Equality

Northern Ireland police must stop intimidating equality activists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/11/2017 - 7:48pm in

The force can't claim to be progressive whilst cracking down on those protesting hateful conservatism and oppressive, misogynistic laws.

Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. Members of the PSNI join the Belfast Pride parade. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.“Fuck the DUP” – ballsy or rude? If you’re DUP politician Jim Wells, it counts as hate speech. He reported a young woman to the police for carrying a placard with the slogan at the Belfast Pride parade this summer.

Last month the Police Service of Northern Ireland questioned 24-year old Ellie Evans, who is currently waiting to hear whether public prosecutors will decide to investigate her for hate crime, or breach of public order. 

The charity worker and activist moved to Belfast from England two years ago to study at Queen’s University. She has also started a “Fuck the DUP” campaign for a more progressive Northern Ireland on Facebook and makes t-shirts to fundraise for LGBT charities in the region. 

Many university graduates in Northern Ireland leave and never return. It’s almost a rite of passage: complete an arts degree, do your time in a call centre, search for better jobs elsewhere, and go.

Young people like Evans should be made to feel welcomed instead of hounded. Hateful conservatism embodied by the DUP and others in politics, combined with sectarian divisions and poor job prospects, drives us away.

Today Northern Ireland's police is trying to position itself as a progressive force – while intimidating equality activists and those who dare to challenge the region's harmful, regressive laws. 

There is also an nasty irony in Evans’ case, with a member of the DUP, which has a long history of ignoring and cultivating hate and homophobia, considers anger against it, from an equal rights activist, as hate speech.

Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice. Badges sold to raise money for charities Rainbow Project NI and Alliance for Choice. Photo: Brendan Harkin.When I last lived in Belfast (part of the army of call centre graduates), my home was in a working-class area which returns a very strong DUP vote. Walls were graffitied with K.A.T; “Kill All Taigs” (a derogatory term for Catholics). On 12 July, when bonfires are lit in loyalist areas, election posters of nationalist and cross-community parties, and the flag of the Republic of Ireland, were burnt. 

In the 1970s, the DUP campaigned to "save Ulster from sodomy". Little seems to have changed in its thinking since then. Though, while it’s the party most clearly influenced by conservative Christianity, it’s not alone in holding regressive views on reproductive choice and women’s and LGBT rights.

Only a minority of people seem to share these positions, but they’re over-represented across the political spectrum. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, for instance, are the so-called party of civil rights, yet they are also firmly against abortion rights.

The issue of abortion has divided Sinn Fein. Last year, it changed its
policy to support abortion rights in
cases of rape or foetal
abnormality. Outgoing party leader Gerry Adams has declared himself
pro-choice.

This month, the party voted to support abortion rights where
the woman's physical or
mental health is in danger. This is worded vaguely, however, and is
still a policy for limited rights.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds. DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.What's new is the recent crackdown by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), on those who protest against our oppressive, homophobic and misogynistic laws.   

In October, Belfast’s Rally for Choice saw hundreds of people take to the streets to call for the decriminalisation of abortion. People Before Profit Belfast city councillor Fiona Ferguson said on her Facebook page that police warned her to remove any signs saying “Fuck the DUP.”

Earlier this year, the PSNI carried out raids at activists’ workplaces and homes, with officers looking for abortion pills ordered from abroad (which are deemed safe by the World Health Organisation, and which Scotland has started offering on the NHS). 

My friend Tyler McNally, editor of a left-wing Belfast website, had his laptop and phone taken by the police in March as part of their investigation into whether he possessed abortion pills or helped women access them. All charges were subsequently dropped, but not for four months.

Of course, the history of Northern Ireland’s police force is intricately tied to that of state oppression.

The PSNI’s predecessor, the RUC, were not neutral actors in the conflict that the British press likes to call “the Troubles.” Members attacked civil rights protesters, intimidated and killed civilians, and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries. 

During the conflict, Catholics were a small minority in the RUC. Their representation has increased in the PSNI, though the force is still majority Protestant. Whilst all political parties now endorse it, distrust remains among nationalist communities.

Now, as then, the largest party in Northern Ireland is an extremely conservative unionist party. Throughout, the RUC and the PSNI have been majority male, white and heterosexual. Our police force consists overwhelmingly of individuals who don’t have their rights challenged or curtailed from the top.  

RUC police in riot gear in 1998. RUC police in riot gear in 1998. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved.The conflict claimed close to 4,000 lives, with loyalist and republican paramilitaries, the RUC and the British army all carrying out acts of terrorism and killing civilians.

Amid this violence, concern for social issues that stretched beyond the conflict’s tribal ethno-nationalist framework was (understandably) lower. But we can’t hide behind the conflict forever.

The Good Friday Agreement is now almost 20 years old. An entire generation has grown up without personal, lived experience of the conflict that still rumbles on in the hearts of our political parties. 

As imperfect as our peace is, it has opened up space for the patriarchal nature of the state to be confronted.

Evans participated in the same Pride demonstrations this summer that PSNI members marched in, for the first time. Last month, the force held its first recruitment event aimed at Belfast’s LGBT community. 

Though the PSNI takes steps to present itself as a progressive institution, we are not fooled: until it ends its crackdown on our most marginalised and vulnerable communities, such posturing will remain farcical.

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Housing activists stand up to dodgy landlords and council bullies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/11/2017 - 11:00pm in

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The Grenfell tower fire forced a public debate on housing inequality in London. Tenants have long been at the mercy of landlords, private and social. But resistance is growing.

Graffiti on a red brick wall. Reads Justice 4 Grenfell. Graffiti near Grenfell tower in London. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

In the early hours on 14th June more than 70 people
died when fire engulfed a 24-storey tower block in west London. More than 350 firefighters worked to extinguish the flames over several hours.

Hundreds were trapped in the upper floors of the building while
the fire raged, including 6-month-old Leena Belkadi. The baby girl was found dead in
her mother’s arms in a stairwell between the 19th and 20th
floors.

Grenfell tower was home to a mixed community of working-class
families, young couples, refugees, migrants, elderly residents living alone.

