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06 Jan 09:33

How to deal with the sexual assaults in Cologne and Hamburg.

by admin

For any woman, the sight must have been terrifying. On New Year’s Eve in the German city of Cologne, groups of drunk and aggressive men surrounded them in the town centre, groping and mugging them. The estimates are that there were between 500 to 1000 attackers, and the early indications are that their efforts were co-ordinated. A minister described these events as a “completely new dimension of crime”. According to Wolfgang Albers, the police president, “sexual crimes took place on a huge scale.” He continued: “The crimes were committed by a group of people who from appearance were largely from the north African or Arab world.”

The volume of sexual violence against women worldwide is extraordinary: it is horrifying, heartbreaking, and finally it is enraging. Whether women are in public or in the supposed safety of their own homes, the offences committed against them are off the scale. To quote the United Nations, It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime“. (My italics.) The Cologne assaults, then, did not occur in isolation, but as a particularly severe eruption of a situation which, in global terms, has always been volcanic.

If that sounds dramatic, then so be it: after all, the statistics and the eye-witness accounts are stark enough. As the Guardian reports:

One of the victims, identified only as Katja L, told the Kölner Express: “When we came out of the station, we were very surprised by the group we met, which was made up only of foreign men…We walked through the group of men, there was a tunnel through them, we walked through…I was groped everywhere. It was a nightmare. Although we shouted and hit them, they men didn’t stop. I was horrified and I think I was touched around 100 times over the 200 metres.” One investigator told the Kölner Express: “The female victims were so badly pushed about, they had heavy bruises on their breasts and behinds.”

The Guardian continues:

“The attacks have been the main talking point on Twitter in Germany, with some people accusing the media of a cover-up and others expressing their concern that the incident would be seized on by anti-refugee groups.”

In the ensuing conversation, there is a very real danger that the women assaulted will disappear from view, quickly buried beneath a tug-of-words between the Right and the Left. In fact, it has already happening. So let us reiterate the facts. Scores of women were set upon by up to a thousand men in a public place. Ninety of them made complaints to police. There were also sexual assaults of a similar fashion in Hamburg on the same night. The level of entitlement that these men felt towards the bodies of their victims is appalling.

These events are proving particularly controversial because the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has within the last twelve months admitted something like a million refugees from Africa and the Arab world – the same demographic dominant among the young men who carried out these assaults. Merkel’s policy is therefore being blamed by many for the influx of sex attackers. On a point of accuracy, it must be noted that many of these attackers were already known to the police, and were not drawn from the recently-arrived refugees. (UPDATE: The Cologne police, in a fresh report issued a few hours ago, have stated that the majority of the attackers comprised freshly-arrived refugees. The link is here.)

This conversation will inevitably be dominated by the issue of race, so we may as well go there. In racial terms, Germany is not particularly diverse, and the majority of the black and Arab people you see tend to be working-class. There are all sorts of economic reasons for that, one being that those arriving from Africa and the Middle East find it very difficult to get papers or work once they are here. In Berlin, where I live, the overwhelming majority of black men you see every day are poor, homeless, or selling drugs by Görlitzer Bahnhof or Warschauer Strasse, two of the city’s busier train stations. And when I say the overwhelming majority, I would say something like eighty per cent, if not more. And, at the risk of sounding uncharitable, I don’t think that as many people as I would like are concerned with the socio-economic nuances of why these black men are so poor. I think that there is instead a tendency, more widespread that many people might like to acknowledge, to regard black men as inherently untrustworthy or criminal.

I say this partly because of my own experiences in the city, and from speaking to several other friends who are non-white. A friend from West Africa, when visiting the city, found it so difficult to secure an AirB&B apartment that he had to ask someone to do it on his behalf. The stories of black people struggling to find rooms and flats in the city are legion – not that it is easy to rent in Berlin anyway, given the popularity of this place, but the tales of discrimination do all start to stack up after a while. More mundanely, I am struck by how often – even on the most crowded of trains – white Berliners will leave a space next to me, somehow fearing the prospect of sitting next to a male of African appearance. And if that sounds paranoid, then it was only something I first noticed when a sympathetic white man, shaking his head with bemused laughter, pointed it out to me.

For those who might think that I am being overly sensitive, I will say that I am merely stating facts. I love this city, and life here is well worth dealing with these inconveniences. But these instances have made me realise that the cultural expectations of black men in some parts of Germany are already dangerously low. And now we have these attacks in Cologne, one of the worst incidents of its nature that I can recall. 

