Global Roundup: Spain Protests to End VAW, Armenia & Azerbaijan Feminists, Trans Brown Artist, Queer Drag & Multidisciplinary Artist, New Zealand Artist Challenges Beauty Standards
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Demonstrators take part in a protest to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Madrid, Spain, November 25, 2022 [Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters] via Al Jazeera
On this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, thousands marched in Spain to demand an end to violence against women. Many protesters in Madrid and Barcelona wore purple, carried banners and chanted “no is no, anything else is rape,” and “we women are not goods.” In Barcelona, people banged drums and lit flares.
Since 2003, when statistics began to count fatalities, 1,171 women have died as a result of gender violence in Spain according to the ministry of equality. So far in 2022, 38 women have died.
I’ve come here because of the problem of gender violence, because of all the deaths that are occurring, the mistreatment of women. -Susana Rita, teacher from Madrid
The protests come after it emerged that some men had their prison sentences reduced because of a loophole in a new law governing penalties for sexual abuse, which has caused fury and heated debate among politicians. The law, known as the “only yes means yes” law, classifies any non-consensual sex as rape but also sets lighter minimum sentences for certain sexual crimes. At least 11 convicted sexual abusers have had their prison terms reduced and five men have been released from prison.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez asked men at a Socialist Party event.on Friday to step forward to stop machismo.
Male violence is a tragic reality that shames us every day. - Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Police Stop Women's Action against domestic violence in Baku on March 8, 2019. Pacific Press Media Production Corp. / Alamy Stock Photo via openDemocracy
Feminists in the South Caucasus are taking peacebuilding efforts into their own hands after 30 years of peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan being monopolized by men and failing. The longtime adversaries are expected to sign a peace deal by the end of the year. Feminist peace not only calls for the end of wars and violence but for the abolition of patriarchy, militarisation, nationalism, imperialism, and male dominance. For some feminists, it is also important to establish a horizontal approach to leadership, instead of a top-down one.
Sevinj Samadzade is a co-founder of the Feminist Peace Collective (FPC), an independent online platform created in response to the Second Karabakh War in 2020. The Azerbaijani-English website, which Azerbaijani researchers and activists contribute to, aims to introduce readers to feminist literature.
We’re not saying that it’s a utopia that we’ll [suddenly] achieve one day. It’s a process. That’s one thing people should understand when we talk about peace in general. -Sevinj Samadzade
Samadzade is willing to risk demonstrating against Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliev’s regime, despite the country’s history of imprisoning dissidents. Just this month, a pro-democracy activist was arrested for allegedly criticizing the police on social media. Azerbaijani feminists are also often ridiculed online by men, while restrictive laws prevent NGOs from operating independently in the country.
Speaking about peace in Armenia now is a bit challenging because you don’t know what kind of security challenges you might face. It’s already been hard to talk. -Lida Minasyan, Armenian feminist peace researcher
Linda Minasyan co-founded the Women’s Agenda, an NGO that uplifts and empowers women in Armenia to engage in peace work, in response to the war. The Women’s Agenda is currently focused on engaging Armenian women – particularly those in regions bordering Azerbaijan, such as the Syunik Province – with peace negotiations on local, national and international levels.
The lack of productive talks between the states after the 2020 war led some Armenians and Azerbaijanis to start their own online grassroots projects to encourage cross-border discussions. Most recently, on September 18, more than 280 activists, scholars and writers – mostly Armenian and Azerbaijani – signed an anti-war statement, condemning Aliev’s attack on Armenia.
Nailya does not consider herself a peacebuilder – she is an Azerbaijani artist and filmmaker who grew up in Azerbaijan in the 1990s. She is currently visiting Tbilisi where she is hoping to organize events and eventually an in-residence art space for Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis. She imagines it as a place of healing and creativity – mostly for young Armenians and Azerbaijanis wanting to leave their countries due to war and lack of opportunity. She envisions it to be a space for art, dance, performance, and sewing workshops. Her artwork is also rooted in feminist and queer ideology and the non-hierarchal approach.
For me, it’s not a dream of a peacebuilder. I approach it as an artist who believes that culture should be a bridging tool to open up the minds and thoughts of people to be more tolerant to each other and to heal. -Nailya
Photo via GaysiFamily
Finsta is a trans artist here to give an unapologetic voice to brown queers across the globe. Her debut album CUNTYGRRRL, which released on International Trans Day of Remembrance, is inspired by the 80s Riot Grrrl punk-feminist movement. It is an explosive political statement, weaving together postpunk/metal sounds with skits and voice samples drawn from the trans rights movement in India, USA, and elsewhere. Gaysi interviews Finsta.
Finsta begins by explaining how “Finsta” was born. She says Finsta was born from Bollywood Disco.
…[Disco] was music that came from the queer underground, a place where we were allowed to feel forbidden emotions, wear forbidden clothes, have forbidden sex. Queer people had to fight for the right to disco. This resonates with me because it acknowledges both how difficult and painful queer resistance (disco) can be, but also how creative and pleasurable it is. -Finsta
Finsta says that the album is not made for people who are not queer. She raps about her experiences in the queer community, which she says is not about microagressions or just internal issues.
