Defacing Pro-Woman Messages

Defaced image that supports women

Defaced image that supports women

Why would someone feel so threatened by a poster asking to respect women and treat them with basic human dignity that they try to tear it down and write degrading comments on it?

That’s what one of my friends’ daughters wondered.

Amber had been walking downtown with her two kids when they saw this poster from a distance, proclaiming: 

Stop harassing women in the street

Amber said,

At first we were proud to see it. But as we got closer, the reality of women’s inequality sank in when we realized that someone had been trying to tear it down by ripping it’s edges.

And then they saw what someone had penned in below the picture:

Don’t dress like a hooker and you won’t get treated like one.

(To which someone keenly observed, “What a little turd.”)

I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Like recent vandalism in Rome.

The chained UP chair by Gaetano Pesce

The chained UP chair by Gaetano Pesce

The chained UP chair by feminist artist Gaetano Pesce symbolizes servitude. Take a walk inside and you will see photographs and computer monitors asking questions like:

  • In which country do women not have the right to vote?
  • In which country do women not have the right to education?
  • In which country are women considered “the weaker sex”?

The vandals hacked the inside walls and threw rocks at the images, according to the New York Times, which adds that Mr. Pesce calls the attack,

a stoning, recalling a punishment that women are still subjected to in some countries.

But Mr. Pesce did not want the damage repaired in the remaining weeks of his show. For it all-to-well demonstrates the continuing problems women endure. The Times continues,

The vandals had proved his point, he said. “Now the show is complete.”

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 14, 2014, in feminism, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. ‘ The vandals had proved his point, he said. “Now the show is complete.” ‘

    That’s deep. Depressing, but deep.

  2. These are all signs of hate. Hatred for women. It is no different than when people spray paint swastikas on Jewish synagogues. Or the N-word on Black people homes…Simple hatred.

    In my observation, when the dislike for someone has reached the level of hate what’s really at work is an underlying fear. But, this fear has transformed itself because the person now feels he or she must strike out against this person or group. Their only means of striking out is this kind of behavior. They feel so powerless that this is their way of attacking women.

    A poster is very harmless. The message of the poster is harmless. However, the vandal is threatened by the message. He sees it as a challenge to his perceived supremacy. Which really means he sees women as beneath him. How dare they challenge his dominion over them!

    In reality, the person is really a coward and a weasel.

  3. I don’t know why but it still astounds me when I’m out in the world and I encounter people who are so against treating women as human beings as opposed to objects. Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. I used to take the latter as par for the course but now I actually have a jarring, offended reaction to it.

  4. I would suspect that vandalism like that was done by adolescents who were going along with a peer group. Hopefully empathy and compassion will come with age and maturity. Perhaps I’m a bit naive but I’d like to think that adult males, even those who don’t think of women as equals, wouldn’t stoop to such a thing. I remorsefully think back on stupid things I did as a kid, but at least the stupid things were done out of ignorance and not true hatred. Still, acts and messages done out of ignorance can be harmful and perpetuate further ignorance and harm.

    • Yeah, I’m guessing it was younger guys, too. But younger guys are often more insecure in their manhood, too. So could stem from that.

      Luckily, most guys aren’t insecure enough to behave that way. And luckily, they do grow up.

  5. It’s sickening 😦 it only proves that there are some people who not only don’t believe that women should be given equal rights but also can’t stand those who are heralding such notions. They think it as their birthright to demean women in every possible way!

  6. ‘Stop harassing women’ is a double faced motto… As you have well pointed out above…. it might be sadly conditioned by the circumstances… If the skirt is too short, the reciprocal counterpart of the statement would be ‘Stop turning on guys unless you want to be harassed’.
    These two sides are always related one to the other… Unavoidably.
    All the best!, Aquileana 🙂

  7. I find it beautiful that this sculpture was created to open the eyes of viewers to the oppression of women. I also like that it resembles a woman’s body, which is celebrating it rather than making it appear as a sexual object. The questions hung on walls and computer screens seem like a great way to engage the community in actively thinking about what these questions mean for women in society. I have always felt that questions help to push us towards seeking understanding, which in turn gives us answers or tools to work with to ask more questions that ultimately lead to more serious and lasting changes. When we ask ourselves why something is, and we disagree with it, that’s where the fight comes and the little activist in us all wakes ready to put it’s fists up .

