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


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.


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.


19
Mar 19

She For Us?

by Abigail Drane

One viral video: Check

One catchy hashtag: Check

One likeable celebrity activist: Check

Ready to launch a social movement online? Yes.

Ok, ok, I know this may sound incredibly cynical, but please let me play the devil’s advocate (excuse the pun) for just a moment. When Emma Watson, famed British Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, took to the stage 2014 at a UN event for the newly formed HeForShe, she charged men and boys with actively participating a solidarity movement for gender equality. In case you were sleeping under a rock at the end of September 2014, or were not engaged on any social platform (cue Millenials gasp of horror), then chances are you caught some of Emma’s speech and those that followed, or at least the reactions of others blowing up across the internet.

 

The pulling power of celebrity is something that has been used and some may argue, exploited, by both humanitarian and for-profit sectors for many years. Celebrities continue to front campaigns and advertisements for a plethora of reasons, from Comic Relief to the UN to Revlon. New media platforms have offered organisations and companies the celebrity’s pre-established social network, instead of relying on solely their own also resulting in the rise of online ‘influencers’. While marketing or raising awareness via celebrity is not a new concept, the use of new media platforms is consistently reshaping the process of and providing new avenues for engagement with the public.

So why does celebrity matter when talking about activism? In my previous post, I noted how social media and other online platforms have provided a virtual space for women to debate, challenge and advocate for their rights in Afghanistan, and in essence, in virtual arenas around the world. These are sometimes-organic, grassroots, local level discussions born out women experiencing events or seeing an issue in their every day and determining to resolve it through being a catalyst for change. HeForShe was about gender equality for all women, in all places. So where were the voices of the global south in this movement?

The most predominant faces associated with the HeForShe movement, as were plastered across social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, included actors, politicians and recognised social leaders. While Emma is an activist for gender equality, and has been on the receiving end of inequality, her speech highlighted her noticeable privilege and in doing so, consequently noted her difference from many other women around the world:

My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day.”

So where are the voices of other female activists who have been loved less, unable to go to school, or were undervalued? Well, it turns out they have been there all along, on the same media platforms but without the same reach.  Furthermore, as also seen with cases of celebrity humanitarianism, Western celebrities mainly appeal to Western spectators, hence the style of production is catered for the intended style of Western consumption.

Reflections of the #MeToo movement pin point Alyssa Milano as the key instigator for the global phenomenon it became, but often fail to mention Tarana Burke’s founding involvement. Are we to assume that social media + celebrity activist = the only way to develop a successful movement? I sincerely hope not. Social media activism provides a means to negate traditional power structures, state boundaries, and political institutions. Time and time over we have seen this – particularly in the global south – continue to challenge the norm. However, there are limitations, and regardless of the scope for social media activism to take place, the preestablished networks which celebrities hold certainly help grow and build momentum often far more so than any other individual. The intentions are the same; both voices are trying to form collective action on the same platform, yet the power structures are the different. Perhaps it’s time I changed who I’m following on social media?


18
Mar 19

#SaveRahaf: Twitter changed everything

by Vesna Vukoja 

Hero for some and target for others; while she received a massive online support from people all around the world, back home she is considered unwelcome and is threatened to be killed

On 5th of January, unknown Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun became global news as she on her newly created Twitter account pleaded for help.

While trying to reach Australia via Thailand she was held at Bangkok airport and was meant to be out on a flight to go back to her family. Rahaf, who fled her family alleging abuse got stranded at Bangkok’s main airport and from airport hotel room started unravel her situation. Her passport was confiscated by Saudi diplomat, which prevented her from continuing her trip to Australia, where her plan was to claim asylum. She barricaded herself in her airport hotel room and started publishing series of tweets, attracting international attention and asking for humanitarian protection from UNHCR. She said she had renounced Islam, punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, and that she will be killed if returned to her family. In one day her Twitter followers grew to 45 thousands and with #SaveRahaf hashtag gathered strength by each hour. As Rahaf was posting live updates on her situation, thousands were sharing her story with hopes of making a difference. Soon UNHCR declared her a refugee status and within 72 hours she left Thailand for Canada, which has granted her asylum.

Young and social-savvy, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was able to take things into her own hands by successfully mobilising a solid online campaign to protect herself. In a series of tweets she posted online, al-Qunun said she decided to share her story on social media because she no longer had anything to lose. She has come out of this agony with 126 thousands followers on Twitter in only five days her account has been active.

Although there is considerable sympathy for the plight of Saudi women, critics point out that the refugees fleeing horrible persecution worldwide are left behind. Asylum seekers spend months, and often years, stuck in detention centres while their cases are considered. During this long and painful decision period asylum seekers cannot work and very often their paperwork gets lost which creates delays in asylum decision-making.

