24
May 19

What’s the future for human rights activism?

A beer garden. That is the perfect spot for a political discussion according to Feministiskt Initiativ (FI). People sneak in front of the panel consisting of party members and activists opposing antiziganism to order in the bar indoors. The audience is sipping beer and coffee while listening to the discussion. Antiziganism and the upcoming European election are the main themes of the evening. While the election for the European Parliament, where FI has a seat, is on May 26, the current date, May 16, marks 75 years since the Romani rebellion in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

This historical date gives a serious tone to the otherwise rather lighthearted conversation. Concrete goals for the coming term in the Parliament are overshadowed by core beliefs and personal journeys, as well as reflections over the commonalities between the stances of the party activists and the antiziganist activists. A common goal seems rather easy to identify: they fight for human rights.

This may seem like old news in most political parties. But the true significance of human rights becomes apparent by listening to the stories of the panel. Unlike many parties where members have a long background in political youth organisations, the speakers of the evening share roots in local activism and small-scale projects.

”I didn’t even want to become a politician”, says Soraya Post, the member of the panel who currently holds a seat in the European Parliament. ”I think we all rather share a background as activists. ”

While traditional political parties struggle with declining membership, the starting point far away from politics can hint at how a future political landscape may look like. Rather than an ideological awakening, these activists talk about hands-on experiences of human right work that they did not perceive as political to begin with. They do not identify themselves foremost as politicians.

Rather than national organisations, their activism sprung from a micro-level where friends or local communities focused on helping groups of people in rather concrete ways. What they are doing here tonight just followed as an extension of activism. Could this be an alternative to traditional political engagement? When the focus shifts from the divide between left and right on the political scale and the spotlight is turned towards the struggle between right-wing populism and liberal strivings for human rights, the view on political activism should change accordingly. Political engagement in the everyday fights for values and beliefs should not be overlooked.

Even though most contemporary parties embrace human rights, this party states human rights as their main foundation while it also plays a big role in its supporter’s struggles. The party is hard to separate from activism, something many parties probably envy. But is this an upcoming trend? Although hard to tell, many of the activists and supporters of the party are quite young.


15
Apr 19

IFEMA: directing women towards change?

by Caroline Ulvros

Colorful silhouettes transforming by sneezing. Protesters and police forces clashing in a dystopian version of Poland. Jews hiding during the Second World War. A mother meeting her young daughter right before Christmas. A wide variety of genres and themes are displayed in the Polish short films at the International Female Film Festival Malmö. Early signs of spring outside are blocked by thick curtains this weekend in April. It’s definitively worth it.

This annual festival, IFEMA for short, screens films by female directors. Some aspirations for the festival are to act as a platform for gender debate, to give women a place for networking, and to highlight the importance of women’s view of the world. The event is arranged by Imagenes del Sur, a non-profit, publicly funded organization that focus on gender perspectives and female film production.

“The best fireworks ever” Director: Aleksandra Terpińska Photo: Munk Studio

Gender equality in Swedish film production is a long struggle. The national policy for supporting the film industry stems from the 1960s. International female film festivals had their global lift-off during the 1970s when gender inequality in the industry gained domestic and global attention. This is when the national promotion of gender equality in the Swedish film industry took form on grounds that still prevail. Ever since then, many reforms focus on quotas for women.

Looking at the increased numbers of female directors, such ambitions seem successful. But these measurements have received a fair share of criticism. Quality and commercial success are the main goals of the film industry and gender equality amongst directors can be perceived as input in the production seemingly dislodged from these goals. When assessments of quality are viewed as unaffected by gender and equality aspirations are seen as hard to combine with a commercial logic, demands for equality may appear to clash with these goals.

From the latest national report on gender equality in film. Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet

Moreover, gender equality is more complex than fulfilling austere quantitative guidelines. Structures beyond percentages risk being obscured, for example how norms can obstruct pitches of films with female leads or exclude certain themes. The crucial dynamics of networking also risks being overlooked. And this is certainly an industry where networking is central.