The final death toll is unknown. There are fears that
unregistered migrants who lived in the block may never be identified. Just 71
victims
have been identified so far. In June the Metropolitan police said it could take months to
identify everyone. Last week the Met said:
“Based on all the work carried out so far and the expert advice, it is highly
unlikely there is anyone who remains inside Grenfell Tower.”

An
inquiry
has been set up to investigate
the circumstances around the fire. The devastation and death caused exposed
festering problems of neglect and mismanagement by Kensington and Chelsea Council.
Hundreds of residents and survivors are still homeless more than five months on. Early
November central government published a report which criticises council leaders for their lack of humanity. In a
statement Sajid Javid, communities and local government secretary, said the
council response to the fire was “sluggish and chaotic”.

But the government’s criticism of rotten local politics came too
late. Residents and survivors fear the inquiry will ignore deep rooted problems
of housing and inequality in London. Problems that created the conditions for
the fire.

After all, residents tried to warn authorities years before the
fire in June.

The Grenfell Action
Group formed in 2010 and repeatedly raised safety concerns about the tower
block. They published countless blogs outlining mismanagement and neglect at
Grenfell tower and other housing estates in Kensington. They campaigned for decent housing and challenged the rise of luxury housing developments and managed decline of social homes. Their blog supported struggles against changes that would make London unlivable
for all but the rich. 

Their work is not unusual – across London radical housing groups
fight for the rights of tenants in a hostile housing market. Social housing is
scarce. Councils are broke and ill-equipped (and sometimes unwilling) to support
people moving in and out of poverty, families with complex needs. Average
private rents are high.

After the Grenfell tower fire, what will change?

Plenty, if London’s grassroots housing activists have their way.

We spoke to Izzy Koksal from Housing Action Southwark and
Lambeth
(HASL), a community group from south London, about their work challenging
housing injustice. They are one of many radical groups working on housing
inequality, racism, poverty, sex worker rights and migrant rights in London.
Embedded in local communities, they are a mix of seasoned activists, precarious
workers, and families moving in and out of poverty.

HASL is part of the London Coalition Against Poverty, known as
LCAP, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The coalition is made up
of local housing support and action groups from across the London boroughs.

Since 2013, HASL has organised around and
blogged about the daily housing injustices they encounter at the hands of local
councils and private landlords.

Below is an edited version of our written Q&A with Izzy, published in three parts, where she tells us about the group’s work, challenges they face and offers
advice for readers interested in setting up their own housing solidarity groups.

 

 

Q&A below, our questions and subheads in bold, with Izzy’s answers immediately following.

Crowd of smiling people in a room Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth is a local community group. Image taken by group, used with permission.

What is Housing Action Southwark And Lambeth? Who is
Involved?

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth is a
local community group made up of people facing housing problems. We meet twice
a month to support each other, organize action around our personal housing issues,
and campaign for housing rights.

Most of our members are working class women
of colour, migrant women, and their children. We have lots of children at our
meetings. We’re thinking of different ways to involve them in what we do.
We want to create something like the Radical
Monarchs
, an alternative Brownies in California. This summer we trialled
our first homework club.

We also have supporters without immediate
housing problems, but who are concerned about housing inequality, poverty and
gentrification. In London, everyone is very aware that they could face serious
housing problems at any moment.

Taking on
dodgy landlords and council bullies 

Common housing problems members face
include overcrowding, pending homelessness, difficulty accessing housing help
from the council, being housed in unsuitable temporary accommodation. Families
can be stuck for years in cramped, expensive temporary accommodation while
waiting for council housing.

Then there are dodgy landlords. Recently,
one landlord tried to steal a member’s deposit. Another landlord harassed a
female member and threatened to throw away her belongings.

To combat some of this, we accompany each other
to homelessness assessments. This is where a housing officer investigates your
case to see if the council owes you a homeless duty. If you are a single homeless
person, council officers decide whether you are vulnerable enough to receive
help with your housing. Our members have experienced bullying and gatekeeping
during these sessions (Gatekeeping is when the council prevents people accessing
services they’re entitled to).

Attending assessments with support
makes the whole process slightly less terrifying. It means we can politely
challenge gatekeeping and make a record of what’s happened.

There’s other work too. We help each other fill out forms and
source good housing lawyers. We give each other moral support, understanding
and anger. Other times, we occupy the town hall. For example, when one of our
members was housed in unsuitable temporary accommodation and her children
forced to take three buses to school, we marched to the town hall. We
demanded the family be given a home close to school. After 30 minutes of us
being there, suitable temporary accommodation was found.

HASL is over four years old now, a huge
achievement for a group organised voluntarily by people dealing with
homelessness, insecure housing, medical issues, childcare commitments, paid
work and other stresses. On top of that, some members now have to worry about Brexit. “Will they throw us out?” a member asked at a recent meeting.

Why was Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth set up?

Where you have people suffering, living in poverty, unable to access secure homes or discriminated against because of
their race, class or migration status, housing groups are vital.

Getting help when you are homelessness is made so difficult by
local councils. Accessing basic housing help is impossible to do alone.
There are even greater barriers when you don’t have English as a
first language, which is the case for many of our members.

Gatekeeping when you face homelessness
isn’t a problem unique to Lambeth and Southwark. All over London, people going
through hard times struggle to access the most basic housing rights. Grenfell tower residents are experiencing that same struggle now.

We had hoped that Kensington & Chelsea
council would make the re-housing process as swift and sympathetic as possible
for Grenfell residents. Yet news reports suggest they are still
struggling to get the right housing support.

The re-housing problems
faced by Grenfell residents echo what our members experience. Things like the confusion and mixed messages from the council about whether people will be housed in temporary
accommodation in the borough. Arrogance from individual councillors. Councils collectively failing to listen to what people need. 

HASL protest against tenants being housed miles from their children's schools. Image by HASL, used with permission.

When the
law falls short

While having access to good housing lawyers
is important (if you qualify for legal aid), the legal process can be slow,
stressful and limited. We organise collectively to complement
legal action. One HASL member was congratulated by her lawyer for winning her
case with the council. He admitted that his own role had been minimal!

