Friday, December 2, 2011

WORLD AIDS DAY & Gender Justice

By Sikivu Hutchinson

From the Editorial Collective of The Feminist Wire

What will need to happen to achieve the goal of eliminating new HIV infections, AIDS related deaths, and discrimination? What can we do, collectively, to get to zero?

Young women of color are at the epicenter of this crisis. Our Women’s Leadership Project students are kicked off two days of World AIDS Day peer education at Gardena High School and Washington Prep High School. As an educator in South Los Angeles schools, I believe preventive education has to begin with breaking down the myths and stereotypes associated with heterosexist relationships, misogynist media images and patriarchal gender norms that undermine young women’s right to self-determination. Increasingly, working class African American and Latina women are being indoctrinated into a decidedly misogynist, anti-feminist view of womanhood and sexuality that has both a secular and faith-based tenor. Coming from highly religious households, many of my students have been socialized to believe that their “authentic” destinies lie in getting and pleasing a man. They struggle with the challenge of developing their own voices, preparing for college, careers and intellectual pursuits whilst battling the insidious tide of a so-called post-feminist universe where hypersexuality is conflated with liberated femininity. Young men of color are also imperiled by heterosexist, masculinist gender norms that promote hard thugged-out male identities at the expense of women’s human rights as well as loving/respectful homo-social, heterosexual and same-sex relationships and families. Getting AIDS cases down to zero must involve a revolution of mind and deed; a transformation of the way masculinity, femininity, and sexuality are perceived in the U.S.