Networking is however not ignored by the festival program. After the screening, female directors present ongoing projects and asks for relevant feedback. The following discussion with the audience spans production processes, personal interpretations, and concrete technical tips from experts. Seamlessly, the feedback session merges with the following item of the day; mingle with the directors.

I briefly chat with Anna Lönn Franko, spokesperson for the network Women in Film an Television (WIFT) which is co-hosting the festival. WIFT receives public funding and works for a wider medial representation of women and non-binary. Lönn Franko emphasizes how networking is the gist of their strategy, rendering the festival a general theme of making women heard through interaction rather than through the screen. Her view on what actually changes the industry is interesting. She does not highlight theoretical feminist statements or finding tools for measuring female presence. But instead, the actual process of networking.

Sweden’s only feminist scholarship, promoted by WIFT. Photo: WIFT.

Female film festivals are globally united by a feminist background and a will for social change, and on good grounds. Both in Sweden and internationally, female directors receive lower funding and A-list festivals are heavily dominated by men. A female presence is sometimes used as a token and proof of equality, even when it is not linked to general terms for women in the industry. A way of changing this is to acknowledge that diverse experiences and perspectives rely on informal and creative processes.

Internationally, female film festivals may be seen as the most evident way that female directors are contributing to a transnational, feminist, alternative public sphere. Screening a certain amount of women’s work is not nearly as important as the creative industry that is a result of these film festivals. Audience participation and networking dynamics creates experiences and perspectives, and thus works as a cultural and social hotbed for change.

“Beneath” Director :Joanna Satanowska. Photo: Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola Filmowa

Judging by the festival, public policies today include changes of male domination in creative rooms that are hard to measure, especially compared to numbers of directors. Considering my own experiences of producing film in male-dominated creative spaces, these kinds of physical, traditional processes are still needed. Norms and interactions are hard to change while looking at percentages. Voices need interaction, not just space.

 

Literature:

Carocci, Enrico: A counterpublic sphere? Women’s film festivals and the case of Films de Femmes. European Journal of Women’s Studies. 2016, Vol. 23(4): 447–453

Jansson, Maria, 2017: Gender equality in swedish film policy: Radical interpretations and ‘unruly’ women. European Journal of Women’s Studies, Nov. 2017, Vol. 24(4):336-350

Jansson, Maria 2019: The quality of gender equality: gender quotas and Swedish film governance. International Journal of Cultural Policy. Mar. 2019, Vol. 25 (2): 218-231


10
Apr 19

Women’s spaces in Malmö: Metood

by Caroline Ulvros

A late afternoon sun shines through white curtains in an exhibition hall in Malmö. Around a large table, about thirty artists are gathered. Long shadows fall over the white table cloth and the light glitters in chairs of clear plastic and a massive chandelier in gold. The room doubles as a wedding hall. All eyes are on three female artists in front of the white curtains; Jenny Grönvall, Ellen Suneson, and Julia Björnberg. Tonight, they initiate a discussion on how to use feelings of failure, paranoia, and passivity in artistic methods.

The discussion at Alta Art Space is arranged by Metood, a group working to prevent sexual harassment, expose power structures, and counteract silence culture within the art sphere in the city. The group emanates from the #metoo-movement and receives funding from the state and the municipality. Events are presented on their Facebook page, where Metood uses the hashtag #konstnärligfrihet protesting sexual harassment in the Swedish art realm and likes the page for #tystnadtagning, a Swedish hashtag about sexual harassment in acting corresponding to #silenceaction.

The three artists depict their lengthy collaboration with a focus on the joint exhibition examining the role of failure in art. Together they created a safe space to process feelings of shame as well as reflect on experiences and structures. Issues they have faced are used to comment on classic feminist notions of the personal versus the political and master suppression techniques. Relating personal stories to recognized theories about gender structures is no doubt effective. A glaring contrast to how male experiences are perceived as universal and political is inevitable for the audience. Sadly enough, the validity and durability of the theories cast clear shadows over the white table cloth.