So, what to do with all of this analysis? Well, it is actually simple. Let’s just keep sticking up for the women. As far as being a black man of African descent goes, the racists in Germany and elsewhere hate us anyway. They thought we were rapists and perverts and other assorted forms of sex attacker the second they set eyes on us. They don’t care about the women who were attacked in Cologne and Hamburg, except to prove the point that we are the animals that they always thought – or hoped – we were. In return, I don’t care about them. Nor am I too bothered by the people who don’t want to sit next to me on the train. Fear of the unknown is a hard thing to unlearn. I am most concerned, by far, with the safety of the women who may now be more frightened than ever to enter public spaces.  I don’t think that women have ever felt particularly comfortable walking through crowds of drunk and aggressive men at night, regardless of the race of those men. But groups of young men of North African and Arab origin, whatever their intentions, will most likely endure more trepidation from women than before.

So here’s what I propose we do. Why don’t we just start with the premise that it is a woman’s fundamental right, wherever she is in the world, to walk the streets and not be groped. And why don’t we see this as a perfect moment for men, regardless of our ethnic backgrounds, to get genuinely angry about the treatment of women in public spaces: to reject with fury the suggestion that we are somehow conditioned by society forever to treat women as objects, condemned by our uncontrollable sexual desires to lunge at them as they walk past. Let’s do our best to challenge the rampant misogyny which has gone on worldwide for far too long, and reject whatever lessons of sexist repression we may have been taught. Because women are tired of telling us about this, and exhausted of fighting a battle that for too long has gone overlooked.

 

30 Nov 13:59

An Amsterdam Museum Asks Visitors to Trade Their Selfie Sticks for Pencils and Paper

by Kate Sierzputowski
Banier op gebouw

All images provided by the Rijksmuseum

HierTeekenen_Rijksmuseum (15)

Rijksmuseum, an arts and history museum located in the heart of Amsterdam, is asking visitors to put down their cameras and pick up a pen next time they enter the museum’s walls. Rijksmuseum’s new campaign #startdrawing wants to slow down observers, encouraging attendees to draw sculptures and paintings that interest them rather than snapping a picture and moving on to the next work in quick succession.

By slowing down the process of observation, the visitor is able to get closer to the artist’s secrets, the museum explains, engaging with each work by actively doing instead of passively capturing. “In our busy lives we don’t always realize how beautiful something can be,” said Wim Pijbes, the general director of the Rijksmuseum. “We forget how to look really closely. Drawing helps because you see more when you draw.” The museum has begun to highlight drawings completed by participants on their Instagram as well as their blog associated with the campaign here.

Banning cameras (or softly dissuading attendees from using them) is also a way to bring the focus from the selfie an attendee may take with a work of art to the masterpiece before them. A perfectly timed exhibition titled “Selfies on Paper” is currently on display in the museum — 90 self-portraits from well known artists from the 17th to 20th century spread through each floor of the museum. The exhibition shows how artists captured themselves on paper while acting as a challenge to those who might have thought selfie sticks were the only tool appropriate for self preservation. “Selfies on Paper” will run though the winter. (via Hyperallergic)

HierTeekenen_Rijksmuseum (16)

hier-teekenen1

HierTeekenen_Rijksmuseum (13)

HierTeekenen_Rijksmuseum (8)

28 May 15:18

Conrad Jon Godly’s Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas

by Christopher Jobson

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol H, 2012, 35×35 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol H, detail

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol 13, 2013, 35×28 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol 16, 2013, 75×60 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol 43, 2013, 85×70 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol 56, 2013, 47×40 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
sol 15, 2013, 67×50 cm

Conrad Jon Godlys Abstract Mountains Drip from the Canvas painting mountains landscapes abstract
tony wuethrich satellite, zürich

When looking at Swiss painter Conrad Jon Godly’s mountainous paintings, it takes a moment to truly appreciate the incredible skill behind what seems to be such an effortless application of paint. Up close the landscapes appear to be a thick, almost random mix of blue, white and black, the result oils mixed with turpentine to create a thick impasto that Godly often leaves dripping from the canvas. Take a few steps back (or just squint your eyes a bit) and miraculously you might as well be looking at a photograph of the Swiss Alps. It’s a visual trick that the artist has perfected in both small and large-scale paintings over the last few years.

