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Charlottesville: How Such Shameful Violence Can Be Overcome

Recent events in Charlottesville paint a searing picture of what a domination system looks like. Aggression, intimidation, and violence are primary markers of domination, and they were very much in evidence during the rally organized by a group of white nationalist groups that ended in violence, chaos, and death.

Authoritarianism is easy to spot in the public space, but it can also loom large in private behind closed doors. Domination systems can be found in family and gender relations.

Looking at Charlottesville through the partnership/domination lens reveals the interaction between our public and private worlds. The insights that result shows us how partnership practices can make vital change at both levels.

A system of domination uses top down, authoritarian control to establish a rigid hierarchy. It requires division between genders, races, ethnicities, religious groups, or any other characteristic that can be used to separate ‘us’ from ‘them’.

Partnership systems offer much more and better serve families, economies, and nations. Partnership creates a foundation that promotes the optimal realization of human potential by fulfilling irreducible human needs for mutual respect, care, nurture, opportunity, and security.

Our current public sphere bears the characteristics of a domination system. We’ve inherited a legacy of discrimination, enslavement, income inequality, gender disparity. a political system comprised of more white men than all other demographic groups combined. And while we have made some progress, we are in the midst of a massive regression to domination.

Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Intimidation and coercion are used to maintain the status quo. In spite of the promise of the American Dream that you will be fairly rewarded based on your individual merits and talents, we know that to whom we are born, the zip code we grow up in, our gender, and the color of our skin all influence our status in the social and economic ladder. In both public and private institutions women possess less power and influence than white men. Anything regarded as ‘soft’ or ‘caring’ or ‘traditionally feminine’ is devalued. Physical strength and violence are valorized.

Supporters of authoritarian systems, willing to sacrifice personal freedom and ignore the rights of others in favor of security, have scored high marks on measures of racism and sexism. They prefer traditional gender roles and relationships. When questioned about their parenting preferences, they value obedience over self-reliance in their children. Respect for elders is deemed more important than independence, good manners over curiosity, and good behavior over consideration for others. Moving outside the assigned role can result in punishment and humiliation.

Consequently, domination is learned very early in life at home, within the family. The practice of submitting to external power figures, following orders, and prioritizing authority and control over personal freedom and the rights of others is internalized, and becomes set as a baseline guide for all other human interactions, within the family and the larger tribe or nation. Domination has permeated our politics and civil discourse and may engulf our long-cherished public institutions.

Charlottesville’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally was an uprising against shifting gender roles, changing demographics, and the transition from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge/service economy. Rally goers came together against a perceived threat to their conventional values, traditional social structures, and economic displacement. They blame the rise of feminism, civil marriage, and cultural and political pluralism. The alt-right is in denial of climate change; seeks to preserve and retain the traditional distribution of social and economic power; and feels entitled to use violence and enforce submission to a ‘strongman’ to achieve their ends.

By contrast, partnership systems use the inherent power of connection between our dependence on the planet and each other as its strength. Partnership systems value caring and non-violence and women as well as men. They do not rely on fear, violence and coercion, and have a more fluid and mobile social order. Partnership undergirds stronger democracies and expanding economic opportunity in a way that domination never can. It makes visible the immediate and critical relationship between economic success and care, that care makes this possible by producing its most basic component: human capacity development. Providers of care, be they unpaid within families or paid in the marketplace, are valued and considered at every level of policy creation and implementation in keeping with their social and economic contributions.

Partnership leads to a caring economics that can help us meet the unprecedented challenges of our rapid move into a post-industrial age of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. This system gives primary value to caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for nature. It is not only more humane, but is essential at this time when new economic thinking is urgently needed.

Charlottesville shows that domination leads to violence, chaos, and suffering. Authoritarianism is a failed method, but as it is often learned in childhood, we are slow to reject it. It rises particularly in times of stress, uncertainty, and fear, like ours.

Replacing domination with partnership will require attentive and focused effort in our lives, families, communities, and in our public interactions as well. But it is the alternative that can meet the challenges we face.

If you are interested in being an agent of change to secure the future of people and the planet, consider our free introductory webinar “Resistance is not enough. Become a leader in the caring revolution: Webinar Sept. 15 with Riane Eisler”. You can find more information about it here.

Dr. Eisler has written more expansively on the role of childhood relations as part of a larger vehicle for social change earlier this year. You can find her article here. Three other cornerstones are gender relations, economic relations, and language and narratives. All are relevant to what happened in Charlottesville, and the article may provide greater context for understanding.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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