jezebel

Day 115 – Headlines

Philip Zimbardo – “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can sometimes kill you.”

Since the latest massacre in the US hit the headlines in the past week the internet has simply erupted with articles, videos and commentary addressing the topics of toxic misogyny, white middle-class male expectation and sexual harassment. Here, only 30 days ago did we argue these same points.

The facts remain that 2 women and 4 men are dead and once again in the wake of a killing spree the victims identities are of less interest than that of their executioner. Browsing through countless reports in the last 6 days I only once came across the victims names, in brackets. Most of the media-obsessed globe knows about the killer, knows his name, wants his entire medical and family history, wants to read his ‘manifesto’ and has seen the image of his sun-drenched face as he sat relaying the woes of his existence days before his final performance.

No one can object to opening discourse on subjects that have been under-debated for years but the problem is that it’s extremely difficult to foresee any real change coming from this. The Isla Vista gunman will have his fifteen minutes of infamy and so will the issues his crimes have shone the spotlight on. By focusing on him as the archetypal white male misogynist only gives him the attention and platform he craved all along. Why not sever all reference to the ‘Virgin Killer’ and leave him and his hatred to live in the dust where it belongs.

Roughly 88 people suffer from gun deaths each day in the US, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes, 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail and there are an estimated 5,000 honour killings internationally per year.

So while discussing gender based violence is an essential endeavour in ending it major online publishers need to maintain this dialogue because as tragic, horrifying and reprehensible as this massacre was it was one instance in an hourly, global epidemic.

And it seems ironic that once again for attention to be called to an international phenomenon it takes a white, middle to upper class man to do it, in the most deranged way he could imagine. All the while organisations of both women and men such as The Joyful Heart Foundation, The Representation Project, Ms. Magazine, Jezebel, RAINN, The Everyday Sexism Project and countless others have been vying for this kind of media coverage on gender based violence for years.

We, as a species, are supremely susceptible to suggestion. It is how the most heinous war crimes are committed, how genocide is justified and how prejudice and discrimination thrive. I have spoken before of the devastating effects of dehumanisation and of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dynamic. Where, in the Western world, religion and politics once dictated social attitudes the media is now our president, our lord and our moral compass.

It’s as if in the last 7 days since the killings the world has suddenly realised that misogyny still exists, in every race, class and age group. Only instead of such men thinking, ‘Women should be homemakers and child bearers’ they are thinking, ‘Women should accept my sexual advances without question.’ How utterly devastating it is however that since asking in my last post – When will it be enough? I have in a way received my answer. A mass murder incited by sexist hatred is what it took when any given day we can find news reports of women being stoned to death for no reason.

Mind-boggling doesn’t even cover it.

Every meaningless loss of life is equally tragic but every meaningless loss of life does not receive the same press coverage.

All we can do is hope that this discourse does lead to social change  but unfortunately I fear that the media, the kingpin of culture, will still go unnamed, unmarred and unblamed.

Katherine Breann Cooper

Veronika Elizabeth Weiss

Cheng Yuan Hong

Weihan Wang

George Chen

Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez

 

 

To learn more on any of the topics raised in this article, here are but a few interesting resources:

Joyful Heart Foundation

The Representation Project

National Council of Women Ireland

The Everyday Sexism Project

Honor Based Violence Awareness Network

Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

 

 

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Day 100 – Without a Voice

It does not feel like 100 days have passed but if I look at what’s been achieved in that time it begins to sink in.

We have raised €700 that has been spent on paint, canvases and a daylight lightbulb which allows me to work well into the wee hours, I have the bones of 8 paintings done while the other 17 canvases hang around my walls baring the pencil-sketched faces I now live with and our small but significant efforts have been recognised by people such as Carol Morely, director of Dreams of a Life.

Since beginning Blink. I’ve been asking myself night after night: Why women? There are just as many if not more John Does out there so why is it that I focused solely on the women. I’m female – that’s one feeble excuse. I’m a feminist – but yet this isn’t a feminist issue. And as I questioned myself tirelessly trying to invent an answer if one did not inherently exist I thought perhaps I should not voice my concern and hope no one else noticed either.