The artist’s collaboration, predating #metoo and not centered around sexual harassment, gain political importance through emotional and subjective aspects. Except demonstrating the crucial role of personal stories for raising political awareness, what does the discussion tells us about how to achieve change? It is not uncommon to encounter separatist movements as a strategy for creating mobilization and challenge power structures. Metood is separatist for women and non-binary individuals, seeing diverse perspectives as essential for political change.

Could the legacy of #metoo be a lasting upgraded status for female experiences, or does the change lies in how these personal stories are expressed? After #metoo, the combination of hashtags, Facebook mobilization, and physical meetups seems crucial for many political strategies. Even though neither social media mobilization nor struggles to expand the notion of ”the political” are new, questions about credibility seem to become more palpable. Metood arranges events each month. The audience is interested and numerous, there is barely enough chairs for everyone. Is the long-standing feminist will to change what is political finally coming true in personal narratives masked by hashtags?

When the artists depict how their exhibition was received, I can’t help to wonder about how female artistic expressions will be perceived in a longer comparison. It may be too early to declare #metoo to be a watershed, but what would their discussion be like if they collaborated again in ten years? Or twenty? As the speakers as well as the audience tonight are mainly professionals, who will be reached by these political practices? After the discussion, the audience is invited to write down own experiences and look at an ongoing exhibition. The questions evoked by the evening will probably remain with me for quite some time. When I leave, the sun is still setting over the exhibition and in a hall downstairs, wedding guests arrive.


22
Mar 19

Taking it to the Streets; Protesting Pakistan

by Abigail Drane 

‘Let’s take it to the streets’ isn’t just some cheesy line from a 00’s hip hop battle film. In fact, Pakistani women have been taking it to the streets long before Step Up 2 hit cinemas. Women’s right activist Leena Ghani recounts the famous demonstrations during military dictator Zia ul-Haq’s martial law in the 1980s, “many women before us have paved the way for us. There is a tradition of women being politically progressive in Pakistan.” International Women’s Day 2019 was no different; the streets across Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were filled with a rallying cry, as women with bright sloganed placards marched along them. Under the banner of ‘Aurat March’, women gathered to show solidarity with their fellow women to push for accountability and restorative justice against violence, harassment, and injustice.

In Pakistan, women face discriminatory laws in many aspects of life, including child marriage, divorce, law of inheritance, while often vulnerable to violence such as acid attacks or honour killings, which are practiced in parts of Pakistan. Of the 22 million children who do not attend school, the significant majority are female, while the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the second worst in its 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, with one of the lowest rates of female labour market participation in the world. Such discrimination has led to a wave of social media safe spaces for women, those identifying as women or non-binary. “Given the issues the average Pakistani woman faces – sometimes with nowhere to go – creating a space that recognises a woman’s right to be there is integral,” says Kanwal Ahmed, the founder behind the Facebook group Soul Sisters, with almost 150,000 group members.

 

IWD 2019 marked the second Aurat March, yet it took place among a tense geo-politcal backdrop. In February a suicide bombing took place in Kashmir, setting of a series of military and political escalations amongst India and Pakistan. Therefore, in addition to advocating for the rights of women through the march, and while ensuring not to detract from this, another call of the march was added to end tensions between the two countries, invoking a feminist opposition to war.

Subsequently, in the days leading up to IWD, Sehyr Mirza, a peace activist based in Lahore, began using a hastag #AntiHateChallenge to challenge terrorism and conflict within the region, and soon it went viral. “The #AntiHateChallenge campaign was solely led by women from Pakistan to express solidarity with Indian friends. We were the first ones to break the silence and talk about peace,” says Mirza. “We mostly get to see such campaigns initiated and led by men.” The use of social media allowed those involved in the movement to share their protest and thoughts directly with the government, but also crucially, connect with the other side; India. In fact, Mirza found many Indian women who were just as vehemently opposed to the escalation of conflict as she was.

