Resisters and survivors kick back

Thanks to the End Violence Against Women campaign, we know the statistics:

  • Almost half of all women in England and Wales experience domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking in their life-time
  • Two women a week are killed by their male partners or ex-partners
  • London police receive two calls a week from women and girls reporting so-called ‘honour’ crimes (such as forced marriage)

And we’ve had a few posts this month already, as we do most months, discussing the links between violence, the sex industry, ideas about masculinity, and so on, to try and explain why the epidemic level of male violence against women stubbornly, maddeningly, persists.

Well, here’s some ‘good’ news. Two pieces in fact.

The first is that there is a new blog for resisters and survivors to share stories, strategies and successes. Set up by the London Centre for Personal Safety, the blog is part of a writing project called ‘ReSisters – Women Resisting Violence’ and aims to celebrate “the ingenuity, wit, courage, resilience and strength of women who routinely resist violence”.

In effect, the blog is like a journal of triumphs that we can take courage and power from. I feel a huge surge of ‘yeah!’ with each story I read, basking in the writers’ successes at resisting the men that wanted to bring them down. I get especially giddy at the ones where the author managed a particularly pithy put-down – which I’ll admit is a bit nerdy.

It’s the same feeling I got on reading Bidisha’s piece in the Guardian. If I’m really honest, I’ll admit that the high is actually from the (imagined) feeling of subverting someone’s attempt to control me, by exercising a power over them: in this case, a superior wit that renders them – metaphorically speaking of course – impotent.

I don’t know that this is ultimately a compassionate or constructive way of resisting violence, but I do know that it’s kinder than sticks and stones… And it’s effective, which obviously is the point.

You can email your own story of resistance to [email protected].

The second piece of good news is that the London Feminist Network is also providing a forum for resisters and survivors to speak out in its newly launched public installation campaign on sexual harassment and assault.

The I Did Not Ask For It campaign is inspired by a women’s dirty laundry project in India and the Clothesline Project in the US. Women are being asked to send in a piece of clothing, or a photo of one, that they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted or harassed with ‘I did not ask for it’ pinned or painted across it.

The collected clothing and pictures will be put up on a public washing line and exhibited in the first instance at Reclaim the Night. The images will also be displayed on a dedicated blog.

The organisers explain:

The whole point is to highlight that male violence and harassment is about male power and not about what women wear or drink or do or where we go. This will be made visual because the garments will obviously range from boiler suits to short skirts… So let’s hang the washing out to dry and shame all those men who view our bodies as public property.

The theme here is again one of making the men who perpetrate violence look bad. As before, this resonates with part of me: I can understand the need to shame and expose. But in my more reflective moments, I do wonder how transformative this vein of campaigning for change really is…

Photo by Flavs Paradise, shared under a Creative Commons license