A COLLABORATORY TEXT-PROJECT ON THE PHENOMENON: #MeToo
Former exhibitors and associates of Kunsthall 3,14, covering corners of the world, answer tree questions regarding the impact or lack of impact the MeToo campaign have had in their country.
The questions was as follows:
1. Could you say something about how present the public debate is on MeToo in your country?
2. How are the Metoo stories received in media and among your friends?
3. Do you have any thought upon future effect of MeToo?
Contribution by the artist Fabiana Gomes reporting from Brazil.
1. In Brazil there are a large number of movements and organizations discussing the gender issue. Local actions and movements like the SlutWalk, #MeToo, my secret friend have gained strength in recent times in the country and especially in the main capitals, such as: Rio, Sao Paulo, Vitória, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte.
However, we are living in an extremely conservative moment underpinned by the ongoing coup d'état, in which the elected President has been impeached even in the absence of evidence. And here it seems very relevant to me that this happened during a woman's term. With the coup several cases were put in course, such as PEC - Proposed Amendment to the Constitution to vote on an amendment of the Constitutional Law with the objective of prohibiting all types of abortion, including those authorized by judicial decisions.
The Commission is dominated by the evangelical group and the proposal includes the prohibition of abortion even in cases where the woman is the victim of rape. The popular pressure and the intervention of some deputies nterrupted the process, however there are also a significant number of people who are in agreement with these and other measures that represent a retrogression in the field of the rights of the individual.
2. The Brazilian media is extremely sensationalist and private cases are usually exposed with judgment of value and blame of the victim. There is also a big breakthrough in alternative media, such as the Ninja Media, that has been acting strongly since the protests of 2013, when there were a number of popular demonstrations across the country that initially emerged to challenge increases in public transport fares and triggered themessuch as public spending at major international sporting events. In social networks and among friends these issues are treated with greater support for causes such as legalization of abortion and repudiation of acts of sexual harassment. But I think it is relevant to note that this discussion within specific groups or groups of friends is important and necessary, but it is also necessary to broaden the dialogue beyond the bubbles that look in the same direction.
3. I consider the opening of space for "speech" created by the movement #MeToo of extreme importance. The fear of exposure, shame and blame of the victim are the main factors that often lead the victims to face these situations without support. I do not have much idea about the future of #MeToo, but I think that beyond social networks it is important that the movement go to streets, schools, cultural centers and all possible debate places.
Contribution by the cinematographer Alise Zarina reporting from Latvia.
1. Lately the loudest public discussion is about the ratification of Istanbul Convention, the convention on preventing and combating violence against woman and domestic violence. The convention was adopted in 2011 and has been signed by 46-member states. The goal was to set comprehensive standards for preventing and combating violence. Currently, 28 states have ratified it, and in those countries the convention has entered into force. My country Latvia has still not ratified, and It pains me. It pains me to see religious leaders alongside regular conspiracy theorists meddling in this decision. I have been hearing and reading a lot of claims that violence against women in Latvia is non-existent or perfectly covered by the law today and, of course, neither is true. #MeToo is seen as part of this discussion and often ridiculed even in the national media. We have experienced bad comedy, sexist comments and an attempt to attribute the #MeToo movement to political ideologies. One of the people invited the most times to express his opinion publicly is a psychotherapist whose license has been annulated, because he has spoken out defending violence against women, yet he is seen by media as a “provocateur” and the "representative of the other side" and welcomed warmly with all his crazy opinions. These, for example, include one that women-politicians should never be taken seriously, because they menstruate once in a while and that all feminists are people that have experienced a trauma of sort that withdrew their true self; their femininity away from themselves. The very same person saying this, is the man we seriously ask opinions from whenever it comes to violence against women, sexism or even psychology as such. A part of our society looks upon his viewpoints as legitimate.
Latvia lack data on the actual amount of harassment and violence, therefore we can only make assumptions. That said it should be no doubt about that domestic violence is a problem. Not so long ago a serious organization started a national campaign against violence against women. The campaign was meet with a question: Why not against violence against both sexes? Putting attention towards women for once, seemes hard to accept and can still be perceived as “radical feminism”.
2. First of all, I think there were too few of the stories told. No names were ever said out loud.
I heard many more stories in private rooms, some of them were truly shocking and way more brutal than any of mine, but the victims mostly shared an opinion that it was “water under the bridge”. I spoke out about my personal experience and the stories I published I think are so common to most women that honestly, I did not expect the reaction I received. Men seemed clueless and truly surprised – something that made me realize that we must communicate these issues much louder. Some women chose to use social media to tell their stories after my online publication, some talked to me directly instead – and I would assume and hope that many more talked to their friends and relatives. No doubt, there was some negative reaction and a lot of victim blaming. At the end, we need to feel support and we need to be encouraged.
3. I hope it’s a beginning of a conversation. There is, and there will be, a lot of people taking a stand against #MeToo. For some reason, at least in Latvia, this group of people call themselves “protectors of family values and traditions”. I dare to believe that our values and traditions have nothing to do with harassment and violence, but if they are – it is time for a change. Maybe Eastern Europe (even though many people in Latvia would prefer to be called Northern Europe) is a little behind when it comes to gender equality and women’s empowerment, yet the younger generations are ready to leave the soviet heritage behind and move towards a more inclusive, solidary and tolerant society.
