EVAW Day and the Bristol City Council

// 3 December 2010

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This is a guest post by Sian Norris

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On the 25th November, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls was celebrated by the Bristol City Council with an exhibition of art and writing created over a series of women-only workshops by survivors of male violence against women. Events turned sour however when the head of the council, Barbara Janke, questioned why the art on display was only by women, before arguing that the UN day ignored male survivors. When the organiser of the exhibition explained that this day is designated by the UN to recognise that levels of violence against women and girls now constitute the biggest human rights crisis of out time, Ms Janke chose to complain that the exhibition was ‘exclusive’ and walked off without even looking at the art.

Her colleague, Councillor Guy Poultney, was overheard asking why women victime and survivors needed a day at all, yet did not see his confusion as a reason not to have his photo taken by the press. Mr Poultney’s presence in itself was controversial. In his capacity as head of the licensing committee he recently granted a licence to a Hooters restaurant in Bristol, and voted in favour of a licence for a lap dancing club, an application which, in the end, was defeated. Many of the women in attendance felt his presence at the event was hypocritical. When the links between sexual objectification and violence against women are so obvious and so strong, (American Psychological Association) it was very concerning that a councillor who professes to support the aims to end violence against women and men, is happy to license properties that encourage an atmosphere that fosters violence. Like his colleague Ms Janke, he also did not seem to want to engage with the art on display, leaving the women in attendance with the impression that his main purpose in attending was for the press photo opportunity.

When we wrote to the councillors to ask why they had been so hostile to an event focusing on women survivors, by accusing the work of being exclusive and discriminatory towards men, we received no reply. It was with some surprise then, that on the 3rd December, we learnt that Barbara Janke had accused us in the local press of being ‘hysterical’ when we had tried to talk to her about the reasons behind the event.

I am writing this to explain our side of the story, and why we believe in the importance of the 25th November as a day to recognise women victims and survivors of male violence.

The reason only women survivors were represented at the exhibition is because the 25th November is the one day of the year when we are asked to stop what we’re doing and recognise the need to end violence against women and girls. It is the one day in the year that women survivors and victims are given some focus. All too often, women are silenced when it comes to violence. They are silenced because the police don’t believe them when they are raped. They are silenced because their partner may threaten them if they speak out. They are silenced because no-one has ever been convicted of committing FGM in the UK, even though we know that 6500 girls are at risk. They are silenced because they are murdered by johns, partners, ex-partners and strangers. They are silenced because violence against women and girls is so common, it is not even considered to be news.

The UN Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls is not intended to ignore male victims of violence. An exhibition of art by women survivors does not deny that men are survivors and victims too. To suggest this, as Ms Janke did, is ridiculous. All the UN asks, all these women ask, is that we dedicate one day to remembering them, listening to them and recognising that violence against women and girls is happening, every where, every day.

In her statement to the press, Ms Janke went on to accuse the organiser and her colleagues and friends that they did not believe men were needed to help end violence against women and girls. This is simply not true. This event was never about excluding men. We need men and women to work together to end violence against women and girls. We need men to challenge sexist assumptions, challenge male privilege, and speak out against violence. It is very, very troubling that Ms Janke interpreted a woman only exhibition as a suggestion that we believe the war against violence can be won by women alone. It is ludicrous to suggest that the aim of the exhibition was to exclude men from joining the fight.

She went on to accuse us of being unable to hold or listen to any other opinion. But her argument that the UN day excludes men would suggest that it is, in fact, her who was refusing to hear an alternative opinion: the view that it is important to dedicate one day to speaking out about male violence against women. She refused to listen to or attempt to understand why this day was important, and as a result, refused to engage with the art created by the women of the city she is supposed to represent.

Comments From You

sianushka // Posted 3 December 2010 at 5:28 pm

this is the pretty unhelpful article by our local newspaper the evening post

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/FEMINISTS-LASH-CITY-LEADER/article-2967454-detail/article.html

Sian

Jennifer Drew // Posted 3 December 2010 at 6:16 pm

The views being promoted by Barbara Jank and her male colleague, Guy Poultney are common and the aim as always is to put the focus on men, men’s interests, men’s needs and marginalise/invisibilise women’s rights.