This particular member was a survivor of domestic
violence who had endured 30 years of abuse, yet Southwark council initially
decided she was not vulnerable enough to qualify for help. She
will soon be moving into her new council flat, having navigated the homelessness
process with HASL support. She would have given up without our help, she says. In turn, she has since supported some friends in a domestic violence refuge to access their homelessness rights. The collective support, understanding and determination
we have for each other is special and inspiring.

 

 

Next: how HASL forced the
council to listen...
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Rats in the lunchbox, mould in the mattress: living in squalor in London

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Women’s rights in the EU: a privilege for some women?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/11/2017 - 6:08am in

The European Commission’s annual colloquium on fundamental rights calls for reflection
on ‘intersectionality’. A trendy buzzword for policy makers, but can it lead to
equality in practice for all women?

lead Screenshot: Addressing the 2017 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.“Equality between women and men is one of the European Union's founding
values” says the website of the European Commission. Since inclusion of
the principle of equal pay for equal work in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the
European Union has made gender equality a priority of its work. Through
legislation, gender mainstreaming and specific measures, the Union has achieved
great strides in social, economic and political progress for women in Europe.

But did these strides benefit all women? To what extent are
considerations of race, religion, class, disability, sexual orientation and
gender identity germane to the EU conception of gender equality?

These questions form a critique of European policies from the concept
of intersectionality. Originating from black feminists in the US,
intersectionality is the awareness that mainstream feminist approaches do not
necessarily address the multiple forms of discrimination and oppression faced
by some women. Inherent to the concept of intersectionality is the view that a
universalist feminist approach is not sufficient to achieving equality for all
women. Women are not a homogeneous
group, they are not affected by discrimination and misogyny in the same way
because of their different backgrounds and profiles.
The 2017
Women Who Shape Brussels Power List was described by Politico Editor
as inescapably white. Without women of colour in positions of power, the policy
is unlikely to change any time soon.

Assessing European Union gender equality policies from an
intersectional perspective, we see that in their universalism, they primarily
serve white, middle-class, straight, cis-women. In fact, women of colour[1] – and issues directly
impacting them – are, for the most part, ignored.

The invisibility of women of colour in European policies is apparent in
numerous fields. For example, the EU’s communications on the gender pay gap
highlight that women in the EU earn on average 16% less than men for
each hour worked
. Such headlines
completely ignore the fact that many ethnic minority women are paid less than white women and ethnic minority
men.

Further, policies to achieve gender balance in leadership positions are
unconcerned with other grounds of equality. The European Commission’s proposal
in 2012 of a target
for 40% women in company boards
made no reference to the underrepresentation
of minority women in management positions, or the multiple forms of
discrimination faced by women of colour in European labour markets.

The European Union has also remained reluctant to acknowledge that
violence against women is a combined experience of racism and sexism for some
women, which increases their exposure to violence and marginalisation. In many
countries, victims of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes are
overwhelmingly women. In France in 2016, 75% of islamophobic acts targeted
Muslim women and accounted for 100% of the most violent attacks.

Attention to women of colour in the EU policy sphere is primarily focused
around topics such as female genital mutilation and early marriages. Although
crucial issues to be tackled, the focus on these ‘intra-community’ issues
allows European governments to emphasise discourses of cultural inferiority
whilst evading responsibility for structural racism and exclusion as a facet of
European society. Mainstream feminist organisations in Europe only exacerbate
this (with paternalistic, exclusive and sometimes islamophobic conceptions of
issues such as the headscarf). Focus on
‘intra-community’ issues allows European governments to emphasise discourses of
cultural inferiority whilst evading responsibility for structural racism and
exclusion as a facet of European society.

Many of these oversights in European policy are explained away by a
lack of data on race and ethnicity in many European Union member states, making
these women and their compounded experiences of racism invisible. However, the
ambivalence of EU gender policy to the situation of women of colour goes deeper
than this. It relates to both the inability of institutions to acknowledge that
women can have multiple identities, not necessarily aligning with norms of
middle-class, white, European feminism, and the complete underrepresentation of
racial, ethnic and religious minorities in positions of power in the European
Union.

Representation of
women of colour: changing the policy and the policy maker?

One key argument
supporting the need for equal representation has been that the policy often reflects
the policy maker. And unfortunately, it is increasingly apparent that the EU has a racial
diversity problem
.
Whilst all European Union Institutions have made conscious steps to improve
internal gender diversity through equality monitoring, reporting and targets
for women in management, this proactive approach has not been applied to the
representation of ethnic minorities in their staff.

In a recent attempt at
a comprehensive diversity and inclusion internal policy, the European
Commission published a less than ambitious document which foresees no specific
measures to improve racial diversity.

Women of colour are in
a place of double exclusion. Whilst no specific measures exist to advance diversity
on the grounds of race, ethnicity and religion, they also cannot expect to be
recognised within gender diversity efforts. For example, the annual Women in the European Parliament report, which analyses progress on the
representation, pay and progression of women in the European Parliament, has no
indicators for women of colour.

Screenshot: 2017 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.Unfortunately, this
underrepresentation is reflected more broadly in the Brussels power centre.
Women of colour are almost entirely underrepresented in the institutions and in
the wider bubble of NGOs, lobby groups and think-tanks. The 2017 Women Who
Shape Brussels Power List
was described by Politico Editor as inescapably white. Without women of
colour in positions of power, the policy is unlikely to change any time soon.

Intersectionality in policy making: achieving
full gender equality

Incorporating intersectionality
in European policy making is a unique chance for all women in the European
Union to have their issues acknowledged and addressed. It would allow a
holistic approach to women’s rights and multiple discrimination, with the aim of
achieving equality for all women.

Setting targets and
adopting policies to achieve gender equality under the current understanding is
wholly insufficient to eliminate structural barriers specific to women of
colour.  Policies need to take into
account the complexities and diversities of experiences of women of colour in
order to ensure that they positively impact outcomes for all women.

Finally, reflecting
intersectional experiences of discrimination and violence would widen the
relevance of the women’s movement and build a strong basis for solidarity. Intersectionality is first and foremost about being able to acknowledge power relations.Intersectionality is first and foremost
about being able to acknowledge power relations.

Many expectations are
raised with this year’s European colloquium on women’s rights. It is a key
opportunity for the European institutions and EU Member States to build more
inclusive European gender equality policies by putting intersectionality into
practice for women of colour and going beyond the buzzword.

