I had the privilege of attending an art exhibition in Chicago presenting woman's art from around the world on the theme of violence. Photos were not allowed, so I wrote some of the artist's comments into my journal. The plaque on the wall says, "Sisterhood is where women are unfettered by expectations of submissiveness, surrounded by true peers, a place where she can say what she needs to say, share what she knows, and asks for credit for what is her due."
"When we encounter violence against women, we often experience a sort of blindness. we choose not to see the devastation of domestic violence calling it a 'family affair.' Honor killings of women in faraway regions of the world become nothing more than 'cultural difference.' The rape and torture of women during armed conflict is the inevitable 'messiness of war.' The range of gender based violence is devastating, occurring quite literally from womb to tomb."
Japanese - Self portrait, Sharp Eyed Crone. "Women change their appearance to please others.... As for once in a lifetime serendipity, there is nothing greater than good books and good friends. As as for happiness in life, there is only the tea in one's cup and the incense in the burner."
Israel - Miri Nishri. "In the past few years Israel has been plagued by a wave of 'romantic' killings of women by their spouses. [She comments that people say, "what a wonderful love that must be!"] We go about our little lives, we get married, we give birth, we enjoy little moments of tranquility while 20 miles away the worst imaginable is constantly happening."
Icelandic name for woman's asylum - Kvenna Athuarfi - safe refuge.
Japan - Yoko Inoue. "In some communities where direct intervention is culturally impossible, women respond to severe domestic violence by assembling outside of the household in question and banging on out an alarm on pots and pans. This informs the man that the spirit he attempts to break belongs to many, not one."
The most visceral to me was a ten minute video by Egyptian, Amal Kenawy. The first half has three scenes playing out on the screen in gentle quietness - an ordinary Egyptian woman putting on socks, putting on a coat and going out the door to come back with a bag of groceries which she puts away, and in the third image sipping tea while placing fruit in her mouth and staring into the distance in thought. All ordinary, peaceable, far from power, violence, anger, control. In the second five minutes the woman is shown as a corpse, with hand drawn images of long hair becoming blood, dismembered limbs, dead babies, rats, heads without bodies, and stairs, walls, prison bars moving across the page. The film is named, "You will be killed." There are no words. No musical score.
I left the cultural center quietly, moved and stirred. Innocently I stopped for lunch in an Irish pub called the Tilted Kilt. The young women who serve there are dressed like sexualized little girls with little bikini tops perched on oversized breasts, tiny kilts sitting as low as possible on naked midrifts and white knee socks with little flat shoes. The largest piece of clothing are their white knee socks. The girl who served me seemed uncomfortable with me, wouldn't look me in the eye. But to the tables of business men she was flirtatious and assertive. I couldn't help thinking, though, that she had not yet bought this system, that she didn't fit. I wanted to say to her, RUN! But I didn't have the chance, she wouldn't give me a chance.
When my bill came for my small fish and chip dinner I decided to rip a page out of my journal and leave a note. I wrote, thoughtfully, "Honey - are you aware of how much you are being exploited here? I hope you will choose to leave and build a strong life." I added a twenty dollar tip and left it on the table.