Saturday, November 29, 2008

Global economic downturn is bad news for women's shelters

I normally think of large corporations as necessary evils (but mostly just evils) of a capitalist society, and although I care about the daily employees, I've felt a bit smug about some of the collapses in a nostalgic Fight Club sense--until seeing that the global economic crisis means less money for charities. And that as the Arlington, VA Doorways women's shelter rep says, "domestic abuse spikes during hard economic times — driving more women and their children to the shelters and safe houses." Doorways is looking at possibly losing only a fifth of its budget, which is bad news, but compare that to the Women's Aid Organization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which has a shortfall of $200,000 USD, less than the Doorways shortfall, and yet that amount is 2/3 the total budget. The WAO shortfall is also due to the global recession, and if the money can't be raised soon, they will have to close the Child Care Center which allows abused women to bring thier children with them.

It's a commonly held fact that women and children need charity and social services more than men, but lately I felt that such a coversation topic was too divisive, given the broad range of people suffering right now from job loss. But even if men and women were losing jobs at the same rate, women would still be holding the shorter end, because as Susan Faludi so effectively argues in Stiffed, a whole new wave of violence against women is likely to occur, brought about by men who feel emasculated by not being a breadwinner, who can't handle the powerlessness that is intrinsic to suffering consequences of the actions of people more powerful than oneself. And those more powerful in this case are the hedge fund managers, CEOs, deregulationists in congress, and every small investor and motgage holder who attempted to hop onto that bandwagon once it looked unstoppable. And some of those people will also be increasing violence.

So, what the heck is this blog about? I am concerned about how the fall of these major employers will statistically raise incidents of domestic abuse and then concerned that the lack of corporate donations is causing women's shelters to be crippled at the time they are even more in demand. In my naive Fight Club fantasy wherein multinationals crumble because of overexpansion, it never dawned on me that the "extra" of women's well-being would be compromised in such an event. More than this, it never occured to me that of course in a global recession, women in nonwestern countries wherein feminism hasn't nearly made the impact it has in the west will suffer disproportionately; in KL the police are still just as likely to tell a battered wife to go home and cook her husband his favorite meal or ask her "What did you do to make him hit you?" as they are to refer a woman to services like WAO's. In such a climate, clearly the lack of education about violence against women makes fundraising and forming alliances even more challenging for groups like WAO. I'm not saying that charity groups in the U.S. have it easy, except by comparison. And what a sad comparison. Women and children deserve more, and so do men. Men could help by proving the statistics wrong and not increasing violence in the first place.

Roll up your sleeves, friends of women. It's going to be a long winter.

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