#Metoo in the thoughts of Cristina Bowerman: Saying NO is not enough

Leaving out women from history tastes like femicide. Protesting, however, is not enough. You need to set examples and models

05-11-2018

Cristina Bowerman, chef from Glass Hostaria, Rome

Swedish Hilma af Klint (1862 – 1944) was a painter, a pioneer in abstract art: she was a radical anticipator of an art that always aimed to represent the invisible. She produced many valuable works and founded a group called “Le Cinque”, the subject of a big posthumous exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Painter and artistSonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was married to Robert Delaunay, considered the father of orphic cubism. She was herself a pioneer in fashion, merchandising, marketing graphics and advertising.  Forgotten in life, she was only recently rediscovered. It’s bitter all the same.

Why do I start by mentioning women from the past century? Because Hilma and Sonia both disappeared for a long time, before they were drawn again and made part of History – with a capital H -, passing through the huge little door of micro-history. They are valuable women, icons of their own time who broke the glass ceiling. Yet it took them a long, too long time to be acknowledged by the larger public. This is how the story of women goes. And of men too.

The act of leaving out women from History has the bitter taste of femicide. The fact women disappear from history books and from reality is part of the unresolved problem of not having a real place yet, not just a chair where we can sit, but a place we can consider our own. 

For many months nowm the #metoo movement has been discussed on every occasion, still too often I have come to face the same words, the same concepts. Of course, as a feminist, I can only support this movement as it brings to surface the behaviour and violence perpetrated by people above suspicion (indeed, in most cases people above suspicion are the worst).

IGNORED. Hilma af Klint and Sonia Delaunay

IGNORED. Hilma af Klint and Sonia Delaunay

However, I’d like to approach this issue from a different angle. In my life I’ve never been considered part of a minority that needs protection. I consider myself a skilful, intelligent and moral person, and with healthy ethical values thanks to my upbringing and my family. Am I a “female quota that needs protection”? I’ve always said no. Actually,  I said NO.

Today I realise that NO is not enough. I’ll use the words of one of my favourite writers, one of the writers who changed my life. According to Noemi Klein this period in time requires a credible and motivating YES. Our culture, together with tradition and politics, has supported an empathic void towards women (not just towards women, but also towards other entire cultural sections that as such are called “minorities”). This void works as a great justification where femininity is considered by the dominating patriarchal culture as being “other-than-self”.

The extremely dangerous creation of the “other-than-self” is the first step in the creation of a minority that should be exploited and erased. Indeed, as a consequence of looking at someone as “someone outside yourself”, they become external, and as such they cannot possibly participate in the ritual and inviolable right to parity (of salary, carrier, family) leading up to the violence and humiliation of group rape as well as femicide and the erasure from reality.

Why doesn’t the “other-than-self” enjoy the same right to respect for life, joy, and hope in the future, not even in tomorrow? Why isn’t it part of the regime of parity enjoyed by those who act with violence and damage? The #metoo movement’s NO is not enough to create change.

I believe no condemnation or condemnation wave can survive without a supporting project or theory that will aim to reclaim what was culturally, historically abused, in the miniscule privacy of memory, in art books, in abandoned homes, in science conferences and history books. In the metaphorical and real disappearance of many women. History still erases us as a reality. Research, models, inspirations have a duty to change the empathic void that still paralyses the female identity as an “other-than-self” condition.

INSPIRATIONAL YES. Naomi Klein (photo roadtoparis.info)

INSPIRATIONAL YES. Naomi Klein (photo roadtoparis.info)

Women themselves should act as models for themselves and for all other women. A woman cannot and should not fall into the same stereotypes shared mostly by men. It is often the case that women themselves feel satisfied with the often-stale crumbs instead of aiming for the freshly baked bread. It is on this that we must work.  NO is not enough, we need an assertive, credible, inclusive, inspirational YES. One projected far beyond, a support in the “emptying” of the culture we learn when we are born, which must be filled with new motions. 

Congresses such as Parabere, founded by Maria Canabal, have the very goal of injecting large doses of self-esteem through content that overcomes this cultural heritage which rewards the lack of empathy towards women and is still strong and well-rooted. We need an enlightened way to reclaim the human, cultural and social ground that over the centuries was expropriated by a culture that demonises us as something “other-than-self”. Indeed, it’s a question of re-claiming and I wonder: when did this separation take place? At which point in the history of our civilizations was parity the status quo?

Let’s say NO to this neo-liberal and xenophobic culture and YES to an inclusive, supportive culture. «NO is not enough», says Klein, and I agree. We must be united in demolishing the violence of being considered as the “other-than-self”, and regain ground, day after day, like the Occupy movement.


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