On November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I announced taht I am going to collect all the articles I wrote on BIM since 2015 and that all profits from the publication (and I mean all of them) will go to a non-profit working to help women who have experinced gender […]
On November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I announced taht I am going to collect all the articles I wrote on BIM since 2015 and that all profits from the publication (and I mean all of them) will go to a non-profit working to help women who have experinced gender violence. It’s a wonderful group of amazing women, their name is Cerchi d’Acqua (Circles in the Water) and they talked about themselves here.
Since we’re still working on the publication and I don’t have anything to show you yet, I am committing to stay with you every day until December 10th, International Human Day, with a reading list of works around gender violence, integration, diversity. There’s a shitload of works that are fucking great, if you pardon my French, and so far it seems like I’ve been able to honor my committment, although it’s not easy to stay consistent with an article every day. If I can do this, I’m stable and focused enough to do anything. It’s going to be a good recovery sign.
Today on the reading list, one of my favourite titles so far.
A devastating personal account of gender violence told in comic book form, set against the backdrop of the 1970s Yorkshire Ripper man-hunt.
It’s 1977 and Una is 12. Other kids are into punk or ska, but Una is learning to play “Mull of Kintyre” by Wings on the guitar, and she thinks it’s a really good song.
There’s another song, chanted on the terraces by Leeds United fans. It might not have made it on to Top of the Pops, but the boys all sing it on the walk home from school: “One Yorkshire Ripper . . . There’s only one Yorkshire Ripper . . . One Yorkshire Ri-pper . . .” A serial murderer is at large in West Yorkshire and the police—despite spending more than two million man-hours hunting the killer and interviewing the man himself no less than nine times—are struggling to solve the case.
The way this story intertwines with the book is explained in this very careful, very defensive, very careful again and quite beautiful review here. And it’s highly relevant that the author himself of that review thought that killer only targeted prostitutes. It’s one of the points of the book and one of the most powerful points for a woman. The idea that being a prostitute is bad and excuses any kind of abuse. Just as much as being a woman who walks head high.
As this national news story unfolds around her, Una finds herself on the receiving end of a series of violent acts for which she feels she is to blame.
Blame, guilt and shame are some of the main topics for the story. Una grows up with the serial killer story in the background and develops, slowly and subtly, this idea that bad things don’t happen if you are a good girl.
And it’s amazing, it’s fucking astonishing how it’s a thought we have, in the back of our brain. And it’s amazing that people will still ask you “what did you do to deserve it”, when you confide them that something happened to you. And it9s so incredible, so disconcerting, that you find yourself trying to take the blame off you, explaining how you didn’t do anything, as if you could have done something that would excuse the scumbag to say or do what he said or did.
Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course.
Unbecoming explores gender violence, blame, shame, and social responsibility. Through image and text Una asks what it means to grow up in a culture where male violence goes unpunished and unquestioned.
The drawings are absolutely beatiful and, as it often happens with these intimists stories, sometime mix narrative with other kinds of illustrations and it’s good to see I’m not alone in my fascination for paper dolls.
The artist also authored On Sanity: One Day in Two Lives, a story on mental health and mother-daughter relationships. She did amazing work related to that publication and you can read all about it here.
With the benefit of hindsight Una explores her experience, wonders if anything has really changed and challenges a global culture that demands that the victims of violence pay its cost.