From Michelle Obama’s sleeveless arms to Rihanna’s battered face, as the 98th anniversary of International Women’s Day arrives March 8, it is obvious that women do not yet occupy a space they can call their own in the definition of themselves.
In Mrs Obama’s case, one could say it is a trite issue whether she covers her arms in formal get-togethers and the naysayers could well counter that they would be just as harsh if her husband, the president of the United States of America, had worn skater boy or basketball getup in the Oval Office.
Bonnie Fuller, writing in the Huffington Post dismisses the critics: “Is Michelle Obama supposed to wear a burka? Since when are a woman’s arms considered an erogenous zone here in America? Why would it be inappropriate for the First Lady to attend her husband’s address to Congress in a beautiful, purple Narcisco Rodriguez SLEEVELESS dress?”
In the case of the Barbadian singing sensation, Rihanna, who was said to have been cooperating with the police in their investigation of the felony battery charge against her boyfriend Chris Brown, is now reported to be hunkered down with him as they reconcile at the home of Sean Combs in Florida.
Of course it is always great to see domestic partners reconcile and make a shot at ‘making things work’. Don’t we all want to see peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Even the police it is said are partial to such reconciliations, which can affect whether criminal proceedings continue against the perpetrator of the crime.
Here it is interesting to interject a take from Jay Leno’s monologue at the start of the March 3 edition of the Tonight show, where he quipped that while with the patch up of the celebrity couple indictments against Brown could go away, the person who leaked the photograph of the battered face of Rihanna to the media could stand in the courts on felony charges for this breach. Justice is not only blind it rides an ass. (Brown appeared in court March 5 and the judge granted his request to move the arraignment to April 6th.)
UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, says women are more at risk of experiencing violence in intimate relationships than anywhere else. Domestic and intimate partner violence includes physical and sexual attacks against women in the home, within the family or within an intimate relationship, UNIFEM says.
“Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime – with the abuser usually someone known to her. Perhaps the most pervasive human rights violation that we know today, it devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development,” says the UN agency.
“The economic cost of violence against women is considerable – a 2003 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the costs of intimate partner violence in the United States alone exceed US$5.8 billion per year: US$4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly US$1.8 billion.”
Rihanna experienced the costs because she must have had the hospital bills, and can asses the value of the missed social and stage appearances.
It doesn’t take an ideological commitment to feminism to counter the denial of equal rights to women simply on their gender. The cultures and sub-cultures that dehumanize women in this way should be aware that dehumanization of one sex means the same for the other if we’re to go by the knowledge we have of genes and reproduction. If your mother is a bitch, you’re a dog.
Barack Obama isn’t a yard boy and so didn’t marry a maid to answer his beck and call, but a woman his intellectual equal.
If a woman as learned and in as influential a position as Michelle Obama has to take flack for wearing a sleeveless dress in 2009, we can imagine the pressures that apply to the 20 year-old Rihanna, which would keep her bound in an abusive relationship with a younger alpha male who gets the public support of his recording industry peers, praising him as a good man, despite the evidence of the picture, which we have heard is worth a thousand words.
Hopefully, somewhere down the road, we won’t have need for a UN Human Rights Day in December and an International Women’s Day in March. Hopefully it’ll not be a Buddy Holly day – “the day when I (we) die”.