|Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. FPN is dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of violence, particularly militarism, on women's lives and advocating the inclusion of women in the process of creating peace. ..|
Lucinda Marshall's Blog IntroductionWomen, Media, AND... Violence
"One of them made cuts in my penis, I was in agony" screamed the headline for an article about the American mistreatment of a prisoner that recently appeared in England's Guardian newspaper. Perhaps it seems odd to start off a blog about violence against women and the media by talking about a story that is reporting violence against a man, but as heinous as the treatment of this man was, when women are treated this way, it is far less newsworthy. According to Amnesty International, some two million girls a year are at risk of being subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. Yet so far as I know, there has never been a headline that read, "One of them made cuts in my clitoris, I was in agony."
In an article last year, "(Not) In The News: Media Culpability in the Continuum of Violence Against Women", I pointed out that violence against women (which will frequently be abbreviated as VAW on this blog) isn't news unless it can be sensationalized, as it was in the coverage of the murder of Laci Peterson. Why was it that the media just couldn't get enough of that story, yet they make nary a peep about missing women of color like Tamika Huston or the hundreds of women in Mexico and Canada whose disappearances and murders have never been solved. By comparison, those stories don't hold a candle to the missing white women stories.
When big-strong-and-usually-Black celebrities such as Kobe Bryant or O.J. Simpson are accused of the rape or murder of she's-so-young-and-sexy-she-must-have-asked-for-it-mostly-white women, the world comes to a grinding halt while we watch the spectacle on CNN or Fox News (who can ever forget that thrilling Bronco chase?). In sharp contrast, the coverage of the rape and murder of thousands of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Sudan is just a sidebar on an inside page.
In general, there is a persistent tendency to blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator, particularly in rape cases. How many times have we heard about what the victim was wearing (inevitably a short, tight mini-skirt) or how she was behaving or where she was, implying that the victim somehow asked for it, or that the abuser 'just snapped'. As Carolyn Waldron points out in "Feminists, Prostitutes and Nazis", "Media implicitly tell us how to rank the importance of the public issues according to the amount of press coverage devoted to an issue." When intimate personal violence is treated as a personal domestic issue, when it is characterized as a human interest story, we do not see it as being as important as a soldier murdered by "the enemy". Last year, 915 U.S. military personnel were killed in Iraq. Yet each year in the U.S., some 1700 women are murdered as a result of intimate partner violence. But the nightly news only gives us the count and amount of dead soldiers killed in action, not the dead women killed by loved ones, let alone the number of Iraqi women kidnapped, murdered or raped since the U.S. invasion of their country.
Before closing this first blog entry, I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself. As a writer, I have addressed the topic of violence against women on numerous occasions. My work has appeared in numerous publications, both in the U.S. and abroad and I blog at Reclaiming Medusa. I am also the founder of the Feminist Peace Network and since its inception in 2001, I have devoted most of my time to raising awareness about violence against women and promoting the participation of women in the process of creating peace. FPN has an active discussion list which may be of interest to readers of this blog, please see the FPN site for membership information.
Addressing the issue of media and VAW is an exciting challenge. Please feel free to forward stories you think are relevant to this blog (always include the source info). I am excited about writing this blog and I welcome your feedback.
Lucinda Marshall's Biography
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. FPN is dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of violence, particularly militarism, on women's lives and advocating the inclusion of women in the process of creating peace. She is also actively involved in promoting International Women's Day and is a long time peace and environmental activist. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine, Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.