Kerry Washington on Domestic Abuse

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Talking about ladies! Kerry Washington is one after my heart. I love her and can’t wait for the start of the new season of Scandal! Olivia Pope and white hats aside, I fell in love with her when she went off and got married quietly and then had her baby with no publicity stunts or media intrusion. In this modern day when everyone seems to be advertising their personal business as part of their social media branding , I was moved and in my mind we are kindred sisters. And here I am loving her even more with this new venture! As an ambassador for Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Program, Kerry Washington was given an opportunity to use her love for fashion to support a cause that is close to her heart.

As a guest editor for InStyle Magazine, she explains why she took on the challenge:

I have worked around the issue of violence against women for a long time (with other organizations like V-Day), but I never thought about financial abuse in this specific, explicit way. I realized the opportunity to work with Purple Purse by designing a bag that represents empowerment, encourages awareness, and aids in getting women the help they need, would be a tangible, concrete way to make a difference.

One in four women will be a victim of domestic abuse. The goal of Purple Purse is to make talking about domestic violence, and the financial abuse that traps women in abusive relationships, easier and more commonplace. When you visit purplepurse.com you can see that it was created to look like a style or shopping site so that women who are struggling with these issues can visit and not feel embarrassed. It is designed to make women feel more comfortable while getting the help they may need.

As part of this approach, I was invited to design a bag that symbolizes the objectives of the initiative: getting more people to talk about, recognize and heal from financial abuse. I’m very proud of the design of the purse. As someone who loves bags, I’m thrilled to wear it and honored to own it. The design was inspired by what the bag stands for—the color is purple, the signature color of domestic violence awareness. It’s a good-sized bag, not a tiny little clutch, but rather a bag that can carry your keys, your wallet, your phone—all the things you need to get through the day. The leather and tweed mix together to make it feel classy, yet on-trend and modern. I gave it a side handle because I like the idea of holding the clutch close to you and making sure it’s safe. You can hold on to it the way you need to hold onto your financial well-being.

Domestic abuse has been in the news a lot lately since TMZ released the video of NFL running back Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his then fiancée Janay Palmer, out of a lift, after allegedly knocking her out. Everyone has since had something to say. There have been many speculations and even though there appears to be no evidence that it happened before or has happened since, many have made their own assumptions. We know that Janay Palmer went on to marry Ray Rice after the incident and what got people talking even more is the fact that she came out in support of her husband in a statement she released via instagram. As far as she is concerned, she is no victim and she wishes for people to stop “using her for their own agendas”.

We have all seen the video and we all know that no one woman or man for that matter deserves to be knocked out cold like that for whatever reason. But sadly that is where our right to an opinion ends. We cannot speak for her, we cannot tell her what to do. I must say that people are giving her stick but she doesn’t condone or excuse his behaviour in her statement. Playing devil’s advocate, it could be that Ray Rice  has sought the help he needs and they are working through their issues eager to put this “regrettable moment in their lives” behind them, provided it was a one off. We just don’t know. We can only hope.

What I do know and will say is that these things happen more often than they should and I am inclined to agree with this writer and Morehouse College Professor who urges that if we are to see a change in attitudes, then we need to change the way we raise our sons and daughters:

The Ray Rice case personifies the continuing acceptance and mishandling of domestic violence, and not just by the National Football League. The league is a microcosm of a deeply embedded culture of patriarchal violence. Boys are groomed to play ball hard and tough, to prove their manhood and self-worth on the field of fierce competition where they are rewarded at the top levels with fame, fortune and domination over women. But we have failed, and are still failing—as my smart, potentially brilliant, world-changing male students’ conversation highlights—to decolonize young men’s gendered worldview and groom a manhood, a sense of personhood more importantly, that is defined by valuing self-restraint, moral maturity, gentleness and an empathy that would not allow the commonplace-ness of domestic violence.

Janay Rice’s response to the outcry via Instagram is heartbreaking for a number of reasons, and her pain is palpable. Her husband is the currently famous bogeyman of domestic violence. We should hope that the couple is immersed in the necessary work of decolonization, both individually and together, and that redemption is possible because, let’s not get it twisted, this is a systemic problem. We all—the women and the men—need to be invested in the same work in order to shatter it. If we do not, my student’s bleak worldview that it won’t ever stop is correct, and violence against women will go on being a common dirty reality of our culture. Ray and Janay Rice are our mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers,  sons and daughters. They are us.

Emma Watson recently got some stick for implying that the reason why men have not been actively involved in the fight for women’s rights is because they haven’t been invited. I would like to give her the benefit of doubt and say that her choice of words did not accurately communicate what she wanted to say. But the point she makes is clear. Men have to be involved in these conversations too. In this beautifully written op-ed piece by Robin Givens for Time magazine , she gives us an insight into her volatile relationship with Mike Tyson. She too was once a poster child for domestic abuse.  Obviously written in hindsight the article helps you get into the mind of domestic abuse survivors and she answers the most pertinent question that everyone has been asking: why did you stay? Like she too rightfully said this is one issue that we need our men actively involved in:

Twenty years later, it is different. We have made progress in this journey of empowerment for women. But we need men to be part of it. We need them to say there can never be hitting. Ever. I’ve always believed that when men stand up things will change, and now a football team is saying this behaviour, this violence is wrong. We’re still in the middle of this fight, but this moment, this video, will change things. We just have to keep at it.

With time, one can only hope that just as Kerry Washington has donated her celebrity to a campaign such as the Purple Purse campaign, we will see more male led if not exclusively male campaigns against issues that affect all of us such as domestic abuse. For more information on Kerry Washington’s Purple Purse campaign with Allstate, watch the PSA below and visit purplepurse.com to find out how you can get involved.

Sources: InStyle Magazine, TMZ, MS Magazine, BlackGirlDangerous.Org, Time Magazine

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