Godly studied as a painter at the Basel School of Art from 1982 until 1986, but then worked as a professional photographer for 18 years. He only returned to painting in 2007 and it would seem his photographic work has had a subtle influence on his abstract painting. The artist most recently had exhibitions at Gallery Luciano Fasciati and Tony Wuethrich Gallery in Switzerland, and you can see many more paintings on his website. (via OEN, A Wash of Black)

15 Apr 00:10

WHAT EVEN IS A WALKMAN?

by Hayley Gleeson

Oh the 80s: a decade of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, scrunchies, Kylie Minogue, and cassette mixtapes.

Of course, you couldn’t be super-cool and listen to your cassette mix without a Walkman, a brick-like tape player first manufactured by electronics brand, Sony, in the late 70s. (To make things more confusing, Sony still markets some of its modern mp3 players as ‘Walkmans’, though there will only ever be one Walkman.)

For anyone born later than 2000 (and for nostalgia’s sake), this is what a Walkman looks like:

walkman

So it makes complete sense, then, that the iPhone-reared kids of today have absolutely no-fucking-clue what on earth they might do with one.

Is it a walkie talkie? Do you speak into it? Is it a boom box?

Watch as this group of youngsters (half of whom don’t even know what a cassette is) are introduced to a Walkman for the very first time.

The post WHAT EVEN IS A WALKMAN? appeared first on BIRDEE.

26 Mar 16:54

Men need to talk to men about violence against women.

by admin
A few weeks ago, I was at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where I was taking part in a panel discussion about what men and boys could do to promote women’s rights in Africa and its diaspora.  I felt privileged to be invited along, yet also somewhat nervous: privileged because I had been invited by a group of people whom I deeply respected, but nervous because, as men and boys, we are not doing nearly enough.   The discussion was very good, and good-humoured until the last – and the most memorable – question of all.  A woman rose to her feet and, perhaps observing that a slight air of self-congratulation seemed to have settled over our all-male panel, she asked us: “Where is your anger?”
She was referring to our apparent lack of fury about violence against women; a phenomenon described by Margaret Chan, the Secretary-General of the World Health Organisation, as “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”. Chan made her remarks upon the launch last June of a United Nations report into this issue, which found that “more than a third of women worldwide are affected by physical or sexual violence, many at the hands of an intimate partner”.
More than a third. This is an overwhelming proportion, and is therefore a statistic that, in my view, cannot be repeated enough. If we are to regard violence against women as a global health problem, then it should be regarded and reported upon with the same urgency as AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis. Nothing less will do.
Because, again: more than a third. The other day, I posted a link on Facebook about a woman who had been physically assaulted by a stranger in the street, and who following this brutal event was now raising many thousands of pounds for a rape crisis centre in Oxford. Over the next few hours, I was horrified to learn just how common an experience this was for my female friends. Other than the grim theme of spurned men responding with force, I noticed something else: that this conversation, along with most others like it over the years, was one that I was conducting almost entirely with women. And there aren’t statistics on this kind of thing, but I think there’s a missing piece in this puzzle, which is that men generally don’t seem to talk to other men about violence against women.
Why is this? Well, maybe because the issue itself is an uncomfortable one. But why is it uncomfortable? I partly suspect this is because it would involve acknowledging that the problem is in our midst: that the abusers may be among our friends, may be within our family. The thought that I may have been close to someone who has used force against a woman is almost too numbing to contemplate.
But such squeamishness is of no use to anyone. Worse than that, it is detrimental. Men who are physically abusive towards women are not magically demarcated from other men. They are among us: proud, jealous, domineering, possessive, they very often are us.
What, then, should we do?  Well, on a formal level, it would be great if we could study feminist theory in schools as carefully as we study the civil rights movement. This would remove feminism from the current intellectual ghetto which seems to suggest that it is only a subject that women should think or care about. That might help to lead to a world where casual sexism attracts as much distaste as casual racism.
Simply, and informally, it would also help if more of us were more willing to intervene wherever we see women being verbally harassed by other men as they go about their daily business. This is easier said than done: after all, the kind of man who is brazen enough to call a woman something filthy in the street is often capable of escalating things very swiftly, physically and dangerously against the fellow male who calls him out. Hell hath no fury like a man scorned.
Less dramatically, we as men can also talk more amongst ourselves about these issues: and, therefore, begin to pull up some of the roots of sexual entitlement that have led to violence on this scale. I believe that, with the aid of these discussions, we will one day find a cure for this epidemic.
11 Mar 18:47

Artist Sipho Mabona Successfully Folds Life-sized Origami Elephant from Single Sheet of Paper

by Christopher Jobson

Artist Sipho Mabona Successfully Folds Life sized Origami Elephant from Single Sheet of Paper sculpture paper origami elephants
Photo by Philipp Schmidli