 

Social platforms during such a tense time helped bridge the divide between feminists seeking peace; a divide which the diplomatic reasoning seemed to be unable to do. The digital platforms have also allowed for a fostering of dialogue amongst likeminded women; a channel which has not be used prior. Furthermore, it is a tangible representation of women able to occupy both the physical and digital space to promote and give a voice to their values. Immediately, Pakistan’s IWD march went beyond advocating for women’s right’s within the Pakistani public sphere, giving means to inject a women’s voice into diplomatic engagement; a voice that is not heard often enough.


22
Mar 19

Femvertising – for women or for profit?

By Zandra Nilsson

After the international movement #metoo the world has opened its eyes for women and their gender-based challenges. Many other movements and hashtags have started to support women’s rights after the campaign. People are now talking about feminism more than I ever heard or experienced before. Feminism has become more mainstream and appealing to a wider audience –which is a benefitable in marketing purposes.

Have you seen Nike´s “Dream Crazier” or Gillette’s “The best men can be”? I have to admit that both of those adverts gave me goosebumps. But just after seeing them I started analyzing my feelings. I felt emotional and happy that these adverts highlighted women’s rights. Nonetheless, what in the world does that have to do with Nike and Gillette? If I buy their stuff, how will that help the society to become more equal? Nike and Gillette are far from the only brands who are using the so called “femvertising”. Other brands such as Always started the campaign #Likeagirl, CoverGirl launched the campaign #GirlsCan and Dove #RealBeauty. Marie Clair, Brewdog, Vodafone, Bodyform, Always, Smirnoff and Spotify, Dove and Wrangler just to mention a few others.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whpJ19RJ4JY[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYaY2Kb_PKI[/youtube]

“Feminism is not about individual women, it’s about a collective and communities. Advertising can’t speak to collective politics because it’s about the individual consumer,” – Sarah Banet-Wesier, author and professor of media and communication at the London School of Economics. She spent five years researching about ”popular feminism”.

Feminism has become a tagline. Profiting from this idea and ideology could be seen as misuse – not empowering. Especially since consumers from the Millennial generation prioritize “a good cause” when they choose their brands. But, could the commercial advertising bring some good? Even if their main purpose is for consumers to buy their goods, could they bring us one step closer to a more equal society after all? Watching advertisings about female power will get people talking and maybe give hope. I believe the first step towards change is to talk about it.

On the other hand, if the companies actually want to make a change shouldn’t they act differently? How about: instead of spending incredible sums of money on commercial production make a change for the long term. Change your suppliers to a company ran by females? Give a percentage of the profit to feminist organizations? Make sure that all female employees get the same salary as the male employees? A good example of a brand that I think has succeeded with this is the Swedish Coffee brand Zoegas. Since 2011 they have been buying all their coffee beans from female farmers in different African countries. They use the hashtags #changingcoffee and #coffeebywomen.

In conclusion, I believe the use of female power in a commercial use could be good as long as it really makes a difference for women. If it only gives profit for the brand, it’s just misuse of an ideology because feminism happens to be “trendy” now. Even if the advertising gives me goosebumps.

 


21
Mar 19

Peace, Politics and Pens

by Abigail Drane

Afghanistan at peace. Can you imagine it? If you are anywhere near my age range (hovering ambiguously around the 30 age bracket), your first understanding of Afghanistan may have been when two towers went crashing to the ground in 2001. Suddenly, Afghanistan, and the prominent figures in it, were thrust to the forefront of my worldly knowledge. Since then, scores of photos from war photographers have become synonymous with a google search of modern-day Afghanistan, while stories of Taliban insurgency and rule have become both the reality for war rooms across the world, and the plot lines of numerous Hollywood films. But imagine for just a minute, headlines void of suicide attacks and threats, and instead, Afghanistan’s Band-e Amir topping the ’10 Places You Must Visit In 2020’ list.