The European Network Against Racism has highlighted the invisibility of
women of colour in European policies, including with its project on the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women, and will continue to do so. Women of colour have been ignored for too long
in European policy making. That is about to change.

[1] Women of racial, ethnic and religious
minorities, including (but not limited to) migrant women.

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Moment of truth for refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 11:43am in

Australia can end this human rights tragedy. Wherever they end up eventually, the
Australian government needs to immediately bring these men to safety.

lead Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson interviewing Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island in September 2017. © 2017 Human Rights Watch

SYDNEY
– Since October 31, hundreds of men have barricaded themselves in an abandoned complex
on a naval base where security forces have previously shot at and attacked them.
Exhausted, with no power and no running water in the tropical heat, they stockpiled
food, dug water wells, and collected rainwater in trash cans to drink. Now,
they are dehydrated, starving, and scared.

These
men are not in a war zone, though many of them have fled war in places like
Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. They are refugees and asylum seekers trapped on
remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They are there because of Australia’s
harsh refugee policies.  

The UN
has described the situation as an “"unfolding humanitarian emergency." On October 31, the Australian and PNG
governments closed the regional processing center where these men have lived
for the last four years. Other less-secure facilities are available in a town a
30-minute drive from their current location. But these men, refugees and asylum
seekers, refused to leave, terrified by escalating violence against them by
some local residents in the town and
frustrated by the lack of a long-term solution to their predicament.

Since
July 2013, male asylum seekers traveling by boat to Australia have been sent to
Manus Island, while men, women and children have been sent to the isolated
Pacific island nation of Nauru. As Paul Tyson wrote
for openDemocracy, “in real terms, it is the boat people themselves the
Australian government has criminalized, dehumanized and demonized, and it is
against them that Australian politicians on both sides of party power have
uncompromisingly ‘stood firm’ in refusing to open their hearts with human
compassion to the plight of the desperate.”

Australia
says the refugees on Manus can settle in PNG,
move to Nauru, wait on Manus for possible
resettlement offers from the US or return home. So far only 25 refugees from
Manus have moved to the United States under a resettlement arrangement, and
it’s unclear how many more, if any, will follow. Failed asylum seekers are to
return to their home countries.

In
September, I visited Manus Island and PNG’s capital, Port Moresby, and spoke to 40 refugees and asylum seekers. I heard repeated accounts of violent assaults
and robberies. Groups of young local men, often intoxicated, approach refugees
both day and night, threatening them with knives, machetes, and sticks, beating
them if they don’t hand over cash and possessions.

In
August, one man was beaten so badly with a metal rod his skull was fractured
and he had to be brought to Australia for treatment. In July, a local man slashed
an asylum seeker’s forearm with a knife and authorities had to evacuate him to
Port Moresby. Police have not investigated these attacks.

Now, following
a PNG 2016 Supreme Court ruling to close the main center, Australia has handed
over operation of new facilities on Manus to the PNG government. Australia will
pay A$250 million [USD$192 million] for the next
12 months of operations for about 770 refugees and asylum seekers.

Meanwhile,
the PNG Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas has insisted that Australia remains
responsible for the 200 or so men who are failed asylum seekers and all
refugees who do not wish to remain in PNG, that is, everyone except 35 who
signed settlement papers. “PNG has no legal obligation under the current
arrangement to deal with these two cohorts and they remain the responsibility
of Australia to find third country options and liaise with their respective
governments of the non-refugees for their voluntary or involuntary return,” he wrote
in a statement.

His
message to Australia: paying off other
countries to relieve you of your international obligations is no solution. 

Some
European politicians have looked approvingly at Australia’s “harsh but effective” policies that Australia says have
reduced boat arrivals and claims have saved lives at sea. If, in fact, it is
saving lives at sea, it is only to let them suffer ashore. Two refugees on
Manus recently committed suicide. A significant number are self-harming. The
policy’s apparent success in deterrence relies upon sacrificing hundreds of
lives by warehousing them in miserable conditions and exposing them to violence
and neglect.   

With
every passing day, the refugees and asylum seekers struggle to survive at the
main center. PNG officials have repeatedly ordered men to leave the main
center, threatened to “apprehend” the “ringleaders” of the protest, and in a
particularly low act, destroyed water storage tanks and removed sun shelters
from the main center. It is unclear if PNG defense force personnel will remove
them by force or if the refugees will run out of food and water. 

 “Please help us, we don’t want to die here,” a
Sri Lankan Tamil refugee implores me over Whatsapp. It’s difficult to read
their messages and not be overwhelmed with despair. 

But
Australia can end this human rights tragedy. Wherever they end up eventually, the
Australian government needs to immediately bring these men to safety. As a
partner of Australia in resettlement, the US should be urging Australia to do
so. For Australia to abandon them on Manus Island is to invite disaster.

Members and supporters of Refugee Action Coalition rally in front of the Victorian State Library in Melbourne, Friday, November 17, 2017. David Crosling/Press Association. All rights reserved.

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The invisible #MeToo: how anonymous testimony can help survivors of sexual abuse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/11/2017 - 1:25am in

A college campus project showed me how anonymity can give survivors critical freedom to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.

#MeToo protest in Paris. #MeToo protest against gender-based and sexual violence in Paris, October 2017. Photo: Somer/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.If you spent any time on social media recently, it would have been almost impossible to miss #MeToo. First created by black activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the hashtag resurfaced in the wake of sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein.

#MeToo originally aimed to empower low-income women of colour who had experienced sexual violence. The hashtag identifies survivors of abuse who share their stories, and fosters solidarity by clearly letting others know: you are not alone.

It is a growing movement – and a global phenomenon. #MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted 1.7 million times in more than 85 countries. In France, there’s #BalanceTonPorc. In Italy: #QuellaVoltaChe. In Latin America: #YoTambien.

#MeToo and related hashtags have been tweeted 1.7 million times in more than 85 countries.

Online media has enabled us to share stories that reach around the globe, and connect with others in creative and sometimes challenging ways. In the process, it is transforming solidarity movements for those who had previously been repeatedly and systematically silenced.