Then, as I spent a dismal night painting and watching a documentary which I can no longer remember the details of I had an epiphany. It was a historical film set around the protesting against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and one of  the leading members of the movement had been asked how he got involved.

He replied: Well, you know, it’s like all things. I met a girl.

Suddenly, as if the haze of vanilla scented candles and distant sounds of cars scuttling through puddles ceased to exist, there it was – the reason why Blink. had to be about women. The faces that paper my walls as I write are the embodiment of the nameless woman but they are not the only ones.

On Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential figures throughout history only 3 women grace the well prepared list. 2 were queens and therefore, had a better chance than most.  But how many women in history have stood behind men, in the shadows and held them strong as they etched their names into the history books. They are the ones who are remembered, written about and exalted. Meanwhile, we will never know the names of the women who bore them upright, women throughout time who may have had more to say than their male counterparts but were simply never given the opportunity to explore their own vision as cognitive, unique, important human beings. How many potentially brilliant minds have been lost between the lines of historical texts. For centuries, half the population were considered sub-standard. They simply weren’t worth the time. In a way, I like to think the women of Blink. both stand for themselves but also represent the countless generations of voiceless women.

We have come so far and yet it’s disheartening how much is left to do. As of 2014, political representation for women is still far less than perfect in the US, UK and indeed, Ireland.

The simple logistical fact is that as long as 50% of the entire population is underrepresented in the country’s decision making – the wrong decisions are going to be made. As long as women don’t think that their voice matters, they will never fight to be heard. This isn’t some ‘feminazi propaganda’ as many would have you believe, it’s simple psychology.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union website has the largest grid for outlining female distribution among the world’s governments. Again we are faced with the harsh reality that the countries we condemn for being seemingly misogynistic or anti-feminist could teach us something.

Rwanda are world leaders in female political representation holding 51% of the seats across the lower and upper house. In third is the much maligned Cuba with 48.9%. Who else puts the “progressive” US, UK and Ireland to shame. Here’s to mention but a few: South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Uganda, Serbia, Guyana, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Singapore, China and Iraq. The UK rank 65th with 23% of seats held by women and the US 84th with 19%. In the meantime more countries pop up ahead of Ireland like Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ireland places 92nd with only 15.6% female representation.*

Hearing such statistics makes you want to bow your head and avert your eyes and ask how we ever fooled ourselves so much. The only female voices we hear are Nicky Minaj, Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian. Yes, feminism is about choice and if you choose to utilise your sexuality to achieve your ambitions who am I to judge? But this doesn’t mean we should not question and consider the motives behind these choices.

If we are so autonomous, so empowered why are so many of us still striving for the same goal of the sexual ideal? While young men are pressured to become economically successful women are just as influenced to strive for cosmetic success. If we say we are just as capable as men then why are we the backing dancers to a male government? Surely when a large percentage of us are making similar if not the same decisions we can’t call ourselves independent thinkers.

If I’m sounding judgmental that is certainly not my intention. I’m just genuinely confused because I succumb to the same pressures the vast majority of young women do. I’m still trying to find the perfect way to remove hair from their follicles, I have been of the mind that if you can’t wear a bikini there’s not much point going to the beach, I still search for the ideal foundation that is heavy duty but doesn’t sit in the natural pores of my face and I religiously subject my hair to chemicals whose names I could not dream of pronouncing.

Again, I cannot express enough how this is not the common man’s fault, they are as conditioned as we are.

But I’m just a young woman, balancing precariously somewhere between apathy and fury all the while trying to convince myself I’m not insane for feeling this way. You just have to ask when is this going to end? The Women’s Movement never declared themselves finished and yet we all presume Feminism is a thing that happened not something that is still happening and perhaps more than ever needs to revitalised.

It has been living on the respirator for far too long.

When Will it be Enough

*Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union