Tuesday, November 25, 2008

today and every day: let's end violence against women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of 16 days campaigning against gender based violence.

Since I've just spent five hours doing an exam on masculinities and violence, this post will be brief. Two things to note:

Juan Carlos Ramírez-Rodríguez (2005), working from the Mexican context, argues that descriptions such as 'battered women' or 'violence against women' fail to name men as the perpetrators of violence against women. His work, and others, calls on men to take responsibility for their collusion with patriarchal structures that perpetuate male control, domination and abuse of women (as well as children, animals, and even other - marginalized- men).

Second thing: I got back from my exam and checked my emails. A friend from Peru, who I have known since he was fourteen, had emailed round notice of an event he was participating in to mark the day against violence against women. He will be presenting a paper on feminicide (the killing of women because they are women).

After a day of reading about the intertwining of dominant masculine identity and violence, it is heartening to be reminded that there are many men actively committed to breaking with violence. Are you one of them?

Ramírez-Rodríguez, Juan Carlos (2005) "Más allá de un videoclip de violencia: la argamasa entre varones y mujeres" Estudios Sociales volumen 13, número 26 (julio-diciembre de 2005), pp. 7-25.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

la noche de los museos 2008

My third Museum Night in Bs As, and a lot to fit in. In 2006, Mum and I had visited an photography exhibition remembering resistance to the dictatorship, and gathered with the crowds on the steps of the Museo de Bellas Artes, before collapsing in a café (well, we had been to Brazil that morning!). Last year, Aunty Syl and Uncle Tony were here and we spent the evening in Monserrat, visiting the Museo Etnográfico Juan B. Ambrosetti (and a few others), and watched tango in the narrow streets, before enjoying a hot chocolate with a view of the Obelisco.

This year, I began with a visit to the Biblioteca Nacional designed by Clorino Testa, Francisco Bullrich and Alicia Cazzaniga. From the reading room, I looked over the Plaza de la Lectora - a park for reading - and the streets framed with jacaranda blossom.

Along Avenida de la Libertador, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, and its beautiful French courtyard café, had attracted quite a crowd. With Louis decor and an enormous ballroom, it was like a (not so)mini Versailles.

At the back of the Spanish Embassy, the Casa de la Cultura del Fondo Nacional de las Artes, had a band playing upstairs, and the sound bounced off the crisp white walls.

I had wanted to visit the Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández for a while. There were some beautiful portraits of farmers and artisans from the North East of Argentina taken by Ricardo Wetzler to record the work of an Italian NGO, ISCOS (see photo above).

Across the courtyard, already filling up with musicians and guests, I found a small room in which two Shipibo women from the Peruvian Amazon were demonstrating traditional weaving. The exhibition was called Shinakoshobaon Bakebo (Daughters of the Spiders) because the forest spiders are believed to have taught the women to weave cloth. The shamanic healing powers of the women are connected to their designs. Instead of singing the ícaros, the women weave the songs into the cloth:
Este diseño es una canción... la melodia es una melodia de bienvenida de los húespedes a la fiesta. This design is a song... the melody is a melody of welcome to the guests who have come for the party.

I crossed the grand avenue, caught a bus and walked to my final museum of the night. The Museo de la Deuda Externa is housed in the tired-looking basement of the Economy Department of UBA. It was 10 at night, but the space was filled with people diligently following the curator around the graphic tale of Argentina's debt - Baring Brothers Bank, railways, dictatorships and dirty debt, growing interest and unemployment. I felt like I was stepping back in time to the days of the Jubilee 2000 campaign. The exhibition ended with Argentina's paying back of its debts to the IMF in 2005, but of course other debts owed to the Paris Club, etc. continue to be in the news, as Christina pledges to pay back these debts also. But at what cost?

While others continued their caminos around the city's museums, and as yet more bands and theatre groups entertained and informed the crowds, I caught the bus home, bringing my last noche de los museos to a close.

Friday, November 14, 2008

telefono donna

Italian rape helpline, Telefono Donna, has met with opposition from rightwing politicians in Milan over its recent campaign poster to encourage women to report rapes. The organization states that only four per cent of women who suffer sexual violence report their assailants.

The politicians claim the image is 'sexually provocative.' Such an attitude once again places the blame on women for provoking sexual assault, rather than challenging male behaviour. In response to the poster's question, Who pays for man's sins? the answer remains: women.

This is not the first time women have been portrayed on a cross or in a 'Christ-like' pose. Such images tend to be controversial because they suggest women can represent Christ:

left image: Christa, by American sculptor, Edwina Sandys

right image: Gomez cross, of María Cristina Gómez, El Salvador.

Representing women on the cross reveals the violent and suffering reality of many women's existence. It also demonstrates a solidarity between women and Jesus, who also suffered.

Most of the opponents of the Telefono donna poster are not, I fear, interested in either revealing violence against women, or acting in solidarity with women who are raped or assaulted.

However, there are other questions that such images provoke. While I once found these images helpful, they now make me uneasy. I affirm the Telefono Donna campaign but at the same time want to encourage caution in the use of such images of crucified women.

Too often women are called to bear their cross and accept their suffering. Are women only Christ-like in suffering? Where are the images of women as healers, teachers, justice-bearers, peace-makers? Women alive and resilient in the face of death?

This last week, visiting a number of projects working with women who have suffered domestic violence, I have witnessed such Christ-like women. Women who refuse to bear their cross in silence, and who summon all their strength to get down from the cross, and walk away from death into life.

Some information taken from The Telegraph.