Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All Violence is Violence Against Women

I have always been really sensitive to violence. When I was young it wasn't uncommon for me to run to my room sobbing because of things I'd seen in a movie or on TV. Even now when I read or see something violent it stays with me for days, clinging to my mind, and eating away at parts of my heart. There is nothing enjoyable to me in violence, even when I know it is "pretend". I thought that as I got older I would get thicker skin and that violence wouldn't bother me so much. I haven't. In fact, I think that my ability to watch any sort of violence has grown increasingly less... especially since I've become a mother.

In college I worked for the Women's Research Institute at BYU for four years helping a professor research peace education programs and women's involvement in peace. It was amazing to me to discover that many of the world's largest peace movements and education programs were started and are run by women, specifically mothers. I've pondered on this a lot the last few years and I've realized the reason that women through out the world are so active in peace movements is because women understand the true value of human life.

If you were to intentionally destroy the Mona Lisa you'd in essence be destroying a part of Leonardo da Vinci. You'd be erasing forever the strokes his hand painted, the workings of his mind, part of his history, and his vision for the world. In a similar way every time a human life is destroyed it destroys a part of the woman who created that life. Just like the artist is the only one who can comprehend the true value of his masterpiece. So does a woman truly comprehend the full value of human life. She has given parts of herself to create it, she shed her blood to bring it to the light, she feed it and nurtured it with her body, and she invested years of her life teaching, training, loving, and shaping it.

Human life is woman's masterpiece.

The degree to which we honor and protect a masterpiece shows the value we give to the master who created it. For example, the Mona Lisa hangs in a beautiful museum, encased in glass and protective coverings, and surrounded by guards who are dedicated to its preservation. We go to a lot of effort to preserve that painting because we know that it is "one of a kind" and that it is irreplaceable. If anything was to happen to it the world would mourn deeply, not only because we'd have lost something of unique value, but because we'd have lost a part of the artist who created it. In the same way the way we honor and protect human life shows the value we give to those who created it. President Thomas S. Monson has said,
"One cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one." (From "Behold Thy Mother")
Women are co-creators with God and a society that is seeped in or accepting of violence-- real or pretend-- is one that at its core does not value or honor women... or God.

I realize that because we live in a wicked world that we may not be able to escape war in our day and age but I'd like to think that we could be raising our children to value and appreciate the true value of all human life. When World War I began Emmeline B. Wells, then serving as the General Relief Society President, was concerned about how war would affect the women and the homes of the sisters. She counseled them,
"... guard your little ones; do not permit them to imbibe the spirit of intolerance or hatred to any nation or to any people; keep firearms out of their hands, do not allow them to play at war nor to find amusement in imitating death in battle... Teach the peaceable things of the kingdom [and] look after the needy more diligently than ever." (Daughters in My Kingdom, page 64).
The amount of violence we tolerate, accept, and perpetuate in our society today scares me. It breaks my heart to watch the news and see the way in which human life is so carelessly disposed of and makes me nervous for the future of women in the world. In a similar way my heart aches to my core when I see young men playing violent video games or young women enjoying violent movies. How can destroying life-- even in jest-- ever be considered fun?

I think that there is more of a need today than in Sister Wells' time for us to "teach the peaceable things of the kingdom" in our homes and in our societies. Just imagine the power that would come if women were united in their dedication to the sanctity of life and to peace; and imagine what sort of world we would have if MEN were just as dedicated to life and peace.

Because when it comes right down to it... all violence is violence against women.


  1. Beautiful post, Heather.
    I couldn't agree more. ♥

  2. I loved your example of the Mona Lisa. Yes. Violence against any human being is violence against the creator of that being. You can take it a step further and say that any violence is violence against God, since he is the Master Creator of us all.

    I enjoyed the quote as well. It reaffirms my feelings about "playing" guns and such.