In the US, for three years I was an activist against sexual assault on college campuses. I spoke about bystander intervention strategies, reporting options for survivors, and Title IX (a federal law to protect students from gender discrimination, including harassment).

My alma mater, Santa Clara University, is one of 355 American universities currently under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for Title IX violations. The more I learned about sexual violence on campus, the more frustrated I felt over how survivors were deprived of justice.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college in the US. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 30% of rape survivors report suffering academically; 22% consider leaving school; 44% experience problems with friends and peers.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college in the US.

Too many women, women of colour, and LGBTQ+ students are not protected or supported after experiencing trauma. Institutions that promise to provide students with quality education have failed to uphold this core promise.

In January 2017, I created The Amplify Project: an anonymous platform for student survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories of trauma, recovery, and more. My goal was to empower them by amplifying their voices, while also keeping them safe.

Anonymous storytelling can be a powerful way to encourage solidarity amongst survivors (whether or not they share their own experiences), while also engaging readers in personal stories about sexual violence.

The Amplify Project. The Amplify Project. Photo: Charmaine Yuen/Youtube. Over five months, 11 stories were contributed to the platform and most were re-published in our school newspaper. Most were about trauma experienced, but included details that paint rich pictures of what it means to survive.

"There is not a ‘right’ way to be a survivor and you deserve to be treated with respect and you deserve to treat yourself with respect. We all heal differently and we are all entitled to heal in whatever ways we can," said one contribution.

"Standing in court in my white dress as the judge confronted my rapist reminded me that I am still here, I am in control of my future and I am more than what he took away from me that night," said another.

A third, entitled An Open Letter to the Survivor I Didn't Support, said: "He would later ask me to testify against you and mention all the Saturday night boys. I did and I’ve been sick ever since."

“I am still here, I am in control of my future and I am more than what he took away from me that night."

Survivors can feel pressure to lay bare their personal stories in hopes that a public audience will ‘get it,’ and empathise with their pain. Perhaps they hope to reach other survivors. But we can’t place a heavier onus on those who have already experienced trauma.

It’s important for stories to be told, but the Amplify Project was about how the story is told. It didn’t force a survivor to relive their trauma, sacrificing their self-worth and dignity for web surfers who, with the click of a button, can “react” and apathetically scroll to the next story.

Anonymous writing makes a story simultaneously personal and universal. It doesn’t matter whether the author chooses to officially report their experience, or disclose it to friends, family, or peers. What matters is that they have the right to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.

What matters is that they have the right to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption.

The Amplify Project also forced our campus to publicly recognise that survivors exist among us, not just in faraway news clips or sound bites.

The stories showed how sexual violence operates within a larger system. Individual events are perpetrated by specific people. A larger culture allows abuse to thrive, in silence, turning a blind eye to those affected.

Unfortunately, the Amplify Project ended after I graduated from Santa Clara earlier this year. While our Women’s and Gender Studies department was extremely supportive of the project, the university administration was not.

What’s stuck with me is this: protecting privacy does not require silence, which can stigmatise survivors and engender shame and loneliness. ‘Invisible’ sexual violence is normalised. It ‘erases’ the individuals affected, who must carry and work through their pain alone.

‘protecting privacy does not require silence, which can stigmatise survivors and engender shame and loneliness’

I think about the stories that aren’t told. The survivors who ask whether their experience “counted” as sexual assault. Those who may have believed in our campus project, and wanted to participate, but sat in front of a blank page on their computer screen, unable to write a word.

The survivors who don’t know where or how to start telling their stories. And those who don’t call themselves survivors, who struggle daily to focus on classes, maintain friendships, andsleep at night. Their experiences, which may never be disclosed, are the silent part of #MeToo.

Anonymous writing isn’t about hiding behind a curtain, but empowering those who have experienced trauma by passing the mic. It can enable survivors to tell their stories, safe from denial, doubt, and attack.

As the conversation around power-based violence continues to dominate the news cycle and our social media feeds, survivors should know that justice may mean something different for different people. There’s more than one way to say #MeToo.

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Poland on fire: voices from the provinces

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/11/2017 - 11:29pm in

There is a
growing atmosphere of hatred in which anyone who opposes the current government
is labeled the ‘worst sort’, or even ‘Soviet murderers’.

lead The place in Warsaw where Piotr Szczęsny set himself on fire. Wikicommons/ Mateusz Opasiński. Some rights reserved.Thursday October,
19 at 16.30: An ordinary day, an ordinary man stands on the steps of the Warsaw
Palace of Culture and Science. He is reading something through a megaphone to
inattentive passers by. Just another protesting voice in the Polish capital.
Except, once finished, this 54 year old man, who would become known for some
time simply as Piotr S., then sets himself ablaze, performing an act of
self-immolation to the sound of a song by ‘Chłopcy Placu Broni’ coming from a
tape-recorder.

‘Freedom. I
love and understand freedom. I don’t know how to give it up…’ On the ground lie
strewn the pieces of paper from which he had been reading – a manifesto
outlining 15 points of protest against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Ten days later, on October 29, he dies in hospital. It begins to sink in that this
was a decisive, considered and dramatic political act. Where at first the media
and politicians stay largely silent, following his death they now rush to
assess his sanity, his past and his intentions.

All this he
foresaw. He openly admitted that he struggled with depression for eight years –
but this was nothing to do with that, though he knew politicians would try to
make it so. Depression does not equal derangement. So how should he be
understood?

                                                        *   *
  *

Piotr Szczęsny,
as his full name was revealed to be post-mortem, chemist, former youth
Solidarity activist, and management trainer for NGOs, had on that grey ordinary
day travelled up to Warsaw from his home in Niepołomic, a small town near
Krakow in the South of Poland. 130km west, in a small town called Rybnik in
Upper Silesia, a group of active citizens, known as the Silesian Pearls
have for the last year been mobilizing local protest in order to try to hold
back what they see as the ruling party’s authoritarian agenda. They were stunned
by this event. ‘Poland is on fire’ reads one of their slogans. They did not
think the metaphor would become personified. Yet Jola Jackiewicz, 57,
co-founder of the Silesian Pearls, tells me she was less surprised, more deeply
saddened; she had anticipated tragedy sooner or later. Outside of Warsaw, daily
reality is too often treated as peripheral and insignificant. But it’s here
where the tense effects of nationalist, hardline rhetoric can be felt most
keenly. Piotr was far from a ‘provincial’ man – in the condescending,
stereotypical sense – but maybe the environment in which he lived also played a
part in making him feel isolated or perhaps suffocated. Outside of Warsaw, daily reality is too
often treated as peripheral and insignificant. But it’s here where the tense
effects of nationalist, hardline rhetoric can be felt most keenly.

