 %, 19 % have been injured, injuries included bruises, sprains, dislocations, injuries to eyes and ears, fractures and broken teeth. Of women who have ever been pregnant, 8 % experienced violence; they have been punched or kicked in the abdomen. In 98% of violence against pregnant women, the perpetrators were the fathers of the child the women were carrying. The statistics can go on and on, but even with out statistical evidence, there is nothing more real to me about this world then the prevalence of domestic violence against women, especially in my home country of Ethiopia.
And you might be thinking, “Chill..its just a picture, its just Facebook, its just a joke.” But Facebook is the new way human beings socialize. Facebook and social media influences the way we interact, think, and for a lot of us, Facebook shapes our day. The fact that someone took their time to make this post and how fast it was shared is a shame. Images likes suggest taking violence against women lightly and do nothing to end it .Every time we come across a picture or a joke like this, our minds start to get used to seeing this type of violence. By humoring violence against women, we dehumanize the women who experience violence. And when we dehumanize these women, we perpetuate the violence committed against them.
Question everything, nothing is as simple as it looks. Think about this picture- it’s far from simple, its propaganda to continue a disgusting part of the Ethiopian culture.
Happy Valentines Day.
Learn More, the following are the facts I have stated in this post and more academic material to help us learn more about violence against women/ Ethiopian women.
“BBC News | AFRICA | Ethiopian Women March against Violence.” BBC News – Home. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .
Birkti, Hiwet. “Female Genital Cutting” University of Minnesota. November, 2011. Guest Speaker.
“CEDAW: Country Reports Ethiopia.” Welcome to the United Nations: It’s Your World. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .
“Ethiopia-The Role of Women.” Mongabay.com. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .
Kedir, Abbi, and Lul Admasachew. “Violence Against Women In Ethiopia.
” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal Of Feminist Geography 17.4 (2010): 437-452. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Dec. 2011.
“NGOs – We & Others » Blog Archive » The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association EWLA.” NGOs – We & Others. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. .
“A Study on Violence against Girls in Primary Schools and Its Impacts on Girls’ Education in Ethiopia.” Ministry of Education& Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 2008. Web. .
“WHO | WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against
Tigist Hailu.Formal and Informal Responses to the Recurring forms of
Violence against women in Ethiopia. Reflections. Documentations on the Forum on Gender.No.2. Heinrich Boll Foundations, Regional Office Horn of Africa. Addis Ababa ,Ethiopia.2000.