  3. thank you so much for this. it was just lovely and exactly my experience too. i've always been so sensitive to violence and it has only gotten WORSE since i became a mother. i feel it so very deeply now and mourn with the mothers who have had a hole ripped from their hearts at the death of this particular person.

    and thank you SO MUCH for that quote. where did you find it? i have always felt this way about letting children play guns and war, and yet i have been swayed from people's explanations about how boys are inherently fighters and need to be allowed to play that way and they need to be able to hunt, etc. but i have always had a tough time with that argument. i do know boys are special in their "physicalness" if that's a word, but for me a true man is one who can build and not destroy. i'll have to think about this more. sorry if i'm not making any sense but it is something i've been contemplating deeply as the mother of 2 boys. so far they have no interest in guns or play fighting because they have never seen those things on tv or video games but i know i cannot keep it that way forever. they'll see it somewhere.

    anyway, thanks for the quote. it's nice to know that someone like Sister Wells agreed with me.

  4. Wonderful post! Thank you. I am wondering if you have a reference for President Monson's quote? I'd love it if you do :). Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I think I need something in my home that says "Human life is woman's masterpiece." That just about brought tears to my eyes. Thanks again.

  6. Loved the post, Heather!! Also, a comment to megandjon....We have eight boys. We do not let them play 'guns', violent video games, watch those movies, or physically fight with one another. Those things have no place in our home. Now as they get older some of them choose to participate in some of those things. I cannot control their agency. But we are trying to raise men of God. So we try to eliminate or at least severely limit their exposure. It is not a bad thing and they turn out to be fine and well rounded young men and they do it without physical violence. We teach them to use their words and their minds in expressing themselves and we teach them it is OK with us if they stand up to society, i.e. school, and walk out of violent movies the teachers want them to watch or they refuse to read violent literature. It is not that we shield them from the world, but we talk about the violent acts of others they are exposed to and discuss other ways of managing those circumstances and we compare them to violence in the scriptures and when it is necessary for protection and when it is not, and for what it is necessary and what it is not. I'm sure we are not perfect in our explanations or teachings, but we try to be as consistent with the prophets and the scriptures as we can. Boys will be boys...but that does not mean they need to be physically violent or pretend to do those things. They will still be boys and they will be more sensitive men.

  7. A friend and I were discussing this topic the other day. A timely post, and thanks for the quotes!

  8. Megandjon, the quote by Sister Wells is from the new RS book "Daughters in my Kingdom" page 64.

    Kristin, the reference for President Monson's talk is a beautiful talk called "Behold Thy Mother" and here is the link



    I think that there is a difference in teaching boys about how to guard their homes and defend their country and letting them get caught up in violence. I think that way too often our young men get sucked into video games that intentionally or unintentionally glorify war and violence and that really scares me... especially when it is done in the name of "entertainment." I think that we can still teach our boys how to handle violence and react to it well without making it seem normal or exciting.

    I've thought alot about the violence in the scriptures and I think that it is important to remember that the scriptures not only teach us WHAT to do but also WHAT NOT to do. I think that often times the violence we read about in the scriptures is more of a warning... saying if you make these sorts of choices as a society you will experience these types of results. Yet there are times when even God uses violence and so things aren't always so black and white either. So much to think about!

  9. Great point, Heather, about the scriptures. My son (and oldest) is only 3, but when I read about Nephi killing Laban, for instance, I wonder what he's taking in. But I don't want to censor the scriptures at all, either! I guess this is where communication between parent and child comes in.

    (and thanks for the reference- I'll definitely read the talk!)

  10. Gosh I am experiencing pregnancy brain! I had a great comment to add ( I am sure it was eloquent) but I am having trouble writing at all. I loved this post. Thank you!

  11. Heather, thank you for this BEAUTIFUL post. I love how you described human life as a woman's masterpiece. That metaphor resonated so powerfully with me. I remember the week after my daughter was born, I held her in my arms and just cried. My husband asked me what was wrong, and I said, "just think of all the other sweet, precious babies in the world, like our own baby, who don't have parents who love them, or who don't have enough nourishment, or who are subjected to abuse and hardship. I just want to rock them all in my arms." It was like my heart had been opened to a love and awareness of all children once I realized how precious my own was.

  12. I still can't help thinking about every awesome post you write... "We need this in the book!" ;-) I LOVE that quote from PResident Monson! Awesome stuff here, Heather.

  13. OK, so this is my third comment on your blog today. What a beautiful, beautiful post. This is so true. The other day I picked up The Hunger Games, because I love to read, and it had been recommended to me by so many people. I was shocked at the amount and type of graphic violence in this popular book intended for young readers. We definitely live in a time when human life is looked upon as cheap. But mothers know better.