…When lesbians treat me like I’m a monster and not a woman they could be attracted to, or when rich gay men dont like me because I hate rich people, those are attitudes that affect everyone around them, not just me or other poor trans people. We cant isolate queer politics from the rest of the world…the shade I throw at people in this album has to do with how they treated me, whether they’re queer or not. -Finsta
When Finsta made CUNTYGRRRL, she only had a few months left before her visa expired and she had to return to India, she was working “shitty food service jobs,” she had just started hormones and began to feel “terribly dysphoric about [her] body and attractiveness,” and had to cut herself off from her family, personally and financially. That is when she started listening to punk music and discovered the riot grrrl movement. The rage resonated with her and she felt that she could somehow harness the punk sound in a meaningful (trans) way.
…I made CUNTYGRRRL right when I realized that I can’t be the perfect trans woman that I wanted to be. The trans women I saw in the news and social media were beautiful, sexy, confident, told their transition stories with certainty and pride, were getting all the money they deserve, and seemed to have reached their “destination”. -Finsta
Finsta has been struggling as a trans woman who just moved back to New Delhi but she feels more empowered to figure it out and fight for what she needs, as she has found queer friends she loves and trusts there. She has also found “brilliant” queer musicians and performers in India who she says have been hiding for so long. She is excited to work with these people.
The new queer wave in this country isnt just about making music about gay sex or love, it’s about changing the ways in which music is distributed and performed in this country. We don’t just want to get signed, make hits, and get famous, we want venues where women feel safe, where poor people can afford the tickets and drinks. We want money to go to artists who aren’t just upper caste men and the promoters, labels, and organizers are going to listen to us because we make better music and because it’s not a fanbase behind us, it’s a community. -Finsta
Photo by Dylan MacNeil via Yukon News
Jeszika Mae is a queer drag and multidisciplinary artist, under the moniker Come What Mae in Yukon, Canada. Mae produced the Queerlesque Convoy Cabaret Showcase and Peepshow Extravaganza earlier this month. The night featured drag and burlesque performers stripping down to their pasties, singing, dancing, hula hooping, and more.
Queerlesque was more than just an evening of drag and performance art. For Mae, it was partially a political statement. Last June, Mae helped put on Drag Story Time, reading books to kids and families as part of Whitehorse’s Arts in the Park festival. A photo of Mae at the event was published in the local paper, which prompted Jonas Smith to write a letter to the editor titled “Introducing kids to sexual themes is inappropriate,” suggesting that Mae’s act was “grooming.” Mae felt Smith’s letter was a lot to unpack emotionally.
He didn’t just go out and say ‘hey these people are grooming kids and blah blah blah,’ it was the fact that he called me male in the paper at a time when I was just coming out as trans and coming out as a trans man. So, it was like the dude just validated me while being super bigoted. -Jeszika Mae
Mae feels that others can wear wigs and costumes and it is generally seen as fine, but because they are queer it is controversial. Drag is a safe way for him to respond to hate and heal.
The Queerlesque show poked fun at the incident. The word “convoy” in the show’s title is a dig at anti-COVID restriction protestors, and Mae took to the stage as their character Joan Assmith. The character is described in promotional material as a “failed politician,” “on a mission to spread love, crush toxic ideologies, and elevate marginalized voices.” Mae started off their performance by re-enacting Drag Story Time. They then read Smith’s letter. The audience bellowed out boos as Mae read “signed Jonas Smith.” Next, Mae took off their clothes and transformed into Assmith. Dawning a dress of bubble wrap to represent fragile masculinity, they broke into song.
Joan Assmith is definitely a response to Jonas and what he had to say. At the end of the day, what can I do other than take this and turn it into something artistic and process until it doesn’t sting anymore?...I really would like my artwork to not be political but I apparently can’t walk out of my door without people having opinions of my existence. -Jeszika Mae
Photo by ANDY MACDONALD/STUFF
Born in Taranaki, New Zealand, queer artist Dimmie Danielewski says there is an inherent beauty in representing bodies that do not conform to the status quo. Danielewski is an art instructor at Camp Boom in Wellington, a series of workshops, talks and classes this weekend around systemic discrimination and media representation, and is teaching a life drawing class.
Bodies are cool. They have interesting features and lumps and bumps and folds, regardless of their size, shape, colour, gender identity and level of ability. There is no positive or negative associated with bodies in general. They are completely neutral. -Dimmie Danielewski
Danielewski started painting when she was 10 years old and grew up experimenting with acrylic paint, embroidered patches and lino cut print. Her realistic artwork depicted the naked bodies of plus size women and gender-diverse people.
Everybody has a value and is worth representing, but that value does not necessarily hinge on what they look like. I always try to boost the voices of people who deserve to be heard, because we have a responsibility to society, we need to leave the world in a better spot than we found it in. -Dimmie Danielewski
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.