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Tomgram: Andrea Mazzarino, Living in a World of Trauma

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

I suppose this should shock no one, but as the stresses of climate change grow, they only heighten other stresses already built into this world of ours; new realities, that is, have a tendency to create more extreme versions of some very old ones as well. A new two-year study of the phenomenon by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, for instance, focuses specifically on the pressures planetary heating is putting on women and girls. It is, in short, only increasing the violence and mistreatment inflicted on them in stressed communities globally and, in turn, making it even harder to deal directly with our changing planet.

Guardian environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey recently summed up the findings of that study this way: "Global heating puts pressure on resources, as extreme weather, including heat waves, droughts, floods, and fiercer storms, grows more frequent and devastating. In most parts of the world, women are already disadvantaged and lack land rights and legal rights, so are vulnerable to exploitation. When the additional stresses caused by the climate crises bite, they are the first to be targeted."

Today, TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, co-founder of the Costs of War Project at Brown University and co-editor of the new book War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, focuses in a personal way -- think of it as a study of one -- on how, in the increasing tumult of this century, the stresses on women have only heightened in the United States and Russia and on what it means to bear witness to that reality. Tom

"We've Been Attacked!"
Women and Trauma in the Trump-Putin Era
By Andrea Mazzarino

Last month, as hundreds of thousands of people showed up for the Women's March in Washington, D.C., a few miles from my home, I was at a karate dojo testing for my first belt. My fellow practitioners, ranging in age from five into their seventies, looked on as I hammered my fist through a two-inch piece of wood. The words of one of the black belts there echoed in my head. "Imagine the board is Trump," he'd whispered to me, grinning, aware that not everyone in our dojo shared his views. When I split that board, everyone clapped.

Despite pride in that small achievement, I bit my lip in shame, knowing that I should have been at that march with my two children. They, after all, are going to inherit this gender-unequal world of ours, presently ruled by our infamously pussy-grabbing president, a world that seems ever less hospitable, despite the heightened awareness that the #MeToo movement has brought to it.

Women still earn about 79 cents on the male dollar (62 cents if you're a black woman). One in five of us will be raped in our lifetimes (compared with one in 72 men). According to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide ranks fifth among the most common causes of death for women aged 20 to 44, with a majority of us killed by intimate partners. A 2018 survey found that 81% of women in the U.S. had experienced sexual harassment in some form at the hands (often literally) of colleagues or supervisors. The recent damning report on the harassment and bullying of Victoria's Secret employees is a case in point.

At the rate things are going, the prospects for personal security seem pretty dim not just for me in the years to come but for my three-year-old daughter, who -- my guess -- will have a better chance of feeling safe if she comes to the dojo with me, rather than holding an anti-Trump placard under a gray January sky.

Mind you, I'm hardly indifferent to the present degradation of our anything-but-all-American world. As a co-founder of Brown University's Costs of War Project and a military spouse, I've written often enough about the importance of bearing witness to the world's horrors and made an effort to highlight spikes in gender violence and also the burdens shouldered by female caretakers in the sorts of U.S. military communities I've been living in these last years.

Over the past two decades, I've also traveled to Russia, where I researched gender discrimination, violence, and other human rights violations against the country's most vulnerable citizens. Now, as a therapist-in-training with veterans, military families, and immigrants and refugees from around the world, many of them survivors of violence, I struggle with my own sense of hopelessness amid a barrage of stories about bloodshed, sexual outrages, and racism, as well as the specter of a climbing suicide rate in this country.

Toward the end of President Donald Trump's first year in office, I found myself in modest despair and was reminded of the famous French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire's advice to "tend my own small patch of garden" -- even as I tried to do my own small bit to at least record the inhumanity now taking place on a global scale on a distinctly endangered planet. I even started to repost on a social media apolitical mommy blog articles suggesting that being a stay-at-home mom was the most impactful way to change the world. At the time, I didn't truly believe such sentiments, but I had my doubts as well about changing a world that seemed to be going from bad to worse.

Just a Bunch of Women's Stories -- Insights from Russia

In Russia during the mid-2000s, when the chaos of the post-Soviet 1990s gave way to the authoritarian, pro-childbirth Putin era, I spent several years as an anthropology doctoral student studying gender discrimination and violence among that country's white-collar female workforce.

One winter day, I sat at a St. Petersburg cafe' sipping tea with a young female manager of a Russian gasoline company. After I'd heard her stories of being asked to wear short skirts to work, getting attacked by male colleagues during business trips to Europe, and being paid less than half of what her male colleagues made, she urged me to ask other women I interviewed about their hobbies.

I nodded for her to continue. "I do martial arts -- karate, aikido," she said. "You should try it. There are times when you need to feel strong."

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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