The Black & White Photo Challenge
#ChallengeAccepted ….sort of.
These days there aren’t many forces that stand between me and the goals I set for myself. As much as I am self-conscious or battle anxiety, I am entirely #unafraid in the ways that matter. I have been given the ultimate gift of NOT having to know #fear as a core part of my existence. But, as a woman, living with the certain knowledge that I have the freedoms, skills, and abilities to affect my own personal security, I know that I am in the tiny minority of woman around the world. So instead of “post a picture and say nothing” I’m going to post a picture in hopes that it gets you to read what I do have to say.
To be honest…I think we’ve done enough of “saying nothing” when it comes to #femicide, #humantrafficking, #childrape, #domesticviolence, #sexualslavery, etc. So, I’m sorry if doesn’t fit the trend, but…well…#fuckthat. Enough with “say nothing.” I think it’s time to #makeyourselfheard, instead!
I had no desire to participate in this latest social media challenge. As I said a few days ago, I’m exhausted by the #callstoaction and judgements and #cancelculture that saturates most of my newsfeed these days. I felt deeply complimented by the messages I received from women I love and admire who “tagged” me, but I declined.
And then I learned the truth behind the origins of this particular challenge. The movement was started in Turkey as a way of bringing attention to the #epidemic of #femicide that has plagued that nation. These hopeful activists looked at previously successful social media campaigns like #bringbackourgirls and tried to find a way to gain international interest that would perhaps spur a change in the shameful justice system there which not only largely ignores these murders, but is actively attempting to abolish existing protections including those which defend women who are victims of domestic violence.
The concept of having women fill social media platforms with black and white pictures was not intended to be a narcissistic exercise, but instead to call to mind the grainy photos of missing and killed women that regularly fill the pages of Turkish newspapers.
This revelation struck me. Hard. And I spent some time in contemplation. I was ignorant to the situation in Turkey although I am, sadly, not surprised. Violence against and subjugation of women in largely Muslim countries is anything but new. And it calls to mind the heartbreaking statistics of women lost along the Mexican/American border every year…hundreds of migrant women and girls who are sold into sexual slavery or brutalized, murdered, and dumped unceremoniously in the desert. Their names are usually not even recorded. Lives that just….cease. Families left with no answers and no hope. And of course, even closer to home, is a generation of #NativeAmerican women who are slowly disappearing…girls yanked from their lives, many of them discounted as “insignificant” because of drug or alcohol addiction, and loved ones offered no support in their searches. Research done by the Urban Indian Health Institute indicates that of more than 5,700 missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls reported in 2016, only 116 of them are logged anywhere in the Department of Justice’s missing persons database…2%. 3
The more I think about this, the more I find myself raging.
I have been given so many gifts as a woman. By the grace of God I was born an #American, to parents who raised me to be capable and independent. I had the good sense to join the #Army young. And then I traveled to places where girls were stoned for kissing their fiancé before they were married, or forced into arranged marriages as soon as they could physically produce children. Some of these girls were rescued. Non-profits would provide a safe haven for them, offer education and teach them trades and give them tools to live a semi-autonomous life. They were accustomed to rough-looking men in their midst and often kept to the periphery, quiet but curious when my teams and I would find some reason to visit their compounds. But their faces came alive when they saw me. They would approach shyly, asking through the interpreter if they could touch me…which was awkward of course. Their hands would brush my cheeks and fingers would pull gently on the end of my uncovered blond hair. They would touch their own small chests and then tap on my body armor and hesitantly point to my guns with enormous grins. The interpreter would translate their excited chatter for me, telling me that they’d never seen a woman in charge…never seen a woman #empowered…they didn’t see some sort of a combat barbie badass who was out to save the world. They saw, for the first time, a woman who had the ability to save herself. They were enthralled by the very IDEA that I was ALLOWED. To. Protect. Myself. The fact that these giant men treated me as an equal was just the cherry on top.
So now, if you want to truly #empowerwomen, I ask that you take some time and educate yourself to the plight of women. I’m not talking about the nagging complaints of hyper-active feminazis who are insulted by everything. You know the ones, they march in pink hats and want to emasculate our world and turn our culture upside down. They scream for opportunity without the willingness to put in the work to earn it. No, I’m talking about the women who are real victims. Victims of abject poverty, sexual brutality, basal subjugation, zero access to education or healthcare, domestic violence, slavery, and murder. The faceless multitude who do not have the means to improve their situation. But we do. I do. If the chips had fallen differently “she” could have been “me.” “They” could be your own wives, mothers, daughters…any of the incredible women that have woven together the rich tapestry of my life. The women who have made me who I am today.
Please, take a moment. Learn. Knowledge is, after all, power.