Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why is violence her fault?

We often get asked why women stay in violent relationships, as if a woman's decision to stay with the person she loves somehow makes her responsible for all of the violence she has endured. David Cox at the Guardian poses the same question about rape:

Rape isn't the only crime that's unresponsive to law enforcement. We don't imagine that prosecuting drug dealers will solve the drugs problem. We urge their potential victims to "just say no". We advise that those receiving emails from Nigeria that promise large sums of money in return for smaller upfront payments should exercise caution.

When our houses are burgled, we're hardly more likely than rape victims to see the intruder end up behind bars. So what do we do? We fit locks to our doors and windows. We keep our valuables out of sight.

To suggest any comparable behaviour in the field of rape is considered outrageous. Yet, why shouldn't women be encouraged to think twice before visiting footballers' hotel rooms late at night? Why shouldn't they be advised that to get themselves into a drunken stupor in the company of a frisky male could carry risks? Whatever the polite classes may feel, a large proportion of the population continues to see sense in such admonitions.
With whom do you think the responsibility should lie? Is it her fault if she "puts herself" in a potentially unsafe situation? And what if a woman stays with her abusive partner? Does she then deserve the violence she faces?

When did torture become sexy?

We first got our idea for creating a blog when our staff began reading about a backlash against the advertising campaign for the movie Captivity. So even though the fervor has died down and the movie is out of theaters, we still wanted to post about it briefly.

In her article at the Huffington Post, Jill Soloway described the billboards she saw as she was taking her young son to school:

The first image had a black-gloved hand over her mouth, titled CAPTURE. Next, her eyes begged for rescue as her mascara ran and her bloody finger tried to pry its way out of a cage, titled CONFINEMENT.

In the next picture, titled TORTURE, she was encased in a strange mask, with tubes coming out of her nose, draining blood.

The last frame was Elisha, may her career rest in peace after posing for this, hanging dead, lying on her back with one breast prominently displayed. The word in this frame was TERMINATION.
What's the big deal, right? It's just a horror movie. Jill's assessment:

This wasn't just horror, this wasn't just misogyny... it was a grody combo platter of the two, the torture almost a punishment for the sexiness.
So when did torture become sexy? We've seen it in a gradual movement leading to Hostel, a film that explicitly associated torture and violence with erotic gratification, but this is the first time that we've seen a torture film marketed in such a way. Joss Wheadon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had this to say about the film in his own letter to the MPAA:

I've watched plenty of horror - in fact I've made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered. . .

But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this.
The backlash, described in Soloway's article and in news and entertainment pieces across the nation, reached a fever pitch, with tens of thousands of calls and letters made to the MPAA.

How can we create movement like this in our own community?

Welcome to the Big Picture

In June, WRC introduced our community to Snapshots, an original theatre production that told the true stories of domestic violence survivors who came into contact with our Center. Each story showcased the strength of a woman who endured violence, or a child who witnessed violence, and inevitably led the audience to question why abuse was still so prevalent in 2007.

In answering this question, we must move from looking at snapshots of individual lives, to examining the bigger picture of systems, values, and social trends that perpetuate violence against women. Though every woman's story is important, and though each batterer should be held accountable for his actions, there is a larger piece to the puzzle that we hope to put together here.

This is a new endeavor with lots of possibilities, but we are counting on you for its success. We are challenging you, our readers, to keep your minds open and to be willing to consider new ideas, but also to question us if you don't understand or disagree. We want to create genuine community dialogue, and we encourage you to post comments, or to suggest story ideas by emailing Please tell your friends and colleagues about our site and check back weekly for updates.

From everyone at Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, welcome to The Big Picture!