In recent history we witnessed how smartphones and social media have helped tens of thousands of refugees reach the safety of Europe during the Syrian war. It offers a relatively cheap and easily accessible means of communication but their use is not without challenges for asylum seekers as some EU governments are starting to extract data from asylum seekers’ phones and use it against them.

This is one example of powerful use of social media by one savvy Saudi teenage girl but is this going to change peoples attitude towards asylum seekers feeling abusive families or regimes is hard to tell. While Rahaf was successful in getting asylum and with her social media campaign saved her life, many asylum seekers might feel angry and frustrated at the back of the long asylum queue.

Will social media become future passports and one of the tools to claim asylum or will it change the terrain of access to it?


16
Mar 19

#WhatIsMyName and Other Questions

by Abigail Drane

What do you think of when you think of Afghanistan? It is war? Osama bin Laden? Explosions making headlines, or not making headlines anymore as the case may be? Maybe it’s the heavily photographed blue burqa; a small strip of mesh allowing the wearer to look out upon the world yet stops the world from looking in? Or perhaps it’s a younger generation rising up against traditional gender norms entrenched in Afghan society?

As I travel the across Afghanistan, at times from behind a strip of blue mesh myself, it becomes apparent that after the Taliban regime was brought to an end in 2001 and access to digital telecommunications became a reality for many Afghans, parts of the country began embracing a social shift to engaging in socio-political discourse in response to growing communications infrastructure. Buzzing mobile phone stores selling credit line the bazaar streets as we pass through, reinforcing a 2017 survey which found an estimated 67% of the total population now carry mobile phones. In remote villages, tucked into Afghanistan’s famed sweeping mountainsides, satellites dot the rooves of mud houses beaming television channels and providing internet access into homes reliant on solar power.

Yet amongst growing access to information and seemingly progression, gender relations in Afghanistan remain a source of tension within society. Hussain and Amin (2018) argues that women in Afghanistan are experiencing both the expansion of opportunities as a result of the technological shift and entrenched resistances due to traditional societal roles. For those who advocate for a change to women’s roles in Afghan society, such as Tahmina Arian and Laleh Osmany of the #WhereIsMyName movement, access to social media has provided a means to do so.

Activism for women’s rights, against a backdrop of ongoing violence, is often too dangerous within the public arena, as demonstrations are often targeted by those fundamentally opposed. It is therefore clear that social media, as a mobilizing platform for socio-political discourse, is an asset for activists within Afghanistan. Social media provides an opportunity to express opinions, converse with others around the world, and mobilize others all with potential anonymity of the internet; actions which could be life-threatening in an off-line world.

In the Afghan context, it is rare that women can join together outside their homes to express themselves. Even the minority of women who were able to attend, who are in the minority, were rarely given space to reflect more broadly on the consequences and further implications of unequal gender norms. While humanitarian and other iNGO actors have actively worked to mobilise women to advocate for their rights through peer support groups, social media has provided a means for women to empower themselves via existing structures.

#WhereIsMyName was developed by Arian, Osmany, and other new university graduates in the summer of 2017. The campaign began online, fighting for a woman’s right to have her own individual identity rather than only being identified in relation to their spouse or male relatives. Considered dishonourable, men avoid saying the names of their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives; rather they are called “sister of” or “wife of”. The group behind #WhereIsMyName says it believes “giving women back their names is the first important step in encouraging them to assert their rights in a society where violence and abuse against women remain major problems”.

The hastag #WhereIsMyName doubled not only as the name of the movement, but also as online marker on Facebook and Twitter, which gained substantial traction both in Afghanistan and overseas. “We launched the campaign in cyberspace and we made good use of it,” Osmany said. “The issue is now being debated in the real world — people and media are now talking about it.”

As an activist movement raising women’s awareness gender inequality and the denial of rights, #WhatIsMyName demonstrates fundamental feminist theory. Hooks (2000, p7) argues that “feminists are made, not born. Like all political positions one becomes a believer in feminist politics through choice and action”.

Almost two years on, gender inequality with Afghanistan continues to spark debate across political and public spheres. Has #WhatIsMyName brought about a drastic change to traditional gender norms? I would argue not. Afghanistan is still remains one of the most dangerous places to be a woman, with many confined to responsibilities for the home and family. However, it has exemplified something important; women are no longer restricted to their immediate physical circle, they are able to engage in discourse online, mobilize one another and proactively challenge such gender norms peacefully against a background of violence. In essence, every woman with a social media account has the possibility to be an activist; a possibility that did not exist 15 years ago. It is this possibility, coupled with the growing new media infrastructure, that suggests there is a hope Afghanistan’s future narrative does not have to be about war, Osama or burqas and rather, about a group of young Afghan women who defied the odds.