Afghanistan’s Band-e Amir National Park

‘Can I imagine it?’ I ponder while sitting in Afghanistan, scrolling through todays messages on my phone; security alert after security alert. No, I can’t imagine it right now.

But some people can imagine it, and they are making sure we know about it. “We want to see an end to the war” says Farahnaz Forotan, a female journalist and activist for women’s rights in Afghanistan. After 25 years of civil war, peace talks between the United States, Taliban and Afghan government are under way, and never before has the promise of peace has never been so tangible. Splashed across international and local media outlets are the latest Peace Talk updates, while in tea houses, men sit and discuss the potential for change. They have lost family, friends and much of their youth to the ongoing conflict. Some cannot see another way from what they have always known, but many of the younger generation have hope. Yet, amongst the public debate, a key voice is missing; Afghanistan’s women, like Farahnaz.

Activists at the People’s Peace Movement urge the Taliban to denounce violence and seek peace.

Activism for peace in Afghanistan is not a new concept. While demonstrations and social movements have been a well-documented, though targeted, part of civil society since the ousting of the Taliban from political power in 2001, much was relegated to geographically specific locations, gender restrictions and ethnic boundaries. Social media activism has allowed for the bridging of these divides, most popularly seen in the People’s Peace Movement (PPM) from Helmand to Kabul in 2018. The movement gained significant traction on social media, given the route which the subsequent march took, through Taliban held areas. Providing updates through a Facebook page with 40,000 subscribers, activists ‘won the hearts and minds’ of a nation tired of war, as more and more people learnt of the movement via social media and joined alongside. While women were physically present at the sit in events, they were discouraged from joining the march to Kabul due to gender restrictions, subsequently rendered silent yet again in the ongoing national peace debate. If women couldn’t show up physically, it was time to take on an online presence.

Women in Helmand were only allowed to take part in the sit in, not the ongoing march

“In no other time since I was born, has peace ever been so close. And in no other time have I felt the urge to take part in shaping the future of a country that knew only war for as long as I know myself, the country I call home – Afghanistan” says Farahnaz. “But at what price will this peace come? Will women still have to pay a price? Isn’t once more than enough?” Amongst the ongoing Peace Talks, which have only notably featured two women among a sea of men, the term ‘Red Line’ has been regularly referenced; a point of which the negotiating party is unwilling to compromise. In response, just last week Farahnaz launched #MyRedLine, a social media acitivism movement to to inject the voices and desires of herself and other women into the negotiation process, to represent Afghan womens rights.  Where women can not have a physical presence (40 women were denied visas with no explanation to attend the Peace Talks), Farahnaz is using social media to create an online presence for a collective women’s voice)

“This is what “MyRedLine” is about, voicing collectively what we are not going to go back to, regardless of the regime that will rule this country. Because I only see Afghanistan peaceful and prosperous if its future is built on social justice for everyone. And I am not alone. In the face of atrocities, we, the people of Afghanistan stand for our rights. We decide on our future. We will remain here to shape the future where all of us can live together. The time to be louder as ever, stronger as ever, united as ever and supported as ever is now”.

Social media activism provides an alternative avenue for those forced out of a physical representation. In Afghanistan, this could radically change the cultural and political landscape, and with activists like Farahnaz representing the voices of those who have been disregarded, the future is an exciting one.


21
Mar 19

Mujeres Creando: The writing on the wall

by Vesna Vukoja

Neither the earth nor the women are territory of conquest. Photo by David Ozkoidi

Mujeres Creando is a Bolivian anarcho-feminist group movement focused on deconstructing “machismo”, anti-gay prejudice and neoliberalism

Grafitty says: “The femicide it’s a patriarchal state crime”. They don’t consider themselves artists but rather street activists as they explain that creativity belongs to human, women and men, and art can’t be dispossessed by turning it into something that elite can enjoy only.