Contribution by the performance artist and former project manager at Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts & Culture.
Sareena Sattapon reporting from Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Thai people were enthusiastic about #MeToo, unfortunately it only lasted for a short period of time. Personally, I see it as a highly important that more people speak up load about sexual harassment and abuse. Although sexual harassment in Thailand is comparatively low regarding other neighboring countries, the statistics of rape in Thailand is very high. Moreover, most of the cases are caused by family members. Nevertheless, the issues of sexual harassment and equality of rights between male and female still remain hidden and unspoken.
2. Lots of women dared to tell their experiences of sexual harassment. Some of the cases I learned about were extremely brutal. It seems to me that in many cases the women are not fully aware of the serious degree of the assaults being done to them. Somehow, they accepted the situation as normality because it has been going on for such a long time and is so deeply structured within society. Communities looking upon sexual harassment as normal is terrifying to think about. When we become used to it and unconsciously neglect the sexual harm, we end up with 50 % of the population being nothing but objects.
3. Over time I hope to see continuous launches of campaigns like #MeToo. Not just ending up with a mayfly; a trend that quickly disappear. People have to be aware of the problem and they need to change. Resistance like Metoo and this collective text project may initiate other activities that will add to the uproot of this devastating violence.
Translated by Warittha Kraiwee.
Contribution by the artist Jinoos Taghizadeh reporting from Iran.
1. I found many posts with the hashtag of #MeToo in Persian-language on social networks. The stories were referring to sexual harassment in working environments, education and in domestic sphere.
It seems to me, that these stories are opening up to old wounds that has not been able to heal.
The stories I read, mentioned sexual harassment in traditional and religious sphere, as well as in modern social relations between intellectuals. In both cases, the victims did not find the strength to expose nor confront the crime. In the first case, the women would have been accused of violating religious taboos or domestic power structures. In the second case, most of the women were scared or embarrassed to speak about it. They do not want to destroy their image of being a modern, intellectual and independent woman. They want to be the women who believes in social and sexual liberties. I see a confusion, a contradiction in concepts and meanings.
The #MeToo movement has given them the courage to talk about the persecution they carry with them.
2. Something that is really strange to me (regarding myself as well) is the fact that people do not mentions names. Most of the victims talk about the painful event without pointing fingers towards the particular person behind. The reason for this I believe relates to the general mood of our society. Due to our society lack of acceptance of the victim’s legal rights and due to the lack of support within the public opinion. I have to further convey a serious story from Iran from last year:
Several men in Iran have come forward to allege that Saeed Toosi. He is one of the country’s top Qu’ran reciters. He is in many ways a role model for Iranian religious youth. Seven alleged victims have gone public through banned media outlets, saying that 46-year-old Saeed Toosi raped them when they were his students between the ages of 12 - 14. The sexual abuse took place over the past seven years. At least three of the men claims that previous complaints made through legal channels were covered up or ignored by religious Revolutionary Guard authorities in order to protect the reputation of Iran’s religious institutions. Last week (exactly in the same days that Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in a state prison) he was acquitted of charges of sexually molesting and raping four of the victims who filed complaints with the judiciary against him.
As you read this, you realize that our situation in Iran is difficult. Not only are we living in a condition where law and order do not support victims of sexual abuses, part of society hides and conceal these issues. Therefore, if the victims find the amount of courage necessary to be able to tell their stories, they still prefer to be silent about the name of abusers. Especially if the abuser is a public figure or has a good reputation in social life or in their career.
3. I want to be hopeful, I want the "#MeToo" movement to help victims to reveal all of these hidden stories. I want the movement to help sexual victims. I want the movement to help them speak about this subject and understand their right concerning this issue.
Contribution by the artist Adriana Bustos reporting from Argentina.
1. In Argentina, unfortunately, femicide statistics (Femicide or feminicide is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as "the intentional killing of females (women or girls) because they are females", though definitions vary depending on the cultural context) are dramatically high. It seems that the number of victims has grown since the creation of the organization ‘Ni una menos’ (Not one less").
It´s a movement of women that was created in 2015 due to the number of women murdered. It is not possible to know whether this is due to the increase in cases of violence or an increase in the complaints after the appearance of the space to denounce.
The femicide appears as the most extreme violence but from there and other levels, cases of abuse, inequalities, invincibility and other kind of violence are part of our daily life. The problematic is now at a public level and means awareness of the historical and present violence against women.
Another thing I would like to mention is the fact that I am participating in an organization of women in arts called Nosotras Proponemos (We propose).
A movement powerfully growing all over Argentina. In our statement we attempt to expand awareness of the patriarchal and sexist behavior pervasive within the art world.
2. My feeling is that the issue is impossible to ignored by anyone. The effects that occur are immense. The word manifests itself collectively and that means that we are witnessing a passage. A nightmare in the solitary scenario of subjectivity, is turning to a public and political statute in this case.
Today we have a momentum where a personal situation can be told. Today it will not only be understood, but also a collective box of legal tools follows.
3. My believe is that an organization like "#Metoo" created from the center, not from more peripheral societies such as Latin America, is constructive and positive. Although the problem is global we know that the center has this ability to impose a certain discourse.