Women Called to Resist Culture of Violence

Claudia Anaya

Eisha Mason, speaker, author, and educator shed some light March 27 on “Women’s Role as Activists in Today’s Culture of Violence: a Culture of Wife-Beating, Workplace Shootings, Water Boarding, and War.”

As part of the 10th annual women’s history month, the discussion was held in Kreider Hall (SR 138) from noon to 1 p.m. Mason shared three lessons she said she learned in order to make change.

“Violence is not new, whether it is domestic violence, child abuse, war, violence against workers, or against the environment,” said Mason, who stressed that women have a particular role in creating change in a world that may be regressing instead of progressing.

Power, as Mason sees it, is the capacity for people to make a difference in the community or on a global scale by following the vision people want for the world.

“Negotiators learned that when working for peace it cannot be gender neutral,” said Mason.

She mentioned the fallout of a peacemaking process in the nation of Angola “where women were not at the table” to bring up concerns on social services issues that were needed at the time.

Mason, who said that she wants to be a world citizen, shared what she has learned along the way as a “teacher, student, and an activist in the school of life.”

Mason first learned not to let a boyfriend, father, other women, peers, society, or a school institution define her.

“We get programmed early about what our roles are in a family, relationship, and society. Women are taught to go along to get along, what appropriate behavior is, to let other people be smarter, and to fit in a particular box,” said Mason.

Mason quoted Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for founding The Green Belt Movement, a program dedicated to planting trees in Kenya to preserve the environment: “Women in general need to know that it’s okay for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

“It is one thing to be silent because you’re afraid and another thing to be silent because you’re in your power,” said Mason.

The lecture was directed to both sexes as Mason said it was about being a powerful human being and that it is okay to evolve and not be stuck in a box.

Mason also learned to define herself. She spoke about Sojourner Truth, a slave whose loved one was beaten to death in front of her and lost some of her children but once she escaped became an activist against slavery and for women’s rights, peace, and pacifism.

Mason spoke about Oprah Winfrey and Mother Jones, two women who took the struggles that life had to offer to say that people have the power to define themselves. She said, “don’t let life define you, don’t let what happens to you that doesn’t feel so good be the definition of who you are, take the wounds of your life, the circumstances of your birth or of life and transform them and turn them into the gift that you have to offer your community and the people that you love.”

In order to be powerful you don’t have to oppose men and imitate the patriarchal model of power, was another lesson Mason spoke about as she gave examples of women from Oaxaca, Mexico and Nigeria who contributed what they could to negotiations.

“To be truly powerful is to know your story, history, culture .and be anchored in it so firmly that you have space to listen and appreciate the history, the life, and the culture of other people, the other gender, other races, religions; because you know who you are and work effectively with your counterparts,” said Mason

Mason stressed that when it comes to power people don’t have to make themselves less than or better than anybody else.

“It is not enough just to know what you are against, if you want to make a difference, it’s important to know what you are for,” said Mason.

Mason said that anger can separate people but when you have a vision you can share, “it can be naturally contagious.”

“What I treasure most is being able to dream. During the most difficult and complex moments and situations, I have been able to dream a more beautiful world and that has sustained me,” said Mason, quoting Rigoberta Menchu.

Mason took her lessons of not letting anyone or anything define her, to define herself, and that power doesn’t mean having to oppose males to say that change can be made after “forgiving yourself for having accepted all the false ideas that the world has tried to dump on you.”

Mason spoke of the greatest power at the closing of her speech: “Love, despite what people will tell you is powerful, when you think of the people that have inspired you in your life most of all, most often I hear they were people who loved you, knew the truth about you, called you to be yourself, people who love their community, love their country. Love is power, it is something that brings people together.”

Ermine Adzhemyan, 21, liberal studies major, heard the speech and thought it was “amazing, beautiful, and powerful.” She spoke out about being a woman of her culture, and noticing that she is different from her cousins and peers.

“I realized that it’s okay,” said Adzhemyan.

“Live and speak your vision everyday,” said Mason.