News flash to these two individuals and also the host of other individuals (sic) who consistently claim focusing on male violence against women is reverse sexism (it doesn’t exist) against men. Women as a group have never been accorded the same level playing field as men – instead we start with an unequal playing field wherein it is men’s needs, men’s interests and most importantly – maintenance of male domination over women which takes precedence and women are always seen in relation to men. This is why women do not have the same ‘equal playing field as men’ because our society is a male supremacist one and the system was created by and for men – never women.

There is numerous evidence that male violence against women continues to occur on a global scale and no woman/girl is ever safe because the very fact she is female – not male is sufficient for males to inflict violence/male domination and male control over her.

If these two councillors are so concerned why then are they not engaged in setting up a voluntary organisation specifically to address the needs of men who are subjected to male violence. Oh but I forget – there is a system already in place and it is called our male-centric/male supremacist legal system. A system designed by men for men in order to protect males from other males’ violence. This system was never set up for women’s needs and rights because we never had any – instead we were/still are for many women – male property to be used/abused and sold to other males at will.

Then there is the issue that 364 days and 365 days when it is a leap year – wherein the malestream media consistently reports male on male violence and how the male perpetrators are prosecuted and convicted. Male on female violence continues to be ignored because it is so common – unless of course the malestream can turn such cases into male sexual titilation events.

Note too Barbara Janke’s misogynistic claims that ‘feminists are hysterical’ is a common insult male supremacists hurl at feminists who dare to speak out against male violence against women. Ms. Janke I suggest you and your colleague Poutney are the ‘hysterical ones’ because you obviously believe the world does indeed revolve around men, men’s interests, men’s needs and men’s rights whereas women apparently have no rights whatsoever.

Yes feminists cannot eliminate male violence on our own but we do not want men taking over – instead we demand that men who do not believe in misogyny and male supremacy should focus their attention on challenging the men who remain silent and/or who uphold male supremacist views.

This is what men need to do – not seek to infiltrate women’s organisations in order to disrupt them and seek to return the matter once again to ‘what about the men and their oh so important issues.’ This is why feminism was created – because we wished to end male domination and male control over women.

This is still a dream and with individuals such as Janke and Poultney promoting lies, the issue becomes so much harder. We do not need male supremacists such as Janke and Poultney because our male supremacist society already believes men are the ‘only real victims’ which is why we have the International Day For Elimination of Male – yes I say it again Male Violence Against Women. Not male on male violence and certainly not female on male violence, because these issues pale when compared to the numbers of women and girls who are daily subjected to male violence simply because their sex is female not male.

Eliminate male domination over women and you will be surprised to find men too will profit – because these men will no longer see it profitable to enact male domination over women, because an egalitarian society will roundly ostracise and condemn them. But of course men will never give up their unearned socio-economic power willingly which is why we have this concerted male-centric backlash.

Are women human? Not according to Janke and Poultney.

Jan Martin // Posted 4 December 2010 at 8:33 am

This is well-written and balanced account of the events. Thank you Sian for bringing this sane perspective to the events of the day. There was hysteria in evidence – but it wasn’t ours.

Link below to the magazine of written work by survivors that we were distributing that day but which the politicians in attendance refused to look at:

http://www.janmartin.co.uk/evaw2010bristol

Hannah // Posted 4 December 2010 at 2:25 pm

This is so disappointing that I don’t even know where to start. That councillors could have such a flippant attitude towards violence against women is very concerning and clearly explains why they thought it was acceptable to try and bring Hooters to Bristol. As well as simply being untrue, it’s also so offensive that Janke would dare to use the word ‘hysterical’, with its history as a key tool in the oppression of women. She’s either ignorant of women’s history, or trying to be deliberately provocative.