Small towns
and villages, like Rybnik and its environs, are the most difficult places to be
active in, says Jola. People know one another and there is often stronger social pressure from the Catholic Church, which is known even to galvanize support for the ruling party with its pro-family, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim rhetoric. If you have opposing views to the government your job can now even be at stake if you voice them too loudly. While PiS’s popularity is not limited to
small towns and villages – far from it – support for the government is strong
here, explains Łukasz Kohut, 35-year-old Silesian Pearls member, because in the
provinces people have felt marginalized for years. ‘Now there is a government
that speaks plainly, supports people financially through social programmes, and
feeds deep inner phobias while promising to protect us. The worst thing is how
state media has become a tool for party political propaganda. Hearing their
slogans repeated in daily conversations is frightening.’  

Protests that have occurred in Rybnik, co-organised by Silesian Pearls and other pro-democracy groups. This is of a rally in defence of the Judiciary. Photo by Lukasz Kohut, quoted above. All rights reserved. For Jola, the
hardest part is how deeply divided people have become, even family and friends.
There is a growing atmosphere of hatred in which anyone who opposes the current
government is labeled the ‘worst sort’, or even ‘Soviet murderers’. Open and
fair debate is impossible where public discourse has stooped so low. Silesian
Pearls aims to change that by providing means for dialogue, political
conversation and citizen education, something Jola feels has been neglected for
too long. In order to love freedom you must understand what it means.  

‘Now there is a government that speaks
plainly, supports people financially through social programmes, and feeds deep
inner phobias while promising to protect us.’

Jola is of
the same generation as Piotr. Like him, she feels an unsettling sense of deja
vu. She lived through the days of the Polish People’s Republic, the closed-in
world, the dictatorial rule, she knows, like Piotr, what not having freedom
feels like.

While she
could never conceive of such a choice of protest, she empathizes fully with his
sense of despair, his helplessness, particularly after this Saturday’s
fascist-led Polish Independence Day march attracting 60,000 people to Warsaw,
which Piotr did not live to witness. ‘Traditional methods like going out on the
streets or petitions don’t seem to be working. But we can’t just sit back and
watch. People like us who have been there before, we can see the threats, the
signs, the steady movements towards dictatorial rule, now creeping fascism –
and it’s not just happening in Poland. It can happen bit by bit, while we are
asleep, until it is too late. There is a very fine line we are approaching.
That’s what he wanted to alert us to.’ 

Wake up! It's not too late yet!

Piotr’s
15-point list of grievances is measured and articulate. It could have been
written by the Opposition or by the stronghold of protestors, like the Silesian
Pearls, who align themselves with his urgent perspective, drawing attention to
the government’s increasing restrictions on civil liberties, attacks on the
Constitutional Tribunal, attempts to politicise the judiciary, breaking of the
Consitution, marginalisation of Poland on the international arena, destruction
of the Bialowieza Forest, the rise of xenophobia, the political use of hateful
language, discrimination of minorities, and the propagandisation of state
television and radio.

‘I, an
ordinary, grey man just like you, call upon you all - do not wait any longer!’,
his letter to the Polish people reads. ‘I love freedom above all. That's why I
decided to perform this act of self-immolation, and I hope that my death will
shake the conscience of many people, that society will wake up and that you
will not wait until the politicians will do it for you - because they will not!
Wake up! It's not too late yet!’

Are things
really so desperate as to come to this? Łukasz thinks they are and they aren’t.
‘It’s not yet that moment where there is violence on the street, but it could
happen. Especially given Saturday’s march. What Piotr S. did is to highlight
that there is a moment to say no – and this is it. I can completely relate to
his sense of political depression, but I hope his action will spur us on
towards regaining a Poland that is European, democratic, and open to the world
through the next elections. The fear is of course that that won’t happen, but
we must fight.’

Another protest photo taken in Rybnik by Lukasz Kohut, this time of a women's rights march against the anti-abortion law. All rights reserved.

What Piotr S.
did is to highlight that there is a moment to say no – and this is it.

Renowned
Polish film director, Agnieszka Holland, in a strong rebuke to the pejorative
or absent media and political comment on Piotr S’s action, wrote in OKO.Press that ‘Fire destroys, but it
also illuminates. Like anger.’ Jola, too, sees hope in his brave if awful
message. ‘Fire also cleans – it prepares the ground for something new. While things
may look dark, there are still many lights burning – us, people, citizens.’

Country or region: 

Poland

EU

Topics: 

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Conflict

Culture

Democracy and government

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Rights: 

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Poland on fire: voices from the provinces

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/11/2017 - 11:29pm in

There is a
growing atmosphere of hatred in which anyone who opposes the current government
is labeled the ‘worst sort’, or even ‘Soviet murderers’.

lead The place in Warsaw where Piotr Szczęsny set himself on fire. Wikicommons/ Mateusz Opasiński. Some rights reserved.Thursday October,
19 at 16.30: An ordinary day, an ordinary man stands on the steps of the Warsaw
Palace of Culture and Science. He is reading something through a megaphone to
inattentive passers by. Just another protesting voice in the Polish capital.
Except, once finished, this 54 year old man, who would become known for some
time simply as Piotr S., then sets himself ablaze, performing an act of
self-immolation to the sound of a song by ‘Chłopcy Placu Broni’ coming from a
tape-recorder.

‘Freedom. I
love and understand freedom. I don’t know how to give it up…’ On the ground lie
strewn the pieces of paper from which he had been reading – a manifesto
outlining 15 points of protest against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Ten days later, on October 29, he dies in hospital. It begins to sink in that this
was a decisive, considered and dramatic political act. Where at first the media
and politicians stay largely silent, following his death they now rush to
assess his sanity, his past and his intentions.

