Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Worldview of Proactive Women

Women’s history, for those who care to dig for it, tells the stories of women in our past who have made a difference. Two of those stories, from the Americas, are about butterflies and iron-jawed angels. Both groups of women protested civil rights violations, unfair treatment, brutality, and rigid control of individuals by abusive governments.

November 15, 1917 is remembered as the Night of Terror, when women protestors, aka iron-jawed angels, peacefully and quietly holding signs asking for the vote in front of the White House, were arrested, jailed, and physically abused by both District of Columbia law enforcement and federal officials.

November 25 is designated by the United Nations as International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women because it was on this day in 1960 when the government-protesting Mirabal sisters, Las Mariposas aka the butterflies in the Dominican Republic, were assassinated by ruthless dictator Trujillo.

Both of the above historical events are remembered for good cause. They dramatically illustrate the worldview of proactive women seeking to change social and political wrongs.

Women today are making history by acting individually or in groups to protest against what they consider personal, corporate, political or social wrongs. As an example, a sobering view of the consequences of 9/11 and a continuing wartime environment is the media focus on American torture stories. We do not find much in official history about the genocide of Native Americans, lynching of African Americans, the official refusal to recognize women as human beings with brains until 1920, and the commitment of women into mental institutions just because their families could not control them. These events did not spell torture until the third millennium when the truth began to be leaked to the world.

Now the truth has come to lodge in our young people who begin learning torture by playing electronic games of “blame and punish.” When parents watch the news on television, more war torture stories are absorbed by these young people. It is no longer just a reality of wartime. Now it has a residual effect on youth.

Sarah Sentilles reports on MS Magazine Blog a very real action by a 22-year-old young man who accused his girlfriend of cheating on him. He waterboarded her! Sentilles article, Waterboarding in the Living Room, “offers a glimpse into a U.S. torture culture that relies on salvific violence, misogyny and legal hypocrisy.” (

What is poignant about this waterboarding incident is that it is no surprise that this young man has been indoctrinated by ancient religious history’s declaration that the female is always guilty, responsible, wrong, evil, and he, as a male, has the right to force her into redemption. This unconscious and unrecognized continuing belief about females plays a role in those electronic blame and punish games that this young man probably continues to play.

This social rather than military waterboarding incident is another reminder of the Middle Ages witchhunts by the established early church. Sentilles, an Episcopal priest, duly notes: “Religious misogyny implicitly sanctions violence against women.”

The Butterflies and Iron-Jawed Angels today can be found in MS Magazine Blog and Sarah Sentilles, among others.

This is the first in a series of columns about “worldviews” of certain groups in today’s world. Watch my Facebook (Julia Hughes Jones) Wall and my Tweets on Twitter (goodcropgirls) for the next provocative and disturbing question.


  1. I posted this in March 2009 for Women's History Month. It still has its "trending" days. I can always tell when stuents have papers due on Women's History or whatever because it gets a lot of hits from particular university IPs. Actually, I got the content from Wikipedia and provide the attribution, but it still gets hits.

    Very sad story.

  2. Thanks Still4Hill for your research on the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic. That is exactly how I found your blog in January of this year! In fact, your column on Las Mariposas is still right up there near the top of the Google search list on these proactive women who refused to accept the tyranny of Trujillo. We need more women today who will speak up against the ills of our culture and society. Right after women were finally given the vote in 1920, their proactive stance did not change. They went on to win Congressional approval for laws that protected children and their health. (For more on suffrage and how women achieved political gains for children, look at this blog fo 2010.)

  3. Hello Julia,
    As always, appreciate the work you're doing. When I read your sentence - "What is poignant about this waterboarding incident is that it is no surprise that this young man has been indoctrinated by ancient religious history’s declaration that the female is always guilty, responsible, wrong, evil, and he, as a male, has the right to force her into redemption." I was reminded of how men are using "corrective rape" NOW in Africa, justified they say by the Bible, to cure lesbianism. And I just read an article about a high ranking U.S. military official saying a very similar thing as he protested Don't Ask Don't Tell. He believes corrective rape would cure the problem of homosexuals, though he only mentions women, in the military. Sick.

    Karen Tate
    Voices of the Sacred Feminine Radio

  4. Thank you Karen for bringing up "corrective rape" as the latest tool to cure lesbians! And whoever the highly ranked U.S. military official is who recently said that corrective rape is what is needed to cure military homosexuals, meaning lesbians only, clearly demonstrates the continuing attitude toward women in this world even in the third millennium. It is okay for the men but women have to be cured?

    This curiously smacks of the same mindset about Lily Ledbetter: She was at fault for not knowing that all those male co-workers were being paid much more than she was for 18 years. Secret payrolls? Well the men know how to get that information so why didn't Lily know how.

    The answer to that question is the same as the corrective rape statement above: Women are continually at fault in all things based on religious history, including the idea that rape victims brought it on by tempting the rapist.

    When will this end? Not until there are more proactive women out there who have had enough of being considered as defective males.

  5. A correction is needed: Karen Tate has notified me that it is not a high-ranking U.S. military official speaking on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" who said he believes corrective rape would cure the problem of homosexuals, though he only mentions women, in the military. It was actually a magistrate from the U.S. court system who has written about this in an article.
    Here is the link:

  6. Remembering the Mirabal sisters (the Mariposas) I'd like to bring up two other groups of Latin American women who have risked their lives in defiance of tyranny: The Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo) who in the 70s and 80s publicly challenged the military regime in Argentina about the disappearance of their dissident children and the theft of their grandchildren. Their actions brought world attention to what was happening in Argentina and helped bring about a return to democracy there. Currently Las Damas de Blanco (The Women in White)in Cuba regularly march in challenge Castro's ruthless dictatorship for the ill treatment of political prisoners and other abuses by the regime. These women march quietly holding flowers and candles while praying aloud. They are harassed and beaten, and still they are the only ones who dare raise a voice of protest in highly repressed Cuba. The world needs to take notice of these women, for they will not be silenced.

  7. My sincerest thanks to Anonymous for contributing to this article about proactive women! As is most often the case, the two groups of women you refer to are not publicized as much as the Butterflies (most likely due to the book/movie featuring them). I will post this blog's link again on Facebook in hopes more people will read your comments. You have my promise that I will look into the two groups you mention and include them in an upcoming speech about women who have been ignored or prosecuted for speaking out.