Sometimes, the most revealing and valuable insights regarding gender based violence humbly exist outside the domain of scholarly sources and newspaper articles. Rather that it is the perspectives of individuals who are unfamiliar with issue can inform demographic attitudes that are integral to the progress of eradicating gender based violence.
- How are you informed about gender based violence?
- Did you receive any education about rape and assault in school?
- What’s the most recent article/event that comes to mind when you think of gender based violence?
- How do you think the justice system treats victims and offenders of gender based violence?
- Who do you think holds the most power towards the issue?
This week’s interview and design probe exercises were performed in a casual, candid approach, but revealed insights and connections between those who are informed and uniformed about gender based violence. Firstly, my interviewee identified as someone who wouldn’t consider themselves informed on gender based violence, however as the interview progressed I found that she was quite knowledgable about current news events relating to gender based violence. Similar to my own personal research habits, my interviewee received most of her information regarding gender based violence from social media articles, mostly on Facebook. She had a particular awareness for the Brock Turner case was a recent rape incident at Stanford university where Turner received a sentence of 6 months. We both possessed the same reaction of outrage and frustration towards the lack of punishment received by Turner, and we used this case to exemplify and discuss the lack of justice characterstic with sexual assault cases.
The discussion of the Brock Turner case then led us to a contemplation of the major stakeholders in the issue of gender based violence. Drawing reference from Turner’s sentencing, we discussed the power of those involved within the justice system. From judges to jury members, society has missed countless opportunities to impose sentencing on offenders, thereby contributing to a global culture where victims are constantly blamed and perpetrators are excused. The interview also indicated that she didn’t receive any information about gender based violence in her formal education, to which I realised that I had the exact same experience in my education.
This discussion ultimately provided the insight that schools can fail to provide compulsory education about gender based violence, leaving students having to educate themselves from external sources. This is extremely problematic as it is during adolescence where women are at a high risk of sexual assault and a lack of mandatory education about gender based violence can prevent them from recognising assault whether it happens to them or someone they know. Furthermore enforced school education from gender based violence could dramatically prevent people from committing sexual assault if they knew what actions constitute assault in the first place. However we both agreed that the enormity and depth of the issue demanded much more than assault awareness programs in school, rather that we must nurture a value for gender equality across all social, cultural, religious, political and economic platforms. It is also imperative that these values are established during early childhood to ensure that gender equality is not only achieved but sustained.
Throughout the course of my research into gender based violence, I always find my discussions and contemplations drawing back to language. The way we talk about men and women frame underlying, but influential biases that prevent us from not only recognising the issue of gender based violence but ultimately the humanity that we are deprived of due to gender norms. It is for this reason that we generated a design probe that involved recording any casual comments in everyday life that manifested these biases.
Though the comments of the plumber can be seen as mere, ordinary “guy talk”, a closer analysis exposes misogyny, so that what is unintentional and harmless is rendered as problematic and destructive. Not only was he perpetuating the cultural necessity of men to validate their self worth through the sexual exploitation of women but also the hostility and subordination targeted specifically towards Asian women. What is also quite significant about this casual exchange is the bystander behaviour of the two men who could’ve confronted the plumber about his misogynistic, racist comments. Though this presents a missed opportunity with one individual, the eradication of gender based violence demands the active participation of all people who will question and challenge sexism wherever it presents itself.
The screenshot above came from the second component of the design probe executed by my interviewee which recorded any misogynistic discussions occurring on social media. We are currently living in an age where the activity of social justice movements are heavily driven and shaped by online content. The conversation regarding gender inequality is extended beyond the community of acclaimed scholars and writers, resulting in a much more inclusive, diverse and reactive exchange. The benefits of such changes can be seen in the exploration of misogyny in under-investigated industries/environments such as rap music. What was quite interesting about the comments above is how the rejection of sexism in rap lyrics and media must be sensitive to the criminalisation of black men. This in turn reveals the complicated, multifaceted nature of sexism and gender based violence even within the domain of rap music – though rap music has been pioneered by the African American community, we cannot hold their race responsible for the misogyny prevalent in the genre. Though this may seem obvious to some, the constant vilification of black men in the media can create this subconscious tendency to see black men as inherently guilty of sexual assault.
5 Point Summary
- People become informed about gender based violence mostly through recent content shared on social media
- Race shapes the different ways women experience sexism – racism and sexism exist side by side and together produce in a different forms of marginalization.
- The rejection of sexism must be cohesive with the rejection of racism.
- There are more confrontations to sexist comments in social media than face to face conversations.
- Our lack of education about assault in our school education drives us to inform ourselves through other sources e.g. social media, movies, books etc.
Apprehensive that my interviewee would be largely unaware of gender based violence, I created questions that were perhaps too simple and general. Though the insight I gained was valuable, a second attempt would involve more specific, controversial questions related to gender based violence. Ultimately however, the interview and design probe exercises revealed my own weaknesses and unconsidered areas of the issue to allow for a richer, more intersectional understanding of gender based violence.
By Giselle Enriquez