All this he
foresaw. He openly admitted that he struggled with depression for eight years –
but this was nothing to do with that, though he knew politicians would try to
make it so. Depression does not equal derangement. So how should he be
understood?

                                                        *   *
  *

Piotr Szczęsny,
as his full name was revealed to be post-mortem, chemist, former youth
Solidarity activist, and management trainer for NGOs, had on that grey ordinary
day travelled up to Warsaw from his home in Niepołomic, a small town near
Krakow in the South of Poland. 130km west, in a small town called Rybnik in
Upper Silesia, a group of active citizens, known as the Silesian Pearls
have for the last year been mobilizing local protest in order to try to hold
back what they see as the ruling party’s authoritarian agenda. They were stunned
by this event. ‘Poland is on fire’ reads one of their slogans. They did not
think the metaphor would become personified. Yet Jola Jackiewicz, 57,
co-founder of the Silesian Pearls, tells me she was less surprised, more deeply
saddened; she had anticipated tragedy sooner or later. Outside of Warsaw, daily
reality is too often treated as peripheral and insignificant. But it’s here
where the tense effects of nationalist, hardline rhetoric can be felt most
keenly. Piotr was far from a ‘provincial’ man – in the condescending,
stereotypical sense – but maybe the environment in which he lived also played a
part in making him feel isolated or perhaps suffocated. Outside of Warsaw, daily reality is too
often treated as peripheral and insignificant. But it’s here where the tense
effects of nationalist, hardline rhetoric can be felt most keenly.

Small towns
and villages, like Rybnik and its environs, are the most difficult places to be
active in, says Jola. People know one another and there is often stronger social pressure from the Catholic Church, which is known even to galvanize support for the ruling party with its pro-family, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim rhetoric. If you have opposing views to the government your job can now even be at stake if you voice them too loudly. While PiS’s popularity is not limited to
small towns and villages – far from it – support for the government is strong
here, explains Łukasz Kohut, 35-year-old Silesian Pearls member, because in the
provinces people have felt marginalized for years. ‘Now there is a government
that speaks plainly, supports people financially through social programmes, and
feeds deep inner phobias while promising to protect us. The worst thing is how
state media has become a tool for party political propaganda. Hearing their
slogans repeated in daily conversations is frightening.’  

Protests that have occurred in Rybnik, co-organised by Silesian Pearls and other pro-democracy groups. This is of a rally in defence of the Judiciary. Photo by Lukasz Kohut, quoted above. All rights reserved. For Jola, the
hardest part is how deeply divided people have become, even family and friends.
There is a growing atmosphere of hatred in which anyone who opposes the current
government is labeled the ‘worst sort’, or even ‘Soviet murderers’. Open and
fair debate is impossible where public discourse has stooped so low. Silesian
Pearls aims to change that by providing means for dialogue, political
conversation and citizen education, something Jola feels has been neglected for
too long. In order to love freedom you must understand what it means.  

‘Now there is a government that speaks
plainly, supports people financially through social programmes, and feeds deep
inner phobias while promising to protect us.’

Jola is of
the same generation as Piotr. Like him, she feels an unsettling sense of deja
vu. She lived through the days of the Polish People’s Republic, the closed-in
world, the dictatorial rule, she knows, like Piotr, what not having freedom
feels like.

While she
could never conceive of such a choice of protest, she empathizes fully with his
sense of despair, his helplessness, particularly after this Saturday’s
fascist-led Polish Independence Day march attracting 60,000 people to Warsaw,
which Piotr did not live to witness. ‘Traditional methods like going out on the
streets or petitions don’t seem to be working. But we can’t just sit back and
watch. People like us who have been there before, we can see the threats, the
signs, the steady movements towards dictatorial rule, now creeping fascism –
and it’s not just happening in Poland. It can happen bit by bit, while we are
asleep, until it is too late. There is a very fine line we are approaching.
That’s what he wanted to alert us to.’ 

Wake up! It's not too late yet!

Piotr’s
15-point list of grievances is measured and articulate. It could have been
written by the Opposition or by the stronghold of protestors, like the Silesian
Pearls, who align themselves with his urgent perspective, drawing attention to
the government’s increasing restrictions on civil liberties, attacks on the
Constitutional Tribunal, attempts to politicise the judiciary, breaking of the
Consitution, marginalisation of Poland on the international arena, destruction
of the Bialowieza Forest, the rise of xenophobia, the political use of hateful
language, discrimination of minorities, and the propagandisation of state
television and radio.

‘I, an
ordinary, grey man just like you, call upon you all - do not wait any longer!’,
his letter to the Polish people reads. ‘I love freedom above all. That's why I
decided to perform this act of self-immolation, and I hope that my death will
shake the conscience of many people, that society will wake up and that you
will not wait until the politicians will do it for you - because they will not!
Wake up! It's not too late yet!’

Are things
really so desperate as to come to this? Łukasz thinks they are and they aren’t.
‘It’s not yet that moment where there is violence on the street, but it could
happen. Especially given Saturday’s march. What Piotr S. did is to highlight
that there is a moment to say no – and this is it. I can completely relate to
his sense of political depression, but I hope his action will spur us on
towards regaining a Poland that is European, democratic, and open to the world
through the next elections. The fear is of course that that won’t happen, but
we must fight.’

Another protest photo taken in Rybnik by Lukasz Kohut, this time of a women's rights march against the anti-abortion law. All rights reserved.

What Piotr S.
did is to highlight that there is a moment to say no – and this is it.

Renowned
Polish film director, Agnieszka Holland, in a strong rebuke to the pejorative
or absent media and political comment on Piotr S’s action, wrote in OKO.Press that ‘Fire destroys, but it
also illuminates. Like anger.’ Jola, too, sees hope in his brave if awful
message. ‘Fire also cleans – it prepares the ground for something new. While things
may look dark, there are still many lights burning – us, people, citizens.’

Country or region: 

Poland

EU

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Culture

Democracy and government

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Sexual harassment at work: Italy misses out on Weinstein-inspired moment of reckoning

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/11/2017 - 7:59pm in

Instead of opening a conversation about workplace sexual harassment, the Italian debate has focused on shaming those who come forward.