As you say, they were only interested in this for the photo opportunity – what a bunch of self-publicising hypocrites. I was struck by this quote, from Janke about the artist Martin: ‘[Martin] seems unable to accept anyone of any other point of view.’ (http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/mobile/FEMINISTS-LASH-CITY-LEADER/article-2967454-detail/article.html) Yeah well, if your point of view is that violence against women is acceptable then I’m pretty sure normal rules of etiquette and toleration don’t apply.

Local press love a negative story about councillors, so I hope you are managing to keep your side of the story in the papers. Are the council elections taking place in May happening all over the country, including in Bristol? If so you should try to bring this story back when these people are running for re-election.

Stella // Posted 4 December 2010 at 3:54 pm

Local councillors…don’t start me. Not only Bristol, but anywhere. Bunch of unbelievably thick, totally self-interested winkers, the lot.

I’m afraid it is also depressingly typical that it is a woman who made such a fuss about this all-woman art exhibition.

If only people like Ms Janke had been and would be so zealous in questioning why so many things are still all about men.

Sarah Kate // Posted 4 December 2010 at 6:13 pm

Really good to see this written about here. I read Janke’s comments in the local press and was horrified, particularly by her assertion that by declining to appear in a photo with Guy Poultney, Jan Martin was “unable to accept anyone of any other point of view”, and that this somehow suggests the organisers feel men have no part to play in ending violence against women. What on earth does she base this on?? I would hardly say that declining to participate in one man’s publicity stunt, a man who’s record as head of Bristol’s licensing committee suggests he HIMSELF is unable to understand the role men and wider society have to play in ending a culture which fosters violence against women, implies a belief that ‘no man’ should have a part to play in the campaign.

As if the Bristol Evening Post needs any further fuel for it’s anti-feminist rubbish!

Sarah // Posted 4 December 2010 at 10:05 pm

That is so sad :( I read about this in the Evening Post in Bristol and I was really disappointed that such an important event was degraded like that. It’s so important to recognise the number of women and girls at risk of violence – I wouldn’t for one second believe that an event like that excludes men – unless they had actively banned men from attending which they did not. Everybody needs to work together on this issue and events like these need to be recognised as positive steps.

Steven Smith // Posted 7 December 2010 at 5:32 am

Really good that councillors are finally taking equality seriously. It’s really important to challenge the myth of domestic violence as a gender issue.

sianushka // Posted 8 December 2010 at 9:28 am

Steven Smith

not sure if you understand the article?

a. 25th november is a UN designated day to focus on ending violence against women and girls in all its forms

b. the exhibition was a result of women only workshops where women created art and writing about their experiences of violence. it was women only because when talking about violence it is important attendees feel safe and able to express their feelings

c. this day is not about ignoring violence against men but about recognising that violence against women is also an issue

d. men believe it or not, are perfectly capable of setting up their own support groups, workshops and exhibitions which i am sure would be welcome by BCC, feminist groups and, well, everyone. it is not the responsibility of women survivors to organise for men.

thank you for all the other supportive comments.

unfortunately our local paper love holding the council to ‘account’ when they do something good, e.g. give money to a charity that combats homophobic bullying (a bad thing according to EP) but when they are anti-women, the EP is on their side.

Janke also misrepresented why Jan wouldn’t be in the photo which is just silly – allowing her to make spurious accusations and re-frame the purpose of the event and our feelings about men!

Steven Smith // Posted 8 December 2010 at 6:22 pm

“25th november is a UN designated day to focus on ending violence against women and girls in all its forms”

And the day remains totally sexist, illegitimate and harmful until the same organisation gives the same recognition to male victims.

I’m not necessarily against gender segregation (though I think there’s too much of it). The issue at hand is though is the discrimination against male vicitms and the lack of recognition, not just on this day, but on every single day of the year. The type of gender apartheid seen in all aspects of domestic violence awareness/services/spending/justice makes this particular sexist UN activity particularly disgraceful.

“men believe it or not, are perfectly capable of setting up their own support groups, workshops and exhibitions which i am sure would be welcome by BCC, feminist groups”

Well here’s how feminists “support” a conference on battered husbands.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qodygTkTUYM

Christian J. // Posted 9 December 2010 at 12:47 am

So why the sexism ?

