A few months ago I came across an article inThe Guardian newspaper which featured the photograph below by Mukesh Gupta of some street art in Jammu, India, protesting rape. I took a screenshot of the image as it really resonated with me, particularly the representation of the silencing – the hand over the mouth of the woman on the left:
It reminded me of a couple of photographs I’d taken back in 2013 which feature a torn, vintage film poster I’d seen in a shop window. For me, rather than the original intended context – I think the film genre may have been been a crime or thriller – the hand over the mouth connotes a controlling, bullying tactic to silence or else risk devastating consequences. This is the close up detail of the poster:
Earlier this month I came across a poster on wall in Venice, Italy with the headline STOP SILENCE. In this image the head is upside down in relation to the text but the upright finger is pressed against her mouth – hushing the voice of truth.
A couple of days before I had been walking around the University area of Bologna and seen a mural comprised of black and white photographic images that work both separately and as a whole. Stylistically they are all high contrast, some contain foreshortened gestures. The direct gaze is confrontational and echoes the attitude – of giving the finger, The top centre photo also includes the woman holding a handwritten sign which says NO ES NO – Spanish rather than Italian for No means No.
The giving the finger attitude is something I’ve witnessed and recorded previously – here are a couple from 2017 The Women’s March in London. The elegant, well-mannered and sophisticated Audrey Hepburn raises her middle finger:
A defiant uterus:
Raised fists in Bologna; the same poster is repeated all along the road. The raised fist is associated with resistance, support, solidarity and power. A red flame emanates from her hand in an otherwise black and white image:
In New York in May of this year I’d been struck by the sidewalk poster of a painting by the artist Angela China also known as Gumshoe. It’s a reworking of Picasso’s iconic 1907 painting Les Demoiselles D’Avignon substituting the Demoiselles with representations of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey, all of whom have been accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct:
Yet the news is depressing. Even in today’s Guardian there’s a report by Benjamin Haas about the extent of sexual abuse in North Korea, where it has been normalised: Many women expressed a sense that the abuse they endured was so normalised almost no one thought to file a complaint against the perpetrators. Only one woman reported her case to the police, with others saying the police would not have acted. The recent election of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court following the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford felt like a huge blow.
Here’s a piece of artwork by Allen Dailey made in October 2018 in response, he says: I made this art today in honor of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, with a spirit of respect and deep care for all women who have experienced sexual assault, rape, or fear of assault.
I am encouraged by the fact that in spite of the normalisation and acceptance of violence against women many young people are brought up to have a voice. The campaign to stop silence and the fact that the #MeToo movement has made huge advances in India are examples of inspiring change. Here’s a picture I took at The Women’s March In London last year where many children marched alongside their mothers:
I am marching because I want the world to be nice to women! It really is that simple.