Women protest against sexual violence in Paris. Women protest against sexual violence in Paris in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Photo: Somer/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.As the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to erupt, there’s been an outpouring of allegations against powerful men, accused of committing similar abuses during their careers.

The media, politics, the tech industry, and the art world are all having their own Weinstein-inspired moments of reckoning, although it’s too early to say if there will be a sea change in behaviour.

Experiences shared via the #metoo hashtag on social media have shown how widespread this kind of abuse of power is; women around the world face sexual harassment at work everyday.

‘women around the world face sexual harassment at work everyday’

In Italy, however, media coverage of the Weinstein scandal has been predictably outrageous, focusing on actress Asia Argento’s behaviour. Instead of focusing on abuse, and how to end it, we have been victim-blaming.

There has been no “Weinstein effect” here, and discussions around sexual harassment at work remain largely taboo. Of course that’s not to say Italy doesn’t have a sexual harassment problem; we do.

The only research on this topic is from 2008-2009, when the Italian National Statistics Institute (ISTAT) revealed that over one million women in Italy have been harassed or ‘sexually blackmailed’ at work.

This number is huge, but the true figure is likely even larger. The ISTAT study said almost 99% of victims do not report such abuse to the police. Women stay silent for many reasons: concerned over proof, shame, fear of being treated badly, or not believed at all.

An artist's effigy of Harvey Weinstein. An artist's effigy of Harvey Weinstein. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.In 2015, an Italian journalist published a book entitled Toglimi le mani di dosso (“Get your hands off of me”) about her experience of sexual harassment in a national newsroom. She used a pseudonym, Olga Ricci, and anonymised the newspaper and identifying details.

In the book she described how her editor-in-chief promised her a contract, then began making advances, inviting her to dinner, before more explicit requests to spend the night in a hotel room with him, and finally blackmailing her. In the end, she lost her job.

Harassment and ricatto sessuale (‘sexual blackmail’ – when a man takes advantage of a position of power over women who want to start or progress in their career, or are fearful of being fired) is “pervasive in Italian media”, Ricci told me.

After her book was published, she received messages from other female journalists who tried to guess the identity of her harasser, suggesting editors and publishers who had behaved in similar ways.

These stories have yet to come out.

#Metoo protests continue. #Metoo protests continue in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.The lack of debate on workplace sexual harassment in Italy also means there’s a lack of awareness of what it is.

Ricci herself did not immediately realise what was happening to her. “I thought that my boss’s behaviours were normal,” she said. “He treated lots of women in the same way in the newsroom.”

She explained that harassment can be difficult to prove, as there may not be witnesses. Such behaviour may also be minimised by other women.

“We learn it as children. It is unimaginable, according to ‘common sense’, to consider a dinner invitation, a compliment, a shoulder massage, or a hand on a hip as harassment. Even sexual jokes are considered normal. And if you point out [these acts] to your colleagues...they will call you tragic or a bigot.”

“Sexual jokes are considered normal. And if you point out [these acts] to your colleagues… they will call you tragic or a bigot”

For her, awareness of this issue came only after she left Italy to study. She told me: “Now, I use the word ‘violence’ to describe what happened to me. Too many women still do not use it, because they do not know they can.”

“I still receive messages from women who say that after reading the book they finally are able to give a name to what they have been through,” she added.

Italian ‘showgirl’ Miriana Trevisan is one of the very few women on Italian TV who disclosed her own experiences of workplace sexual harassment in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

Earlier this month, Trevisan said she had been in Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s office about 20 years ago, and that he “put me against the wall and started to kiss my neck and my ears, and touched my breast aggressively.”

“He may not recall it, but I do,” she said. Tornatore has denied the allegations and announced legal actions, while Trevisan has been engulfed in a flurry of piublic criticism.

She also described a case of sexual assault by an unnamed TV personality. “His approach was sneaky. At first he flattered me – which made me think I had an opportunity. Then the conversation became sexual,” Trevisan told me.

At this point, she remembers feeling confused, asking herself: “Did I do something he misunderstood? Am I dressed too sexily? Am I overreacting?”

Then, “he said I had to be nice to him, because we could only talk about work if we were close. Then he tried to kiss me, but I said no.”

Leaving his room, she met his assistant: “She gave me a quick look and said: ‘You still have your lipstick on, I think we will never see you again.’”

“Did I do something he misunderstood? Am I dressed too sexily? Am I overreacting?”

“I was not able to give a name to the discomfort I felt. I almost convinced myself that it was the way it worked. I felt that everyone around me was addicted to these behaviours,” said Trevisan.

But after Asia Argento came forward, with her allegations against Weinstein, “all the pain resurfaced, together with the anger” that she had previously repressed.

“I think there’s a problem in our media. Newspapers and TV are showing no courage in talking about the implications of Weinstein case,” Trevisan said.

“They talked a lot about Asia Argento and said almost nothing about ‘our Weinsteins’. We have them, and everybody knows it.”

Recently, a few actresses – some of them anonymously – have recounted experiences of sexual harassment on the Italian TV show Le Iene; though most of their abusers have not been named. 

Harsh treatment endured by Argento is a clear example of why women may feel forced to choose between staying silent about abuse or being blamed – and if they talk after many years, they may be blamed for having waited too long.

“Public opinion is uneducated, sexist and fierce,” said Ricci. “Those commentators [who attacked Argento] will never change their point of view if the debate in the media doesn’t offer them new ones.”

“When a boss invites you to dinner, talks to you about his private life or his problems, says how beautiful or attractive you are, when he kisses you, hugs you, touches you, he is abusing his power,” she insists.

And this is the whole point: sexual harassment is not about sex. It’s about power. If we want women in Italy to speak up, Italian public opinion needs to understand this first. Our reaction to the Weinstein scandal has shown the dire need for cultural change.

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‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/11/2017 - 2:33am in

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”.

“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.

Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. Last month new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).

Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?

Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.

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Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it's never easy to fight for what we believe in”

Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy

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‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/11/2017 - 2:33am in

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”.

“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.

Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. Last month new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).

Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?

Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.

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