Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which runs from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day. Welcome to Day One of our annual blogathon bringing together voices from academia, activism, art and media to raise awareness of this ongoing struggle. The blogathon marks a continuing collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Dr B.R. Ambedkar University, Delhi, and the University of New South Wales.
This year our theme is Histories, Legacies, Myths and Memories. It is 30 years since the 16 Days of Activism campaign was first launched by the-now Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University in the States, and more than 50 years since feminists of the so-called Second Wave women’s movement began mobilising to expose, confront, and campaign for the elimination of violence against women. We reflect upon these contemporary histories and lessons, including reflections from Australia and the UK. But we also take the longer view with posts exploring manifestations of gender-based violence – sometimes hiding in plain sight – through the centuries. Listening as past voices surface — from the archive, or through myth, traditional songs and stories, or via truth-telling criminal and media investigation — highlights striking continuities of lived experience and feeling, of societal and cultural stigma, and of strategies of resistance.
There has sometimes been a reluctance by scholars and curators to fully acknowledge the historical traces of gender-based violence, whilst others struggle with the ethical dilemmas and emotional costs of recovering these marginalised stories of trauma, injustice and agency.
Over the next 16 Days we will travel from Australia to India, Scotland to the Caribbean, and Mexico to England. Our contributors take us from Ancient Rome to a squat in 1970s Sydney; from Scotland in the 1500s to the partition violence of 1940s India. We meet women seeking justice through medieval courts and modern true crime podcasts; we hear stories of abuse and survival from epic myths and traditional songs from India and Europe; we share the dilemmas of educators and curators; we learn about the struggles of marginalised and racialised women for justice and support both within their own communities and wider societies; and we reflect on lessons to be learned from both contemporary and ancient histories.
Ultimately, a focus on histories, legacies, myths and memories gives us a very important tool. It helps us to identify more lucidly what is unique and distinct about the moment and location we inhabit. It reinforces our understanding of the ubiquity of gender-based violence as well as the ways that the modes and experiences of gender-based violence are shaped by intersecting structures and identities of difference and inequality.
It helps us to understand where we have come from, and the continuing resonances of the past over the long haul of time. And it helps us to imagine where we want to go.
We launch our 2021 Blogathon with a powerful contribution by award-winning Scots singer and composer Karine Polwart who surfaces stories of sexual and gender-based violence in traditional music and oral traditions and their contemporary relevance.
Content note: posts inevitably address distressing experiences and issues around sexual and gender-based violence. We hope they also provoke, energise and sometimes uplift.
The 2021 curators:
University of Edinburgh: Prof. Fiona Mackay (Director) and Aerin Lai (PhD web and editorial assistant) for genderED; Dr. Zubin Mistry (Lead), Prof. Louise Jackson, Prof. Diana Paton, Dr Hatice Yildiz, for the Histories of Gender and Sexualities Research Group.
Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi: Prof. Rukmini Sen (Director, Centre for Publishing), Dr Rachna Mehra (School of Global Affairs).
University of New South Wales: Prof. Jan Breckenridge (Co-Convenor), Mailin Suchting (Manager) and Georgia Lyons (Research Assistant) for the Gendered Violence Research Network.