    Although these things are empowering and beautiful, it is extremely sad, discouraging and disappointing that people of any age and of any gender, would want to partake in the act of vandalizing someone’s creation, especially one that stands for change and equality within our world. Regardless of if these kids were young or not, their actions are not justified simply because of how young or old they may be, teenagers are capable of understanding what is wrong and what is right. I love that the artist decided to leave the evidence of the vandalism as it was, so that people can see the violent acts against women that continue to go on. That is an incredibly powerful statement! By leaving the vandalism for viewers to see, it’s like saying thank you for proving my point and adding to my art.

    Art is an expression of the human condition, everyone should be able to express themselves freely. If people can’t even respect those trying to fight for equality with the freedom of speech or expression through the arts, how are people of any race, gender, religion etc., how is our world to improve? Everyone should know their rights and feel safe and empowered to stand up for those rights, but that is not the world we live in. We live in a world where the word feminist has been made into an offensive term, rather being perceived as a beautiful and empowering word. In the media, in art, on the streets, in the classroom and the work force, women are constantly being oppressed and sexualized. You would think at the very least, people could leave art alone, regardless of it’s message it’s art!

    It doesn’t seem to be about the art though, or about kids just vandalizing something to be cool or fit in. They could have chosen any sculpture or piece of art to vandalize, and they chose the one that resembles a woman’s body and stands up for the oppression of women. This act of vandalism, as well as the rude comments left on the poster that the mother and daughter came across, are about the message. Both the poster and the sculpture are meant to empower women to keep fighting for equal rights. Both of these pieces are meant to open the minds of others and provide hope for a more unified society.

  8. This article had a huge effect on me. It amazes me that to this day people won’t accept that women and men should be treated equally. I can’t believe someone would deface a work of art like that. The fact that the artist refused to have his exhibit fixed after it was vandalized says a lot about his character. His exhibit being vandalized proved his point that women still endure many problems and struggles in life. It makes me sick to think that someone threw stones at his exhibit. I think people that deface pro-woman messages are afraid of seeing the day when women aren’t oppressed anymore. I think cowards are the only people who do such acts. There would be no other reason to do such horrible things. I hope during my lifetime I get to see women being treated equally to men. That is one thing I look forward to seeing.

  9. It’s disheartening to read about how people fighting for a social cause are met with such hostility and hate. However, it’s also encouraging that there are people that continue to fight for these issues even when met with so much adversity. There have been many times in America’s history when social reform was necessary, and only came true because of the incredible efforts of people who believed in the cause.
    I believe that people often attack what frightens them as a defense mechanism. Racists may fear another race because they are unfamiliar with them or fear the idea that these new people may take their roles in society. People lashing out against pro-women speech likely fear the concept of women gaining equality they are likely men that feel they can function as a male that is supposedly superior over women. These are most likely insecure men that cannot handle the concept of women being equal because it is too frightening for the men to consider this possibility.

  10. Wow, seeing this kind of stuff is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t understand why somebody would try and destroy something that’s calling for change, and bringing attention to something that’s got to be stopped; and them further commenting on the poster explaining so-called reasoning for the harassment. Being a guy I don’t know what it feels like to be sexually harassed or (catcalled) while walking in public, but as I can imagine, its got to be pretty scary. I think that a lot of the reasons these pieces of art like the chair, and the advertisement like the poster and being destroyed is out of fear. Some men are afraid of what will happen to them, and to the world that they know if they are stripped of their power as a man, and women are given equal opportunities and treated equally in both the home and society.