 

 


16
Mar 19

Non Una di Meno – the reason why Italy striked

By Zandra Nilsson

For the third year in a row Non Una Di Meno organized a strike and demonstration on the international women’s day on the 8th of March. Public transports, schools, health services and hundreds of other public and private workplaces got affected in Italy by the strike. People travelling to Italy from abroad got affected too since pilots, flight attendants, airport ground staff, ferry employees and employees of train companies were joining the strike which delayed the international traffic. Non Una Di Meno, a women’s movement, was organizing the strike action and the so called grassroot trade union responded to their call. In the evening hundreds of thousands gathered in the bigger and smaller cities across the country to demonstrate against gender discrimination, violence against women and the unequal working conditions. And many directed their anger to the vice prime minister Salvini and the government’s anti-feminist policies. According to the organizers themselves more people are joining for each year and the demonstrations are getting better and better organized.

Non Una Di Meno translates to not one woman less, that indicates that not one more woman should be murdered by men. The group originated from the Argentinian group Ni Una Menos that started in October 2016 after the murder of the 16-year-old Lucía Pérez. The group spread around South and Central America: Mexico, El Salvador, Chile and Brazil and also further international. The Italian organization spreads their messages and reaches out to their supporters through blogging, social media and using the hashtag #nonunadimeno. Their Facebook account has over 85 thousand followers and almost 40 thousand users have used their hashtag on Instagram.

“We strike because they kill us, at home or on the streets. We strike because they pay us less, because they exploit us and discriminate against us” specified activists from Non Una di Meno.

 

Violence against women

In 2017, 121 women got murdered and 59 % of the cases showed that the killer was a current or former partner. 44 % of adult women in Italy have experienced sexual harassment and 4 261 cases of sexual violence got reported in 2017 – where 54 % of those took place on the street or in a car. And those are only the reported cases…

Unfortunately, the injustice does not end with the statistics. How are men punished for the violence against women? A couple of days ago two convicted rapists were cleared of their charges in Ancona, Italy. The men were convicted in 2016, but Italy’s highest appeal court ordered a retrial of the case. During the investigation several doctors had clear evidence that the victim’s injuries were consistent with rape and in her blood, they found traces of a date rape drug. The judges still found a reason to free the men – the victim was ”too masculine” and therefore not attractive. “The photograph present in her file would appear to confirm this” one of judges said during the trail. The men were free to go.

Non Di Una Meno also fights for the right to access a safe and legal abortion. Abortions in Italy are not illegal, but the doctors have the right to deny to carry out the procedure. According to Italy’s health minister over 70 % of Italy’s doctors are objecting abortions and in some areas the rate is over 90 %. Looking at other countries in Europe the rate for denying abortions is very different: 6 % in Germany, 3 % in France and it is 0 % in Sweden and Finland. One case was reported where a woman in Padua got turned down from 23 hospitals! The Italian General Confederation of Labour describes the abortion process as dangerously long because it forces women to turn to private structures or do unsafe abortions.

 

Low gender pay gap – but women need to be working to get paid

Italy can proudly say they have the second lowest gender pay gap in Europe – with “only” 5,3 % lower hourly pay for woman than men. But if we take a closer look at the Italian gender equality there is nothing to be proud of. The truth behind the good number is: Italy has fewer women in the workforce than almost all the other developed country – less than half of working-age women in Italy has an employment. Lack of education is clearly not the excuse for this since 59 % of bachelor’s graduates and 52 % of PhD grads were female in 2017.

If we keep looking at the statistics it gets clearer and clearer that the low gender pay gap has nothing to do with gender equality in Italy. Only 16 % of decision-making bodies around the country was made up by women. The board members of companies are 33 % today, after Italy introduced a new ration that demands 33 % of the board to be female. Just 31 % of the last parliament was female. Furthermore, when asking women about sexual harassment, 9 % answer that they have been sexually harassed or sexually blackmailed at their working place.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2017 Italy is placed as the 82nd most gender equal country out of 144. And looking closer at the economic participation and opportunity it is ranked as the 118th. Unfortunately, the situation for the women in Italy is only getting worse – 2016 it was ranked in 50th place. Therefore, Non Di Una Meno is more important than ever before and their strikes and demonstrations are helping to bring attention to women’s rights – in a country that is considered among the most economically developed, but still has such a long way to go before reaching a true gender equality.

 

 


04
Mar 19

Mobilizing Swedish gender equality

by Caroline Ulvros 

On a rather windy Thursday night in February, I drop by the campaign start-up for a March 8 demonstration organized by the party ”Feministiskt Initiativ”, or ”Feminist Initiative” in English. In a cozy community hall in Malmö, activists offer pamphlets and hot meals under banners and balloons in the trademark bright pink color scheme of the party.

