Sunday, March 10, 2013

Venice Celebrates Women

(Venice, Italy) March 8th is International Women's Day, and Venice is going all out with a long weekend -- March 7 to March 10 - jammed with activities centered around the theme, with some of the city's most distinguished cultural institutions participating. One Billion Rising, that powerful, deeply moving short film you just watched, was screened yesterday at the round table entitled Immagini amiche - Il ruolo svolto dai mass-media nella costruzione dell'estetica femminile or "Friendly Images - The role played by the media in the construction of female aesthetics" over at the Ateneo Veneto. 

Advertising and music videos have always sexed up the image of the female, but it has become increasingly more violent and dark in recent years. The image you see on the left, a dead woman on the top of a car, strangled by a tie held by a well-dressed man -- who is not wearing a tie -- is an ad for a Duncan Quinn suit. Quinn is a former leveraged-buyout lawyer who quit to go into fashion. His suits sell for $4,000 - $30,000.

Below is a clip of Rihanna and Britney Spears singing "S&M" at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Dressed in bondage bodysuits and wearing handcuffs, the crowd roars its approval as the singers crawl around and pole dance. Some of the lyrics:

I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it. 
Sex in the air; I don't care; I love the smell of it. 
Sticks and stones may break my bones, 
but chains and whips excite me.

It's violence glamorized to the max, and it is a rare female -- and often male -- performer that does not have to jump through those hoops to succeed -- everyone from Beyoncé to Christina Aguilera to Lady Gaga has promoted those type of images. It is a far cry from Aretha Franklin belting out "Respect" in 1967. Compared to the reality of the strong video from One Billion Rising, it is a sad joke -- they have actually commercialized the idea that it's GREAT for a Black woman and a White woman -- wearing opposite colors, of course -- to be in chains. It is an advertising campaign to sell slavery, and nothing more:

The round table was inspired by a European Parliament report of September 3, 2008 on how marketing and advertising affect equality between women and men. The EP argued that to combat gender stereotypes in the media, it would be a good idea to educate children so they would develop a critical attitude about the ads they are bombarded with. And you know what -- it's working! The young people in the audience from schools in Venice and the Veneto were intelligent, witty and talented, and had been educated to create their own positive media in response to the dark images -- another reason why I love Europe.
It was heartening that the US President signed the reauthorization of VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, just three days ago on March 7th, despite the efforts by Congress to block it, or water it down. According to Wikipedia, the word "billion" in the One Billion Rising global campaign refers to the statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, or about one billion, and I am pleased that the US government has joined Europe in addressing this serious world-wide problem.

UPDATE - March 20, 2013: 

UN adopts plan to combat violence against women

"International solidarity is needed for women's empowerment and preventing this regressive mood, whether in the developing countries or developed, or in the Middle East in particular," Tallawy told two reporters afterwards. "It's a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women, and this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this conservatism."

Tallawy, who is president of the National Council for Women-Egypt, said she has told this to Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, who came from the Muslim Brotherhood,

"I believe in women's cause. I don't take money from the government. I work voluntarily. If they want to kick me out they can. But I will not change my belief in women," she said. "Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable, and particularly in our region."

"Star" dress by Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada
Over at the Museo Correr ballroom, the Fondazione Museo Civici di Venezia celebrates International Women's Day with the Madrid-born Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada, who has curated a vibrant exhibition, The Trades of Fashion, featuring her "Spring-Summer 2013" collection, which was first presented at the latest edition of the Mercedes Benz Fashion week in Madrid. The ballroom is alive with 31 of Agatha's whimsical creations, which reinterpret the icons she holds dear -- the "cage," "heart," "star," and "umbrella" dresses -- that have accompanied her throughout her 31-year career.

Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada first entered the fashion world in 1981 in Madrid, where she triumphed with her first women's collection, and soon thereafter opened her first shop. Her creations morphed into wholly artistic expressions, which were exhibited in leading galleries throughout Spain. In 1991, Agatha began issuing licenses for children's clothes, accessories, furniture and other products, and today the brand is distributed internationally. The collection will be at the Correr through May 5, 2013. The exhibition is included with the ticket that allows you entrance into the St. Mark's Square museums, so you can stop by and let some sunshine and smiles into your life, even if it's raining. Here's some more images from the collection, courtesy of the Museo Correr.

"Cage" by Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada

"Heart" by Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada

"Umbrella" by Ágatha Ruíz de la Prada
In a city which, in ancient times, turned a large percentage of its female population into courtesans, it is refreshing to see that in the 21st Century Venice is taking the lead in transforming the feminine image into something dynamic. On a personal level, on the Giornata della Donne, March 8 itself, a kind and generous Venetian woman gave me the gift of going to her hairdresser, transforming my droopy locks into a fabulous do. Only a confident, compassionate woman would want to lionize another woman and make her more beautiful. This type of sacred feminine energy will transform the world.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. March 8th is International Women's Day, and Venice is going all out with a long weekend -- March 7 to March 10 - jammed with activities centered around the theme, with some of the city's most distinguished cultural institutions participating.