POST 3 Gender Based Violence: Who holds the power?

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When contemplating the stakeholders in the issue of gender based violence, it was immediately apparent that there was an infinite range of participants that contributed to the issue. Gender based violence is rooted in gender inequality and norms which can be seen in every faction of our society from the justice system to parents, everyone withholds power that can be used to counteract or perpetuate the issue. My approach to mapping the stakeholders was to first identify the larger, non-human (NH) groups and then break them into human sub-groups, giving a short explanation as to what the contribute to the issue of gender based violence. During the mapping process I observed a reoccurrences of similar contributions between different non-human groups, for example both pornography and the justice system can decriminalize offenders and impose blame on the victim. Society is responsible for a powerful culture that constantly devalues and violates women, and since sexism is well and alive in all factions of society, this exercise resulted in a map that was complex and disorderly, emphasising the multifaceted nature of gender based violence.

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Chemaly, S. 2014, Yes, All Women, Gender Focus, viewed 12th August 2016, http://www.gender-focus.com/2014/05/26/yes-all-women/

Social media has been an extremely active platform for the discussion of gender based violence and throughout my research I have noticed that many authors take screen caps of messages from social media to support their arguments. The image above was a tweet tagged with the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which was started in response to the massacre committed by Elliot Rodger whose motive for the shooting was to get revenge for all the women that rejected his sexual advances. Gender based violence is constantly met with attempts to silence or downplay the issue by messages connecting any advocacy of the issue to misandry (hate for men) or the blind blaming of all men hence the hashtag #notallmen. This author has confronted such responses by explaining that women don’t accuse all men of being violent against women, instead that the prevalence of the issue has made all women live in constant fear of sexual assault and rape. With the popularity of social media, more people than ever now have the access to either negatively or positively contribute to the issue, regardless we are witnessing an influx and amplification of perspectives involved in the conversation.

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Georgia Tech 2014, What can you do to stop sexual violence?, Voice Galtech education, viewed 14th August 2016, http://stopabusecampaign.com/building-belief/

I found this campaign to be especially relevant to my week 1 research article regarding the legal processes of handling rape cases in Australia. From the disabled community to university students, sexual assault victims are constantly subjected to messages of distrust and doubt towards their experiences even prior to the day of trial. Society’s internalized bias against women depicts them as manipulative, untrustworthy and unreliable and often cases of rape/sexual assault are interpreted as consensual. Furthermore the blame of the crime is shifted from the offender to the victim resulting in offenders being rarely charged with their crimes and even fewer receiving convictions. This campaign establishes the universal need to support victims of gender based violence instead of subjecting them to constant disbelief and blame for the crimes of their offenders.

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Avalon Sexual Assault Centre 2014, I Don’t Owe You Campaign, viewed 13th August 2016, http://avaloncentre.ca/campaigns/i-dont-owe-you/

The blind automatic entitlement to women’s bodies is a driving force in the issue of gender based violence and a series of excuses are used to attempt to justify this entitlement such as the victim’s clothing, alcohol consumption or behaviour. What is so profound about this poster is that expresses that consent cannot exist in entitlement, and that even the most minor of interactions (e.g. a shared study session) can be used to defend the crimes of the offender. Consequently, this poster series reveals a constant anxiety that all women face – that any interaction, even a casual glance, can be misinterpreted for entitlement and lead to sexual assault.

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UNI WRC – Wellness Recreation Center, 2015, Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention, viewed 12th August 2016, https://au.pinterest.com/pin/380483868493571237/

I found this image to be deeply relatable as it perfectly illustrates the influx of fears that women internalize on a daily basis to prevent attracting offenders. These ever frequent thoughts are the result of women being constantly held responsible for the crimes of the offenders, as if having invited the assault through conscious decisions. The image expresses the multitude of practices that women are pressured to do to avoid sexual assault, revealing society’s inability to alternatively teach rapists not to rape. Even if a woman was to follow each of these rules to the best of her ability, this cannot and will not stop an offender from committing their crime. Instead such pressures continue to render the root cause of the issue invisible, the victims accountable and women in constant fear for her safety.

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Spedding A. 2014, #YesAllWomen Posters, viewed 10th August 2016, http://www.upworthy.com/3-simple-posters-expose-3-simple-truths-all-women-understand-thats-not-a-good-thing

This poster demonstrates a powerful message through ordinary and seemingly mundane occurrence that many women experience – giving a fake phone number as a means of avoiding contact with a man. Many men who approach women for romantic/sexual interest feel automatically entitled to her and her time for a multitude of reasons e.g. a cheesy pickup line, what she’s wearing, the courage to initiate the conversation. It is for this reason why her right to refuse such interactions/advances are interpreted as an invitation to harass the woman to “try harder”, to render a “no” into a “yes”. Furthermore, many incidents of assault and even murder were due to the offender reacting to their rejected advances by the victim. Responses such as providing a fake phone number are used as defense mechanisms by women as a means to prevent assault over the right to refuse male interaction and harassment. This interaction, though commonplace is inherently rooted in gender inequality where the autonomy and safety of women are treated as privileges instead of rights.