They don’t consider themselves artists but rather street activists as they explain that creativity belongs to human, women and men, and art can’t be dispossessed by turning it into something that elite can enjoy only.

Mujeres Creando (Women Creating) started with three friends – Maria Galindo, Julieta Paredes and Monica Mendoza back in 1992 at that time when openly being lesbian activist was not easy at all. In Bolivia, at the time, there was very little talk on feminism, especially radical feminism of the streets where Mujeres Creando started.

 Taking art back to the streets

What made Mujeres Creando known in public is their communicative form. They started with reaching people on the street and communicating their messages through street art by painting graffiti called las pintadas. Graffiti – Las pintadas – from the beginning of their collective action was a tool that irritated those on power and provoked their reactions. Painting murals in the streets started as their response to Left and Right parties’ posters often flyposted on the street walls during campaign and elections. Their graffiti messages were written on the same street walls but criticizing both Left and Right, reaching people through poetry and creativity and targeting all kinds of oppression forms. They represent the other missing half in Bolivia, emerging opinions on racism, gender, xenophobia and human rights in general.

According to Mujeres Creando, in a conservative and machist society like Bolivian, art should be feminist. Streets need to interact with people so they use what street offers, empty walls to paint graffiti, to provoke emotions, whether it is laugher, anger or annoyance. For them street is an empty canvas where everything can be said and everyone’s opinion counts, including of those indigenous feminists.

From racism and dictatorship, Vatican and Catholic Church, abortion and birth control, reproductive rights and motherhood, Mujeres Creando, as part of Bolivian society, are provoking both men and women. Since its beginnings, the group has been part of international gatherings, dialoguing with different feminist tendencies and thus being able to build its ideological identity within the autonomous feminism in connection with global struggles. In this sense, Mujeres Creando do not only fight for women’s rights, but against other problems that affect Bolivian and global society.

In Global North everything is controlled and more or less everyone knows, whether or not you can protest, march or even sell things on the street. The only free of control space left is the one on the Internet and most of today’s social movements emerge online. In Bolivia, global South, streets still belong to people and they show it by participating in all the demonstrations, both small and large, local or national. Where they are often seen together with unions, social and cultural groups demonstrating to change their country, protect human rights and nature and demonstrate that despite cultural conservatism, in Bolivia there is another reality that desires and deserves to be respected. Although Mujeres Creando are mostly communicating their messages on the streets – where they origin stays, with new media and online activism they started to be aware of the Internet potential and they don’t miss a chance to spread their word.

Mujeres Creando Blog

In addition to their graffiti and public performances, Mujeres Creando dedicates itself to social justice in many forms. Mujeres Creando publishes its own magazine Mujer Pública (Public Woman), produces a weekly radio show, and like The Emerging Half, uses their blog to express their ideas and reach their public. Their blog is at the same time their official website where they document all their actions and creative street art. Their street graffiti are getting online attention via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and Mujeres Creando are becoming part of a broader global movement, travelling to many parts of the world to exchange ideas about non-institutionally sponsored feminism.

Mujeres Creando continues their fight against patriarchal system, colonialism and neoliberalism and apart of expressing through graffiti, creativity and ongoing public debates, they fight for a voice and participation on online and offline public sphere so the women in Bolivia and around the world can continue creating new world.


21
Mar 19

No love story between hashtags and party platforms?

by Caroline Ulvros

New social movements, loosely held together and without leaders or obvious strategies, may appear as the total opposite of the political establishment resting in dusty Parliament halls. But can a political party of the old school work together with these new movements or are they forever separated? The force of international hashtag movements can hardly be ignored, but do we witness the emergence of a competing political system? What is politically possible for traditional parties?

same old communication, new screens?