Shinila Bakar // Posted 9 December 2010 at 8:48 pm

You could respond to all the anti-feminism usually dominating this site’s comments section, but i’d never have time for anything else and it’s boring.

Steven, do you reckon feminists would even *try* to oppose a movement where men talk about violence they face? Why are people standing up against violence towards women so threatening to you?

Men don’t face the same constant level of objectification one of the main causes of male violence against women. The abysmal stats are there showing women suffer abundantly from domestic violence at the hands of men. Look these stats up, without demanding women to do research for you.

You think nothing should be highlighted when 1 in 4 women in relationships are domestically abused? People hurt their partners in life, but it’s much more likely to be women, so it’s a gendered sexist issue.

Gosh if women started on the things we’re excluded from we’d never end. Cos we’re excluded subtly from most threatening ‘unfeminine’ things. But for us it’s life. For you it’s – having a whimper because men are for once not most important, that challenges the status quo? You don’t get much sympathy.

I’m a black disabled woman, i’m in a whole different area of the social dominant- submissive structure to you. My life is made much harder in most aspects than yours because of this, and then you talk about your exlusion from an issue made for once for women? Forget what the liberals say. One UN leader once mentioned women are the most systematically oppressed people on the planet. Get real.

Kristel // Posted 10 December 2010 at 12:54 pm

Shinila, brilliantly put! I am absolutely sick and tired of comments like Steven’s. They are pure, wilful ignorance. And malicious.

Steven Smith // Posted 10 December 2010 at 7:45 pm

“do you reckon feminists would even *try* to oppose a movement where men talk about violence they face?”

I don’t “reckon” – I know it for a fact. Admittedly the gender feminists are willing to acknowledge homosexual male vicitms, but heterosexual ones are mostly a no-no and something to be belittled and downplayed as often as possible. In America the National Organisation of Women even likened male deaths from domestic violence to snow in Florida.

“My life is made much harder in most aspects than yours because of this, and then you talk about your exclusion from an issue made for once for women? ”

Firstly, you know nothing about my life whatsoever and it’s quite insulting for you to make assumptions. Secondly, I never one even hinted at “my” exclusion, or made any similarly selfish, personal points. This isn’t about me or you or standing up for one’s own rights. It’s about principles, fairness and equality. It’s about standing up for everyone regardless of race, gender, age or disability, and taking a stand against discrimination no matter how unfashionable and supposedly unworthy the group discriminated against happens to be.

sianushka // Posted 11 December 2010 at 8:02 am

thanks shinila.

steven, yesterday was international human rights day, so we DO have a day that recognises oppressions of all genders and all people.

Juliet // Posted 12 December 2010 at 1:02 pm

The fact (FACT) that women now and again get a day to themselves which, for a change, is about them, and people like Steven Smith make such a fuss just says it all really.

If such people had always questioned why men being at the forefront of things was always so taken for granted, I might take them more seriously.

Absolutely pathetic.

sianushka // Posted 12 December 2010 at 3:40 pm

Steven if you could please point out anywhere where the organisers of the day at BCC house for EVAW said that heterosexual men are not victims of domestic violence, or where it has been said on anything that i have written about this issue then please go ahead.

oh right, it never got said, so your argument is based on assumptions because you seem to believe that to be against vawg we must therefore not be against violence against men.

which is total bullshit.

polly // Posted 12 December 2010 at 7:24 pm

Steve is actually completely right in saying that men face gender based violence. The problem is that the perpetrators are almost always other men.

Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime than women but they’re also far more likely to commit it. Women are however more likely to be victims of domestic violence

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=442

(The figures are from 2006, don’t know if there’s a more up to date version available).

Steven Smith // Posted 13 December 2010 at 1:22 am

“yesterday was international human rights day, so we DO have a day that recognises oppressions of all genders and all people. ”

Great, no need for the violence against women day then as they’re covered too.

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