  11. If a work is vandalized by someone when being propagated, then what it shows to others will change. When walking in the street, I often see this kind of behavior. Once, my friend and I went to the park and when we passed one female abstract statues, I saw that someone drew “two dots” on her breast, but what more exaggerated was someone even poked a hole in her private part. This behavior has not already been the pure vandalism, but the disgrace to female. Let’s imagine if these statues were shown to children, then they might think it was the original design of these statues, which would overturn their ideas; and maybe in the future, they will also do the same thing, which just like it was mentioned in the article that “And then they saw what someone had penned in below the picture: Don’t dress like a hooker and you won’t get treated like one.” The girls’ dressing on the poster is normal obviously, but vandals described them as a hooker, which actually conveys wrong information indirectly.

  12. Vandalism over a poster is only scratching the surface. The message of this post is about defacing pro women. This action of trying to vandalism a poster is ultimately created by a person ultimate opinion. As history and society has shown, we still live in a patriarchal influenced society. Some people like the vandalist still follow this old notion due to the belief that woman are below man as messed up as it is sounds. Countries still don’t allow women to vote (Saudi Arabia and Vatican city). Women are provided poor education ( India and cambodia). And worst of all countries still treat women as the weaker sex. ( in particular india however in majority of western society as depicted fly the poster and internet). We still live a society heavily influence by patriarchy and that is implemented in a sub conscious level.

    • Luckily Women all around the world are working for equality and so we are seeing some improvements in many of the countries you mention — along with some unfortunate backlash. Overall, we seem to be in progress. Yay!

  13. This makes me soo mad ‘ like really what is so wrong with females getting treated like himan beings we are all the same we may not all thnk the same or act the same but we are all of flesh and bones and accuire the same values and such. Nobody should be treated unhumanly. And everyone wonders why we say this is a cruel world smh

  14. I am not surprised things like this still happen today. With growing knowledge of feminism i’m sure that will help bring a greater understanding to the people that continue to live in their ignorant and selfish ideas. I have become aware that feminism is being taught in an increasing number off college campuses therefore change is on its way. Nothing valuable in the world comes at an easy price so its up to everyone that has a voice to make sure they are heard. On the bright side of this story I think we should be happy that their was a poster spreading the message of equality which is a sign of the movement. ❤

  15. This line, “Don’t dress like a hooker and you won’t get treated like one.” Whhhooooa, how awful someone wrote that.

  16. I agree with others who commented that these acts of vandalism against pro-women’s messages indicate that the vandals felt threatened. These messages were simply communicating a message that women should be equal to men. Essentially, the vandals were attempting to take away people’s voices. They were trying to take away one of the basic rights as outlined by our forefathers, freedom of speech. A person isn’t going to like everything that everyone has to say, but the message shouldn’t be covered up or destroyed. I also agree that the defaced messages are actually more powerful. Obviously, women are not considered equals, and some people don’t believe that women should be regarded as equal. While these people are entitled to their own beliefs and their own visual messages, they do not have the right to take away others’ voices. Ultimately, these defaced messages call to attention the fact that people’s attitudes must change. Vandalism of pro-women’s messages should not happen.

  17. It seems that the easiest indicator that someone is truly oppressed is if the idea of liberation offends their oppressors. Aggression toward woman who want gender issues publicized is becoming all too common, especially on the internet, and it’s scary. “Men’s Rights Activist” and other opponents of feminism feel threatened by the idea that women are assuming their power and requesting equality across the board, because they truly believe that they are better than women and deserve a higher quality of life, when in reality, gender equality helps EVERYONE. The aggression comes from the idea that women’s equality will somehow hurt them or take something from them, and perpetuating the notion that women should just be quiet makes them feel safe. I believe that all oppression starts with fear and aggression toward the progression of women could be fear of many things, fear of what life would be without patriarchy.

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