While the Swedish feminist party Feministiskt Initiativ is commonly placed to the left on a political scale, the party itself claims to be based on a feminist ideology separated from this traditional categorization. Such an aim doesn’t seem too far from the intentions of new social movements. Still, it could be. Previous election campaigns by Feministiskt Initiativ have been described as relying on traditional narratives of politics when their supporters were looking for new alternatives. They have also been accused of not conveying a clear message about their politics. So are they really challenging traditional politics or not?

Looking at their party platform, some elements stand out among traditional political objectives. They emphasize social movements transgressing national borders as well as international solidarity, but that’s nothing new. In the last election for the European Parliament, they shared global solidarity as a central objective with two other national parties. What would indicate that this solidarity resembles the global justice focus of new social movements?

from the campaign for the European Parliament election

 

One way the party detaches this global solidarity from national decision-making is to point out that their ideology has nothing to do with nations and should not merely be realized inside of institutions. The will to move even further away from traditional party politics can be seen in their campaign for the coming election for the European Parliament. Here, the left-right scale in politics is stated as insufficient for covering power structures and the #metoo-movement is pointed out as an important feminist movement and is connected to their cause.

A similar attitude towards new, global movements is also apparent on the Instagram and Twitter accounts of the local, national, and youth sections of the party. The hashtag #metoo is frequently used. Other hashtags referring to new types of protest are also recurring. For example, #fridaysforfuture and #climatestrike are connected to the ongoing youth strike for the environment. #inteentill is the Swedish translation of #niunamenos, referring to a social movement opposing violence against women. #unheardnomore deals with the empowerment of women in Syria. #timesup is against sexual harassment.

The party does contain a traditional party framework, but it looks like the shape of the frame is somehow shifting. Taken together, the statements about politics and the inclusion of new social movements in political communication may indicate an approach to politics that is not totally conventional. At the very least, it is hard to point out an abyss between the old and the new. As easy it is to disregard this as a political experiment of a small party on the outskirts of the political realm, this party has a seat in the European Parliament and has been close to gaining seats in the national Parliament. Maybe there could be a point to keep an eye on the feminists, in Sweden as well as all over Europe.


20
Mar 19

16 days of activism against gender-based violence

by Zandra Nilsson

During the recent years voices of victims of sexual violence and abuse have been heard through movements such as #MeToo #TimesUp and ”NotOneMore and many others. One might say that we finally have reached a point in history where women no longer will be silent. Because of stigma and shame many women have not shared or reported their experience before, even though violence against women is very common – one out of three women worldwide from different age groups, class, race and social status experience gender-based violence. Their stories need attention.

Orange the World: #HearMeToo

Since 1991 a yearly campaign called “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” has spread worldwide. These campaigns are ongoing from the 25 November (the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women) until the 10 December (the Human Rights Day). Behind the campaign are UN Women (UNiTE) and Women’s Global Leadership Institute. The campaign of 2018 considered how big impact social media and hashtags have made and therefore focused on a hashtag and the importance of sharing a story. 2018’s campaign was called “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”.

The Orange the World: #HearMetoo campaign have 95 000 followers on Twitter and more than 203 500 followers on Facebook. And on Instagram more than 29 000 have used the hashtag. Additionally, the campaign offers more sharing online than social media. On the campaigns webpage anyone can easy share their own story – with only using 8 words. It results in small, poetic “postcards” for the readers to share.

Just as the previous years, the color orange is part of the concept throughout the campaign. The color is symbolizing a brighter future and a world free from violence against women. This means that people are encouraged to ware orange and buildings will be lit up and decorated in the color.

Purpose and result of the campaigns

During these 16 days partners to UNiTE are encouraged to host events for local, national and global feminist movements, women human right defenders and create opportunities for dialogue between activists, the public and policy-makers. Moreover, the purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about gender-based violence all over the world and establish a clear link between local and international work to end gender-based violence. Plus, create tools to pressure government to implement commitments to eliminate gender-based violence. And also, to demonstrate solidarity of women around the world protesting against violence against women.

