My Dearest Darlings, many of my loyal followers have repeatedly asked for my opinion on Rihanna's terrible plight and her recent clash with Chris Brown, these two pop stars have contributed to the reinvigoration of R&B for the noughties creating huge hits most notably perhaps Rhianna's enormous chart topper 'Umbrella'. Ironic perhaps that a song referring to the metaphorical protection gleaned from love has proved so untrue in this particular relationship. The rumours were rife a few weeks ago regarding Chris Brown's alleged sustained physical attack on Rihanna. I as ever like to get my facts straight before blithely casting judgement on personal relationships though as various 'facts' and opinions have now gone 'live' I feel able to comment, especially in light of this week's announcement on domestic violence by the government and their new actions to confront it.
Last Sunday was International Women's Day, though sadly as it fell on a Sunday it received limited mainstream press attention though Monday's reports and statistics on domestic abuse reveal that there is no recession on violence occurring in the your homes. On Monday the Home Secretary launched the largest ever, cross-government public consultation on violence against women. This on-line survey enables everyone to engage with the issues, for details click here. I welcome the government's intention to debate the specifics of this serious problem. However the survey asks rather prosaic questions that imply a superficial engagement with the issues involved. It is difficult to understand the reasons for the rather out-dated queries regarding the women's attire, profession, drug-use and levels of drunkenness implying that this may have some bearing on whether a women is more or less responsible for being a victim of violence, or perhaps the survey is intended to examine what you as a society believe to be the reasons and on who the 'blame' can be placed? This remains to be seen.
Unsurprisingly I am drawn to the broader issues surrounding the motivations for such behaviour and am interested in what this reveals about your culture. Aside from the occasional documentary, the main stream media is not able or dedicated enough to allow real debate on any significant issue, instead 'sound-bite' news coverage laden with gimmick and celebrity passes for 'public debate', an in-depth conversation is usually allowed a maximum of five minutes to explore even the most complex and important of issues. Whilst focusing on particularly high profile cases may lure a viewer or reader into sympathising with the protagonists the attention to one case inhibits proper conversation as often you become over emotional and involved with speculation on particular events.
My Loves, by now I would expect you to be familiar with the variety of manifestations and realities of dastardly domestic disturbances, your soaps feature it, your chat shows cover it and your Jeremy Kyle style programming is overflowing with it, these forms can encourage debate though no forum appears willing or able to get under the bruised and battered skin of this most serious of social malady. Here I raise just a few points for contemplation with more to follow. As past posts on this beautiful blog reveal, International Women's Day is still as relevant now as it was ninety nine years ago when it first began, female inequity is still rife across your globe. From unequal pay to inadequate maternity leave, to the use of rape and torture during war, I need not go in to specifics, though the concerned can click here.
In terms of domestic abuse quite rightly most energy is focused on how those of you that are unfortunate enough to get into this situation, get out of it. As usual I am interested in what it signifies culturally for women that get into this sort of relationship. Certainly one issue to consider is the esteem that relationships have in society, an esteem that over rides almost all other areas of your identity. A term like 'other half' suggest that a lone person is not wholly sufficient within your culture. A lone female is still seen as a threat often deemed as a selfish careerist or as a failure for not capturing a suitable mate. The 'Cinderella' story underpins almost all of your cultural tropes from soap and sit-com to the cinematic rom-com in almost all depictions of the human condition the pursuit of that special relationship is key to a 'Happily Ever After'. Admittedly a happy and loving relationship can enrich your sordid lives hence the endless love songs and the above that address it, though surely the pursuit of this potentially mythical ideal should not usurp your own journey to becoming a well rounded person.
So overwhelming is this cultural programming that you may not be as aware as is advisable when selecting your mate, culturally you are occasionally undeniably stupid, but perhaps optimistically I believe that individually you are all able to focus your sense of intuition to become aware of the minute little messages regarding your next 'knight in shining armour'. Especially given the cultural propensity that encourages women to believe that men can be changed by a loving partner, the most lecherous lothario can become a tender hearted home body given the right 'education' apparently.
I write these words not as chastisement to those of you that may make regrettable decisions regarding the men in your life. The only one at fault is the aggressor. Though to view such an aggressor simply as that, is to over simplify.
I suggest that your culture's emphasis on the pursuit of domestic bliss encourages women to sacrifice their happiness to assure that they do not remain single. The state of marital existence is apparently so essential that it has programmed even the most successful and wondrous examples of femininity to doubt their self-worth as an individual being, such is the case with the young and beautiful Rihanna. A woman who by any standards would be deemed a success, but who has (allegedly) become involved in an escalating saga of violence at the hand of her significant other.
It could be argued that the objectification of women has influenced the continuation of violence against women. Despite the various laws and protections that have been put in place since the dawn of feminism in the latter part of the last century, this legislative progress has coincided with the continuing sexualisation of women in popular culture. This objectification allows men to de-humanise their mates, allowing the dim-witted to control and subjugate their spouses, thus preventing them from truly valuing the warmth and humanity of their loving partners.
It was with alarm I noted that the same news program that covered the governments announcement on Monday also chose to comment on the celebration of 'Barbie's' fiftieth 'birthday'. This plastic simulacrum of a women is given to small children to act as an ideal of femininity. Barbie who has become a 'feminist icon' has been in circulation for half a century, an emotionless, opinion-less, caricature of a women, who will not feel a beating and will not answer back, is championed. A fictional character who has become synonymous with 'Ken', Karl Lagerfeld has designed for her, real women even attempt to resemble her, such is the peculiarity and complexity of the woman's place in your world.
Of course the majority of men love and cherish, though whilst culturally femininity is undermined, the potential for violence exists. I have hardly scratched the surface of this issue. I have barely delved into it's twisted depths of depravity, though I shall return to this subject soon, as I feel it to be vitally important and worthy of exploration.
To finish I would like to salute the women who brave their own personal storms, the plight of the female of the species is still miraculously down played in your culture though I hope that individually women's skills and abilities are valued by the majority of families despite the statistics.
My Dearest Darlings believe in your own self worth, do not accept ill treatment. Listen to yourself as if you are your own best friend.
Humbly Ms Coco LaVerne x