No Means No!

‘No means No’ and no, I’m not talking about politics and bloody referenda, one of which will hit Italy today with equally divisive results as happened to the infamous one in the UK last June.

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It’s No to violence against women and the fact that November 25th has (since 1999) been declared a day to remember all those women who have been subjected to violence, whether physical or psychological, by men or, in the last resort, killed by their male partner who perversely preferred them to be dead rather than be separated. Sometimes the male repents when he sees the lifeless corpse of the woman he once thought he ‘loved’ in a pool of blood matting her still growing hair on the kitchen floor , and does himself in as well. (Good for him but a little late don’t you think?). And if there are children? All too often they are witnesses to the event. What memories will they grow up with? What definition of conjugal love will they receive as an example?

No. We are not talking about crass characterizations of concepts of ‘honour’ and ’shame’ in developing countries. Instead we are speaking about a country where women get doused in petrol in their cars and then set alight and die as human torches (this happened near Lucca recently), where acid is thrown into their face disfiguring them for ever in the hope that the jilted man hopes his ex will never get another man, where twenty stab wounds in her back are still not enough, where mental or even physical imprisonment takes place and where, on the worst level, a woman is made to feel absolutely worthless, a nothingness, a valueless object: something which can be thrown away without any thought. Indeed, sometimes women are driven to their own self-murder. They have reached the nullity stage, through male machinations, where they save him the effort of throwing her off the balcony of their tenth floor apartment. It’s even the country where the speaker of the House of Representatives receives hate male mail and gets sexist remarks launched at her during parliamentary sessions.

Just a few figures: in this country in 2015 128 women were murdered by their husbands. That’s not as bad as 2013 when 170 women were killed by their jealous exes. This year, regrettably, the figures have risen again. By November 24th 116 women had been disposed of by men.

Methods of feminicide include the following:

  1. Stamping on a woman and then burning her alive.
  2. Killing her with 26 hunting knife wounds.
  3. Shooting her at zero range.
  4. Hammering her to death
  5. Killing her with 87 cuts with a kitchen knife.
  6. Suffocating her in bed with a pillow
  7. Killing her with a deadly Martini cocktail (Mickey Finn?).
  8. Killing by repeated punches to her stomach (some have miscarried if they have not been killed).

At this stage I just can’t go on. It just makes me sick. 90% of the victims were killed by their male husband/partner/lover, 9% by a close relative. And just 1% by unknown persons.

These horrifying statistics, which don’t compare with some primitive head-hunting tribe in a remote jungle (they would treat their women better I’m sure), or the latest ‘horror’ film from Hollywood, come from today’s Italy. The most disturbing thing is that the figures are increasing in the so-called more educated and ‘morally advanced’ north part of the country and decreasing in the so-called less developed and more traditional south of Italy.

The brilliance of Guendalina Tambellini and Michela Innocenti in their own scripted and produced ‘No vuol dire No.’ is that they were able to bring the reality of these ghastly statistics to the fore in the excellently refurbished auditorium ‘Vincenzo da Massa Carrara’ at Porcari just to the east of Lucca, before a very mixed audience.

Earlier they had delivered their brilliant play to schools. For bullying, and now ‘sextism’, especially with the abuse of ‘social’ media’, is regrettably on the increase here too.

Using a mixture of reading factual information and personifications of some of those victims the duo were able to fully deliver the message that this massacre must stop.

The UK is not much better. 150 women were killed in that country in 2014. So please don’t think it’s just Mediterranean machismo!

After the stunning play there was a short debate with the audience. One lady said ‘OK let’s report these pathological misogynists to the police but how much is done with these reports many of which vanish into a black hole’.

My contribution was regarding the ridiculousness of cultural relativism. In the UK, especially within other originally different cultures, child-brides, infibulation, honour killings, sex-slavery, an ideology which psychologically deprives women of their equal status, covering up their face so that personal identity is all but destroyed, and so many other practices which turn women into something little better than the latest sports car (at least taking a ride on a good sports-car is pleasurable, but taking a woman for a ride is a rather different matter – men please realise the difference!!!)

