There’s a certain kind of activism that revolves around organising conferences to deal with big, intractable societal problems like violence against women. On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Gather the relevant people together, make connections, hear what works in other countries. There’s a community aspect to it and an ego gratification showy part, both of which feel good.
But it does a huge disservice to victims not to make that work about impact.
It’s easy to imagine a utopian vision of Ireland as the first small country in the world to eliminate violence against women (which, btw, ain’t never gonna happen). But, it’d be much more useful (& more difficult) to start challenging our own internalised misogyny, to interrogate the thousand tiny ways that a patriarchal mindsets shapes our country and our culture.
I think it’s the cognitive dissonance that really bothers me. Just how far the experience of violence feels from conference rooms and fancy biscuits. Just how divorced from reality all the kumbaya-ing seems compared to the devastation of violence and the slow, windy path back. The seat covers and the break out groups and the flip chart paper feel so hopelessly naive next to that reality.
There is a place for speeches, sharing ideas and networking, but not at the expense of tangible action. At the very least, let’s not pretend that talking (usually to the converted) is the same as action.