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1864 - Walker/Reynier family patriarch Jean Joseph Reynier, then 15, arrives in Sand Canyon from France; eventually homesteads 1,200 acres [story]
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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Oct 11, 2014

JenniferFischerToday is the International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations to promote girls’ human rights, highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys, and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world.

While those are the overarching goals, each year has a different focus. This year’s focus is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence,” which seems particularly relevant in a year that included the infamous Boko Haram incident in which 276 school girls were kidnapped this past April, most of whom (an estimated 200) are still missing.

Initially there was a media frenzy about the incident and a worldwide outpouring of individuals calling for the release of the girls with a “Bring Back Our Girls” social media campaign. Although the campaign brought a lot of attention to the incident initially, it served as a reminder that social media is powerful and widespread, but it requires much more to tackle an issue as large as gender inequality and continued violence against women and girls.

In all conflict regions, it is often women and girls who suffer the most as their bodies literally become part of the negotiations of war. Trades made for women and girls, kidnapping, rapes and more are not at all uncommon during violent conflicts.

As someone who has studied genocide extensively, I noticed a pattern repeated over and over in every instance of genocide I’ve studied: Girls and women suffer heavily. Of course, men and boys do, as well, but there seem to be specific forms of violence just for women and girls that grow out of an underlying view of the female gender as lesser – property, not person.

While the consequence and scale of violence against women is horrifying in areas engulfed in conflict, many underlying views connected with the violence are echoed across the world, including in stable nations such as our own.

Often this violence is perpetuated by individuals who purport to care about the young women they are harming. In fact, studies show that girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate, nationally, of intimate partner abuse – three times the national average.

For me, this reflects how deeply ingrained it is in many young men that their female counterparts are not equal and do not deserve equal respect or treatment – even if only on a subconscious level. It demonstrates that we are failing not only young women, but also young men through our inability to teach them that girls and women deserve equal treatment and respect. It highlights that we are not providing model relationships that show love and respect, rather than simply sex and domination.

A simple example can be seen in the recent incident in which nude pictures of various female celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, were stolen from the cloud and leaked. The primary reaction by many was that she should not have taken such pictures if she did not want others to see them, rather than a collective understanding that her body and her photos are her property – for her to share only as she chooses.

She has the right to control her body and to do with it what she wants, so long as she is not harming others. We do not have the right to control her body, but by stealing, leaking and looking at those photos.

As a mother of two boys, International Day of the Girl reminds me of the importance of raising them to honor and respect everyone, male or female. It reminds me of the importance of modeling for them a positive, loving relationship at home between my husband and me – a relationships built on mutual respect. It reminds me of the need to highlight positive male and female role models for them – in the media we watch, books we read and friends we meet.

It reminds me of the importance of the filmmaking classes we teach and the ways those classes provide us with opportunities to mentor young men and women and, through this mentorship, to empower the young women we work with to know their value and to ensure that the young men we work with see respect and equal treatment of boys and girls in action.

What can you do to make the world safer for women? What can you do to foster equality and respect between boys and girls? How can you be a part of positive change? Let’s share our ideas and get going.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

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