Italy has now not only to face the increase of feminicide among the ‘educated’ classes but also has to cope with culturally diverse male-female relational practises which are incompatible with a country belonging to a world which celebrates male-female equality (although Italy only managed to give women the vote in 1946, their right to divorce in 1970, their right to receive an abortion in 1978, the full criminalization of honour killings (‘delitti d’amore!!!!) only in 1967,  and the decriminalization of adultery in 1969!). I could go on but another fact is that blue-collar Italian women still do not have parity of pay with men, being paid one-third less on average.

And as for the glass ceiling for women in Italy. It’s not just a glass ceiling it’s a double-glazed plate glass one….

It all boils down to a matter of culture and education. We just hope that law No. 38 of 23 April 2009, dealing with violence against women, will continue to be properly enacted.

Finally, I felt awed by the impressive theatrical presence of and performance by Guendalina and Michela. We have got two really good drama teachers who utterly practice what they preach. Hopefully, as their students in Ciak drama school at Bagni di Lucca, we will try to be truthful to their high standards.

For all the violence imposed on her
For all the humiliation she has suffered
For her body that you have taken advantage of
For her intelligence that you have stepped
For the ignorance which you have left her in
For the freedom you have denied her
For the mouth you shut, and for the wings you clipped
Stand Gentlemen in front of a Woman.
And this is not enough, bow every time she looks at your soul
Because she knows how to see it
Because she knows how to make it to sing
Stand, Gentlemen, whenever she caresses your hand
Every time she dries your tears, as if you
were one of her children,
and when she waits for you, even if she would like to run
Stand, and remain standing my friends,
When she enters the room singing of love
and when she hides her pain and her loneliness
while having the terrible need to be loved.
Do not try to reach out  to help her
when she collapses under the weight of the world
She does not need your pity.
She needs you to sit on the ground beside her
and wait for the beat of her heart eases and
her fear disappears, and the world
continues to turn quiet.
She is the first to stand and to give a hand to pull yourself up
and bring you closer to the sky,
high in the sky, where her soul lives
and where, Gentlemen,
you will never tear off her from.

(Trans Campitelli)

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2 thoughts on “No Means No!

  1. It is certainly a most curios situation when no is meant as no but somehow it is not always understood to be so and certainly the little word no is not respected ergo the female uttering this is not respected. So this now becomes a question of respect! Furthermore it is the feeling of rejection that the male species encounters and cannot accept. Why I ask myself, well it seems to be because man feels that he knows best he is the dominant beng in a couples situation, also it is the female who is trying to assert herself in the situation and the dominant male finds this intolerable to dare to doubt his authority and above all worst still if he is a my mysoginist ….Inevitably the female in a couples situation whether married or living together in such a situation will find it difficult to leave not because she is a masochist but even though intelligent we females will try to make sense of beatings, slaps, hitting (GBH grievous bodily harm) spitting, shouting, wrongful accusations, isolation, making the person feel worthless and even unworthy after all we love our males and are forgiving. Sometimes this is caused by ones upbringing and generally it is an accepted fact that children brought up by their grandparents thus spoilt and possibly unloved by their parents and vice versa thus showing signs of mutual disrespect and furthermore overstepping the boundaries of decency and peaceful living. No one prepares anyone in these matters it is truly a bitter sweet pill to discover this limitation of a man’s character and this terrible flaw in his behaviour which could also occur due to illness such as schizophrenia and psychotic behaviour. Of course this could also found in females as females are quite capable of violence too especially this can occur with new born babies due to post partum blues ( I met a male suffering from just this female violence at my local Police Station just the other day.) also males can become jealous and not accepting of all the attention shown to the tiny helpless baby. There is always the reverse side of the medal thus one should not judge situations each has their own story. Recently too the Indian Community that has suffered severely in silence years of violence under male dominant beings and all the other points mentioned in your very comprehensive blog has emerged with what is actually being suffered by some in the confines of their marital confines of the home. The point though that seems to have been missed is that nowadays there are safe houses for women to remain safe and unharmed maybe too there should be the equivalent for males safety. Also as is suggested for a fire “get out and stay out” and seek professional help. Who knows maybe the Kibbutz system has its advantages. Luckily not all males and females suffer such flaws it is after all what I consider an illness and as any other that needs to be accepted, addressed and cured. Remember a leopard never changes its spots equally do not assume to change a partners or husbands character or mode of being.

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