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[16days_discussion] NEW 16 Days Blog: One Feminist's Perspective

16 Days 16days at
Thu Dec 6 10:29:18 EST 2012


*One Feminist's Perspective*

Chipped and cracked, I still have in my possession my childhood mug that 
reads, "A Woman's Place is in the House...Senate and Supreme Court." 
That statement, at such a young age, made an indelible mark on my sense 
of self and my view of the world around me. It seems as if I've spent my 
whole life defining and honoring my own personal interpretation of feminism.

What I have determined is that my feminism is not defined by the fact 
that I went to Douglass College <>, or by 
my personal perspectives on family or politics. Nor is it defined by the 
fact that I have spent the majority of my career working to advance the 
social justice issues influencing the everyday lives of women.  My 
feminism is rooted in the inclusive philosophical considerations of 
"humanism," which speaks to the self-determination and advancement of 
/all /peoples. It is the breadth with which humanism affirms the dignity 
of all peoples that most accurately aligns with my view of the feminist 
movement as being a part of the larger social justice framework.

Defining feminism in this context underscores the need for individuals 
and organizations to work together to overcome /all/ oppressive norms. 
In order to effect sustainable change, advocates must be sensitive to 
the delicate ways in which gender is influenced by race, ethnicity, 
spirituality, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, educational 
attainment and age. To not evaluate gender-specific oppression in this 
larger context is to deny the rich and complex realities that shape the 
lives and identities of women. To address one of these influencers, as 
if it exists in its own isolated silo, is to disregard the way in which 
various forms of oppression intersect and overlap.

It is in this intersection that my feminism resides, and if by chance my 
commitment to feminism should ever start to waver or a sense of false 
confidence regarding the status of women should try to emerge, I need 
only think of my work with Women Aware <>, the 
comprehensive domestic violence agency serving Middlesex County, New 
Jersey. It is the reality of my work that prevents me from falling into 
a place of complacency.

Each year, we provide free and confidential services to thousands of 
women and children moving beyond abuse -- families who have been 
economically oppressed, emotionally tormented, physically and sexually 
assaulted, and psychologically demoralized. During the 16 Days of 
Activism Against Gender Violence <>, 
approximately 250 women will call our hotline, 15 women will escape 
violence by seeking refuge in our Safe House, and 50 women will seek the 
justices afforded them by law through our Legal Advocacy services. And 
we are just one organization, working within one county, in one state.

As a domestic violence service provider, I spend 365 days a year 
entrenched in the feminist movement and every day I am inspired by the 
strength and resiliency of women -- women who are not defined by their 
past, but driven by their dreams of the future.

And so...I have my own dream for the future -- one in which all people 
are able to live lives free of the fear of abuse and the oppression of 
institutionalized privilege. We can start with 16 Days, but it's not 
enough time to right the wrongs of generations' worth of gender-based 
oppression. Sixteen days is not enough time to heal the wounds caused by 
violence. But, if for 16 Days we can focus on our collective strength as 
women, we can shift the tides of change. Because the stakes are too high 
for us to allow ourselves to succumb to apathy. Because our foremothers 
have paved the way for us to be forces for change, so that our daughters 
and sons may live in a more just society. Because we are strong. Because 
we are humanists. Because we are feminists.

By Patricia Teffenhart

/Patricia Teffenhart is the Assistant Executive Director for Women 
Aware, the state-designated domestic violence organization serving 
Middlesex County, New Jersey.She also is serving her second term as 
elected Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for the New Jersey Coalition 
Against Sexual Assault, and is also a member of the Board's Governance 

The 16 Days Team
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign
Center for Women's Global Leadership
School of Arts and Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
160 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8555
Tel: 1-848-932-8782
Fax: 1-732-932-1180
Skype: cwgl_16days
Email: 16days at

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