Femicide, the term defined as “the killing of a woman because she is a woman”
FROM MARTYRDOM TO FEMICIDE
A martyr (Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, “witness”; stem μάρτυρ-, mártyr-) is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.
The assassination of woman is an ancient ritual. Contrary to common belief, women are massacred by their husbands, by their fiancees, by their companions, by their brothers, by their fathers and by their lovers. Only rarely are they ever killed by strangers. Even today we are witness to the physical and symbolic destruction of the Female Being; a social emergency only ostensibly taken into consideration by the authorities, because our society is still, at it's base, structured in an archaic and patriarchal manner.
History shows us that the women, martyred and tortured down through the ages... witches or saints... were human beings, accused of crimes which they did not commit. Their only guilt was a wish to be accorded human dignity. The stories of Joan of Arc, of Saint Lucy, of Saint Agnes tell us that men in society will not tolerate women who autonomously choose independence. The woman who does not blindly submit to the will of a man must be eliminated. On the opera stage, as well, a woman who asserts her autonomy as a human risks being slaughtered... as Bizet sets to music. Carmen, the gypsy, opposes her lover who has implored her to commit to him. She mortally wounds him... but only verbally, a wound to his male pride... with the famous lyrics which she sings in third person: Jamais Carmen ne cédera. Libre elle est née e libre elle mourra! ("Never will Carmen submit. Free she was born and free she will die!"). These fateful lines provoke real dagger wounds... real blood... and real death!
Historic Origins A common thread connects the martyrs of legend to the women victimized by femicide today. In the early centuries of the Christian Age, women accepted death as a sacrifice rather than to abdicate their autonomy to make the choice to maintain their desire for equality and the right to uphold their faith. Today, women are killed for the same reasons... because they refuse to be considered an accessory to any man... a powerless object to be displayed.
SAINT AGATHA, a Sicilian martyr who was a Christian deaconess, a cultured woman. The Roman proconsul fell in love with her... wanted her, and also wanted her conspicuous wealth, but she refused to renounce her mission. Her breasts were ripped off with pincers and she was burned.
SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA The emperor sent pagan philosophers and orators to convince her to renounce her Christian faith. Instead, she eloquently convinced these same emissaries to become followers of Christ. Cultural checkmate. Condemned to death. Subjected to the spiked wheel. Decapitated.
SAINT APOLLONIA An elderly woman from Alexandria. Noted for helping Christians to propagate their faith. Struck in the face until all of her teeth were knocked out. Burned alive.
SAINT LUCY Daughter of a wealthy Syracusan family. Gave all her belongings to the poor. Denounced as a Christian by her rejected fiancee. Put to shame among prostitutes. Tortured. Throat slit. Traditional iconography represents her with her eyes torn out and displayed on a plate.
SAINT AGNES The son of the Prefect of Rome saw Agnes as she was going to school. He fell deeply in love with the thirteen year old, but she rejected him. She was stripped naked and humiliated. Ready to be delivered to a brothel. In the end, her throat was slit like a butchered lamb.
Violence or Symbolic Destruction Of Women
It appears to be impossible to eradicate this violence because it is rooted not in passion or pathology as one would have us believe, but rather, it springs from cultural roots. In Italy, this year alone, the number of female victims has mounted to more than ninety women. In the last three years, the number of martyred women in the "bel paese" has reached the dreadful figure of 650 victims... women of every age who have dared to defy the will of men motivated by "love" that is more accurately characterized as possession... women reduced to the rank of "object".
Mothers, wives, girls and old women attacked with knives or scissors, cut to pieces or massacred by stoning, shot to death, strangled with electrical cords, asphixiated with plastic bags, burned or dashed down to base of a cliff in the desire to disintegrate them physically... but even more so... symbolically. An Italian slaughter that... along with the thousands of female human beings massacred in every corner of our earth, at every hour of the day, represents, in an explicit way, the tragic fact that women who say "No!" to injustice and cruelty are seen as dangerous and deserving of annihilation.
The artist and photographer IRIS BROSCH is creating a tableaux vivant with models during the BIENNALE ARCHITETTURA 2012 of Venice. Women with loose hair, long and white dressed, with the palm of martyrdom, will pose for a sequence of photos and performances to highlight that women killed in Italy between January and August 2012 are already 90, and that Veneto has the primacy of murderers. Some of them will hold red velvet pillows with the tools of martyrdom (gun, knife, nylon bag, scissors).
Performance by Iris Brosch irisbrosch.com
Concept & text by Fiora Gandolfi fioragandolfi.it
Curator & production by Luna Herrera
Director of photography Stephan Blanc
Assistant photographer, Alice Brunello Luise; alicebrunelloluise.it
Vocal performer: Sophie Touitou
Thanks to all the beautiful models:
Ana Lòpez Woodcock
Monserrat Monsalue De Sebastian