On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the UN, The International Association of Art (AIAPI), a UNESCO Official Partner, has released an artists call for an International Contemporary Art Exhibition: HUMAN RIGHTS?The Future’s Shape #WomenCanSaveTheWorld
I decided to apply even though it is in Italy and all shipping is paid for by the artist. But it is so rare to see an art exhibition dedicated to highlighting the fundamental right of gender equality and using as a context data reminding us of gender inequality. As an eco-feminist artist, I have explored gender inequality in my work for about 40years, seeking ways to communicate not only the problems but the reasons for them.
Goal 5, of the UN Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) focuses on the fundamental right of gender equality, and specifies:
“While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium
Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to
suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
Goal 5 targets:
5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life
5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
5.A Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
5.B Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
5.C Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all
women and girls at all levels
CREDIT: ADAPTED BY C. AYCOCK/SCIENCE FROM ISTOCK.COM/JOZEFMICIC
The statistical data shows the appalling lack of gender equality between men and women:
• Action Aid highlights that, despite being a phenomenon that has seen a significant decrease since the mid-1990s, every year in Africa there are three million women and girls at risk of FGM (female genital mutilation).
• Action Aid: in 30% of cases globally, women suffer violence from their partner within their home. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are the areas of the world most affected by this problem. The consequences can be both physical and psychological. 42% of women victims of violence reported permanent injuries. Murder and suicide are the most serious consequences. Unwanted pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases are just some of the other consequences of sexual violence.
• More than 33.000 girls become child brides every day. Globally, 12 million girls get married before the age of 18 every year, about 33.000 every day, or one every two seconds. Today there are about 650 million women who have been child brides.
• Women are 47% more likely to suffer serious injuries in traffic accidents, because the safety features of cars are designed for men.
• Women in rural areas of Africa spend 40 billion hours a year to collect water (source United Nations). In rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of services and infrastructure, combined with the expectation of household duties and limited job opportunities for women, means spending part of their lives collecting water and wood for their families.
• 137 women are killed every day in the world by a member of their family. The latest report released by the State Police in Italy with data updated to 2019, speaks of 88 victims every day: one woman every 15 minutes.
• Worldwide, it is estimated that around 35% of women have experienced sexual and non-sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. In 38% of the murders of women, the culprit is the partner.
A third of women then say they have suffered at least once a form of violence, either physical or sexual. Only 11% of the victims report the case to the authorities. The Combating violence against women report presents these numbers
• Worldwide, women earn on average 23% less than men. The United Nations said that the phenomenon – known as the gender pay gap – is “the biggest theft in history”. According to the data collected by the organization, there are no distinctions of areas, sectors, age or qualifications. “There is not a single country, nor a single sector in which women have the same salaries as men”.
• Women spend an average of three hours a day more than men in household chores and family care in developing countries, and two
hours a day more than men in developed countries.
• The economic vulnerability of women is even more visible among single mothers with children. Single parent families are increasingly
widespread, both in developing and developed countries. Single mothers with children make up about 75% of all single parent families and suffer higher poverty rates than single fathers.
• Women are largely excluded from the executive branches of government and are rarely leaders of major political parties. It is not better in other sectors, where female representation among corporate managers, legislators and senior officials remains low: no country reaching or exceeding
parity and only about half of the countries with 30% or more.
• The World Bank’s recent report “Women, Business and the Law” measured gender discrimination in 187 countries; found that only Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden scored highest on eight indicators (from receiving a pension to freedom of movement) that influence the economic decisions made by women during their careers. A typical economy gives women only three quarters of men’s rights in the measured areas.
• According to the World Economic Forum’s most recent report “Global Gender Gap”, it will take another 108 years at the current pace to achieve gender equality. Among the 106 countries covered by the first edition of the report, the biggest gaps to be closed are the dimensions of economic and political empowerment, which will require 202 and 107 years of closure respectively.
• Femicide: “intentional killing of a woman following
the alleged transgression of gender roles deriving
from tradition and social norms. Transgressive
behavior therefore varies according to the social
context in which the crime is perpetrated“.
They could go on indefinitely, also talking about the problem of parental leave punished by companies and governments, the consideration of the ‘responsibility’ of women in sexual violence, hatred (also online) for women who are judged by their appearance before by their professionalism, etc., etc., etc.
But the organizers ask how much more data we need to highlight the severity of the problem? They invite artists from all over the world to focus their attention on this theme, and insist that both men and women must fight for gender equality, because on this a healthy and fair society depends. The future will be increasingly determined by women and girls working with males in absolute equality.
The artists call suggests that bringing these horrendous facts to the attention of viewers may require artists to use horrific images of violence or abuse. But my approach to the issue of gender inequality & violence has been to try to understand where this aberrant behaviour has come from and why it persists. I always return to the understanding that gender inequality and gender violence has the same root as human violence against nature. In both cases, the violence stems from belief in a superiority that justifies dominance: of humans over nature and of men over women.
This has not always been the case because for thousands of years people revered nature and cultural beliefs did not assume the superiority of men over women. Instead, the female principle was recognized as a sacred life-force as expressed in goddess images.
These goddesses were powerful deities and usually animal/human hybrids that showed the relationship between the female life-force and the forces of nature. I continue to find solace in the idea that human societies have not always encouraged the degradation of women and nature as is now the case. It is not an ingrained human attribute, but could be considered an unfortunate recent development and there is always the potential for humans to return to their earlier cultural beliefs.
This is why I am exploring the art & images of the European Neolithic era that existed between about 6000-3000 bc. Research supported by genetic and other evidence indicates that early human kinship during this era was everywhere matrilineal. Images from early human societies in what is now Western & Eastern Europe depict figures incorporating human female and animal characteristics that are clearly supernatural and/or divine.
The painting I am submitting to the AIAPI is based on an a figure that was widely used at the time. The figure has been abstracted so that the arms are like wings and the body narrows down to a point like an insect. My theory is that this figure represents a bee goddess, which often appears in Neolithic art. As we are only now re-discovering, bees may be the force of nature that will determine if life on this planet as we know it continues.
My work challenges the firmly-held cultural belief of patriarchal religions that idolize the human male as made in God’s image and as a corollary, denigrate members of the female gender and all other species.
This is the crux of the problem and my work attempts to express this in paint.