The party was founded in 2005i, and in a time of social media on the rise it aimed to deviate from traditional political scales by stating feminism as its ideological foundation. It was the very first party to gain a seat in the European Parliament based on this ideology. In a rather standard approach to social media for modern Swedish political parties, both the main and local party sites link to very active Facebook pages and accounts on Twitter and Instagram. The hashtag ”#metoo” is the theme for the cover photo on the main Facebook page. The party describes itself as sprung from a grassroots-movement and takes pride in its ability to reach out to different demographic groups, but how does the party spread its message in an era of new political movements?

After all, it has more traits of a traditional political organization using social media than of a new social movement. Unlike the loose networks based on shared identities, values and lifestyles that characterize new social movements, the party is organized like a traditional political party, presenting a party program with a clear ideology and using established ways of mobilizing action just as earlier feminist movements did. Although feminist activism is typical for new social movements, this party is clearly to the left on a traditional political scale.

But if a traditional political party framework is formed in an era of new social media, how does it perceive mobilization? I wonder while helping myself to a vegan stew and joining the activists that wait for the first presentation of the evening. The party has met setbacks. In the last election, its popularity fell to 0.46% of votes and the party has never reached the 4% limit to win seats in Parliament, while however remaining the largest party outside of Parliament.

The first item of the evening is a film from the feminist organization ”Parir y Nacer” in Argentina, sending a greeting to their partners in Feministiskt Initiativ. Feministiskt Initiativ’s broad collaboration with different international organizations for gender equality may resemble the transnational cooperations around common issues that distinguish new social movements, while I suspect that this cooperation is not as continually reorganized.

The main speaker of the evening is Gudrun Schyman, one of Sweden’s most prominent politicians with a political career going back to the seventies. This symbol for Swedish feminist politics was a very popular leader for the Left Party before partaking in the formation of Feministiskt Initiativ, which she has led until she stepped down this year. Her role in the spotlight does not chime with new social movements that, although arguably not totally without leadership, relies on narratives of broad, bottom-up movements which require leading figures to keep a low profile.

Gudrun Schyman has reached the level of fame where t-shirts are printed with her motif

Schyman describes the effects of this small party on politics through reactions from other political parties, an emphasis is also put on how some issues for equality remain the same and on their global characteristics. This depiction of the political landscape and recurring political clashes is thereby within a rather traditional understanding of political movements. Although not mentioning the party’s stagnation, the account echoes of her earlier explanation for the declining support as consistent with general trends of shrinking political and nonprofit movements, while not highlighting alternative political mobilization. She has also used the physical presence of companies in offline platforms for political parties as a sign of capitalist impeding of dialogue. Does this rhetoric indicates a preference to focus on traditional forms of mobilization? Or is it important to point out how the trend towards company ownership obstructing communication through governing of social media platforms has offline equivalents?

On a question from the audience about working with non-party groups, Schyman supports toning down party promotion when this can facilitate collaborations.

-We don’t need more internal development of our policies, we need to reach out!

A lack of coverage from traditional media due to the size of the party is presented as an impediment and as a remedy, the audience is reminded of a demonstration in April. To focus on offline, traditional activities in a meeting with this purpose seems logical, but my first impression is of a traditional understanding of mobilization where social media is basically yet another tool for spreading the party message. Is this impression fair?

After this speech, I get a chance to quickly mingle with the audience. When I ask about the role of social media in contrast to traditional political meetings, an activist points out that the party is doing rather well on social media. Later that night, I look up the online activity concerning local demonstrations on March 8.

The largest political gathering in Malmö on March 8 is the demonstration arranged by Feministiskt Initiativ in collaboration with other party organizations. While 362 people have marked themselves as going,1.4 thousand are interested in demonstrating. The considerable number of intended participants compared to the participants in the physical start-up meeting could reflect the contingent, event-based participation of new social movements, while the great disparity between the number of respondents intending to actively participate and those merely being interested could reflect how modern movements often are structured around a small core of activists connected to a larger periphery, which nonetheless are not just ”slacktivists” but is expanding the audience for the group.

To compare to an alternative collective action, the next largest mobilization for a demonstration in the city is described as an ”Extra-parliamentarian March 8” with 135 people intended on going and 385 marked as interested. The event is organized by extra-parlamentarian groups such as the Syndicalists and Anti-Fascist Action that contain elements of traditional ideological standpoints, but their emphasis on politically marginalized content and unconventional action while protesting against established politics could indicate a protest role associated with new social movements.

Of course, the attention gained by the demonstration organized by established parties could reflect how both International Women’s Day and collective action through demonstration is closely tied to traditional movements. It could also reflect how Facebook is more useful as a marketing tool than as a mobilization tool. However, my first impression of collective action through established channels does not seem to give the whole picture.