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Wlokka T. 2014, Don’t Measure A Woman’s Worth By Her Clothes, Miami ad school, viewed 12th August 2016, http://www.boredpanda.com/dont-measure-womans-worth-clothes-ads-terre-des-femmes/

This campaign blatantly illustrates how society uses woman’s clothing to determine the amount of respect she deserves. Clothing is often used as an excuse to shift blame from the offender to the victim, as if she invited the attack itself through a short dress with the knowing that it would attract the offender’s uncontrollable urges. What is also quite significant in this image is that there is no measured zone where society deems coverage acceptable, manifesting the contradictions that are enforced onto women’s bodies. Regardless if she chooses cover or reveal, women will inevitably be criticised as having inherently guilty bodies. 

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Buchholz, W. 2014, Stop Victim Blaming campaign poster series. , viewed 12th August 2016, http://warrenbuchholz.tumblr.com/post/96372746673/stop-victim-blaming-campaign-poster-series

This image is a direct confrontation to victim blaming attitudes that place responsibility on women to not get raped or sexually assaulted. Such ideologies are the result of a culture that constantly devalues a woman’s right to safety and the autonomy of her body. This also addresses the belief that offenders lack self control and cannot withhold their urges to assault women, rather that their crimes are a result of a conscious choice to disregard the rights to her body. The poster recognises the how victim blaming attitudes distracts the conversation and any means of progress towards the issue of gender based violence.

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Indian students holds placards as they shout-slogans during an anti-rape rally in New Delhi during a protest in December 2012.
Nanu, N. 2015, After spate of attacks, women in India question safety, viewed 11th August 2016, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/07/18830470-after-spate-of-attacks-women-in-india-question-safety?lite

This image depicts a New Dehli protest triggered by the 2012 gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singhmarks, marking and important stage in India’s progress towards gender based violence. Jyoti’s attack sparked a nation wide outrage and attention towards the issue of gender based violence in India, where thousands gathered in protest to challenge the misogynistic attitudes responsible for the mass epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the country. Having watched a documentary (India’s Daughter, 2015) on this incident, I felt this image was quite powerful as a reminder how women are universally held accountable for their attacks rather than society engaging in the much needed discussions about consent, assault and our internalized dehumanization of women. Though gender based violence is much more prevalent in India then Australia, the root of the issue remains universally consistent – the conventions of gender that prevent men and women from recognizing ourselves and each other in our full humanity.

 

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White Ribbon, 2012, Be A Man Campaign, White Ribbon, viewed 12th August 2016, http://www.marketingmag.ca/brands/white-ribbon-campaign-confronts-definitions-of-manhood-67446

Building from the insight developed in the last image, I found this poster campaign for White Ribbon quite groundbreaking in the issue of gender based violence. White Ribbon establishes its cause to end men’s violence against women, and the conversation regarding the issue has largely erased the men from the discussion. This poster confronts the ideologies of masculinity and refines manhood as the right to express emotions, embracing vulnerability and self respect. Such values are integral to ending gender based violence as it is the lack of these messages that prevent men from recognising their full humanity, creating the need to validate their self worth through the control and exploitation of women.

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Emma Sulkowicz, a senior visual arts student at Columbia University, carries a mattress in protest of the university’s lack of action after she reported being raped during her sophomore year on Sep. 5, 2014 in New York City
Burton, A. 2014, Columbia student accused of rape sues university, viewed 11th August 2016, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/columbia-student-accused-rape-sues-university

I found this image to be incredibly poignant and powerful in illustrating the devastating repercussions of sexual assault on the victim. Emma Sulkowicz was a visual arts student who was raped on campus in Columbia University, and her performance piece “Carry that weight” is a response to the lack of action taken by her university authorities. The university pressed no charges against her attacker, allowing him to continue his studies without any repercussions for his crimes. Though society is generally aware of the issue of gender based violence, no one can fathom the loss and desolation of the experience unless they have suffered assault themselves. The performance, started in 2014 involves Emma carrying the mattress wherever she went on campus, manifesting the everpresent devastation and violation of the experience but also the fear that her attacker who continues to walk free in her campus, could repeat his crimes without any repercussions.

By Giselle Enriquez

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