Artist Sipho Mabona Successfully Folds Life sized Origami Elephant from Single Sheet of Paper sculpture paper origami elephants
Photo by Philipp Schmidli

Artist Sipho Mabona Successfully Folds Life sized Origami Elephant from Single Sheet of Paper sculpture paper origami elephants
Photo by Philipp Schmidli

Artist Sipho Mabona Successfully Folds Life sized Origami Elephant from Single Sheet of Paper sculpture paper origami elephants
Photo by Philipp Schmidli

Following a successful campaign on Indiegogo which raised nearly $26,000, artist Sipho Mabona followed through on his promise to fold a life-sized elephant from a single giant sheet of paper. The piece stands over 10 feet tall (3 meters) and took a team of nearly a dozen people over four weeks to fold. The final sculpture is on view at KKLB in Beromünster, Switzerland. Photos by Philipp Schmidli. (via My Modern Met)

07 Mar 13:21

When bare breasts are a problem

by Thomas WATKINS

femen1.jpg

Yesterday, we posted this picture but decided to censor the nipple to make sure we didn't violate any of Facebook's standards. But as several people commented under the picture, it is a strange paradox that it seems OK to show a photograph of violence against a woman, but not to let people see her chosen means of protest (toplessness.)


femen1.jpg

Photo of a man grabbing a Femen activist around the throat in front of Crimea's parliament, published on Facebook with the woman’s exposed breast masked in order to conform to Facebook’s nudity policy. Uncensored version below. (AFP Photo/Alexander Nemenov)


french-button.jpg Follow @AFPblogs Follow @thomaswatkins

By Thomas Watkins


PARIS, March 7, 2014 --- As one of AFP's community managers, I have to decide which of the 3,000 images the agency distributes daily to post on different social networks. One of the more frequent topics of pictures -- and conversations about whether we should post these on our social networks -- is the feminist activist network Femen, originally from Ukraine.

The group's signature style of direct action is to show up at rallies or places in the news and bare their breasts, which typically are adorned with very direct slogans. Their methods are outrageous by design. For instance, in December five women from the group gathered in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Paris and pretended to urinate on photographs of Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

(AFP Photo/Thomas Samson)

(AFP Photo/Thomas Samson)

But the images generated from a Femen protest are often compelling and have real news value. And frequently, the photos capture male heavy-handedness as security forces or angry protesters confront the topless women.

A security guard tackles a Femen activist as she tried to stop the car of Tunisian Prime Minister from leaving the EU commission in Brussels. June 25, 2013 (AFP Photo/Georges Gobet)

A security guard tackles a Femen activist as she tried to stop the car of Tunisian Prime Minister from leaving the EU commission in Brussels. June 25, 2013 (AFP Photo/Georges Gobet)

Femen members are arrested in Berlin, June 7, 2013. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)

Femen members are arrested in Berlin, June 7, 2013. (AFP Photo/Odd Andersen)

One of our most important social media platforms is Facebook, which has some strict guidelines about what is and isn't appropriate to post. Their community standards include "limitations on the display of nudity." In the case of women's breasts, this basically means you can't show any nipples. Femen has its own Facebook page, but takes care to airbrush over any photographs of nipples.

We've run afoul of the rules once before, when Facebook pulled this image from our French site, presumably because of the nipples -- never mind the news value and strength of the photo itself.

CensureFB_m.jpg

Yesterday, we posted this picture but decided to censor the nipple to make sure we didn't violate any of Facebook's standards. But as several people commented under the picture, it is a strange paradox that it seems OK to show a photograph of violence against a woman, but not to let people see her chosen means of protest (toplessness.)

femen.jpg

The uncensored version.

"So it is OK to show women getting choked and beaten on FB as long as you don't show any nipple. Go figure," wrote one user.

Another blogged that the photo "reveals all that is wrong with Facebook’s nudity policy."

Michelle Gilbert, Facebook's director of communication in France, points out that the sheer volume of content shared on the platform each day makes it impossible to screen each item according to its news context, especially given different values across countries, regions and religions. 

"Facebook is a universal product. It’s a very difficult job and we put a lot of resources behind it to make sure the content is acceptable," she says. "We have to have guidelines and rules."

Fair enough. But it raises the question as to whether news organisations should be given a little more latitude to publish pictures where news value trumps any squeamishness about nudity.

10 Jul 21:33

His Last Piece Was Very Cerebral

by noreply@blogger.com (Terry Border)