In total more than 6000 organizations in approximately 187 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaigns since they started in 1991 – and reached over 300 million people.


20
Mar 19

Feminist Malmö through art, festivals and politics

by Caroline Ulvros

Where can you find local, creative feminism in Malmö? The international trend towards party politics becoming more professionalized and less dependent on volunteers also rings true for Sweden. Participation in traditional parties is decreasing. Citizens choose political engagement through protesting, signing petitions and participation in loose or informal networks. This professionalization manifests in how the feminist party Feministiskt Initiativ, Feminist Initiative in English, is often assumed to be an elitist movement.

Feministiskt Initiativ arranging a street party

In an earlier post, I compared a demonstration by this party with an extra-parliamentarian demonstration, but alternatives to traditional party politics go beyond these kinds of organizations. The radical left-wing in Sweden is not especially active online and prefer other ways of political communication, partly because of its demand of more straight forward communication.

So where are the feminist movements? To find dynamic, creative reinterpretations of messages, it could be an idea to look at more artistic and event-based feminist movements. It is safe to say that the comic art scene in Malmö is thriving. The city has tried to establish itself as the ”comic capital” of Sweden and is the home of a popular comic art school as well as an assortment of comic publishers and exhibition halls. On International Women’s Day, I participated in a demonstration with established political parties, but the poster for the demonstration is made by Dotterbolaget.

Dotterbolaget is a feminist, separatist comic art network counteracting patriarchal structures, working both as a professional network and as a social arena for artists. It prioritizes community and political statements above profit and has managed to maintain a rather flat organization. The Facebook group for its node in Malmö has 1,3 thousand likes, while the national network has around 770 followers on Twitter and over 2,6 thousand followers on Instagram. The network has gained attention in both TV and newspapers.

Although many hundreds mark themselves as attending their events on Facebook, they only arrange a few physical activities a year, mainly in the form of exhibitions and poetry readings. By looking at their active Instagram account, it is clear that a focus lies with participating in festivals and creating art rather than arranging meet-ups.

Just as the party Feministiskt Initiativ, Dotterbolaget has frequently participated in the yearly feminist festival in Malmö. This festival is organized by a non-party network for feminist organizations in Malmö, ”Malmö’s feministiska nätverk”, with 2,5 likes on their Facebook page. To celebrate International Women’s Day, this network organized another art and film event in Malmö with close to a thousand interested and around 170 people attending. The shifting, loose affiliations in these feminist networks is apparent by how the participants and content of the yearly feminist festival vary significantly with art, lectures, music, and standup being represented in various ways. The Facebook page for the festival has around 6,3 thousand likes and the festival has attracted thousands of visitors over the years.

Street art promoting the feminist network in Malmö

A remarkable feature of these organizations is the connections between them. Regarding reach and activity, the size of the local section of Feminist Initiative on Facebook could be compared to Dotterbolaget and the network for the feminist festival. The groups are clearly interlinked, as the members and supporters frequently like and attend each other’s events and comment on the same posts. To me, this implies a vivid interaction between different kinds of artistic expressions and different approaches to politics, both new and old.

When looking at these feminist efforts, it is important to keep in mind that they do not necessarily dominate the picture of feminism outside of established media. For example, right-wing movements constitute a large part of the alternative movements. The right-wing group ”Stå upp för Sverige” is one of the three most influential political non-party Facebook groups in Sweden with 166 thousand likes. A recent share of an article can illustrate how feminism is interpreted on this site. A news site wrote about the trial of a former leader of Feminist Initiative in an article which on “Stå upp för Sverige” received 1,3 thousand Facebook reactions, 150 shares and 430 comments, most of them obviously very negative. I tried to sketch a comic of my own to describe my feelings about this: