262 days to go until activism against gender based violence (and not just 16)

Photo: screenshot of Pirelli calendar 2016 website via https://pirellicalendar.pirelli.com/en/the-cal-2016
Photo: screenshot of Pirelli calendar 2016 website via https://pirellicalendar.pirelli.com/en/the-cal-2016

Well hats off to Pirelli for taking a lead! (although Playboy did stop nudity in its mag last year).

In a daring move from its traditional nude or semi-nude images, the Pirelli 2016 calendar has crossed over and redefined the definition of ‘sexy.’

While I still don’t get why women have to continue to take off all their clothes off in calendars – for example, actress Amy Schumer and tennis star Serena Williams in this latest issue – it is a step in the right direction, in particular given the calendar’s traditional features.

Over the last half a century, the exclusive Pirelli calendars have featured supermodels such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, etc., in various modes of undress. The elite collector’s item is available only to 20,000 ‘top clients and VIPs’ that include musicians, politicians and royalty, so you can’t buy one on the high street or order it on-line, unless you can fork out up to $2,000 at an auction.

In an age where we are afraid to use the word ‘feminism’ or call ourselves ‘feminists’ without being publicly attacked on social media, despite its historical evolution and the rights focused significance that led to its inception, I am in gratitude to Pirelli, the brave women who have made the cut of ‘powerful women of achievement’ and to the photographer Annie Leibovitz who have done an amazing job in contributing to the gender debate. One hopes that the trend continues and that it not a temporary break with tradition.

In a similar approach the BBC WorldService is conducting a tribute to 100 women around the world who inspire. This list includes: ‘octogenarians sharing life lessons; ‘good girl’ film-makers discussing expectations; nursing; five high-profile women; and ’30 under 30′ entrepreneurs.’

There are podcasts of interviews, videos, interviews, poems, stories, debates, etc., of women from around the globe.

And shame on me.

Looking again at the recently published 2015 Pirelli calendar and listening to the BBCs Focus on Women reminded me of the international campaign to end violence against women began – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence which begins on 25th November and ends on Human Rights Day, December 10th.

The very first 16 days campaign was in 1991 at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership– that’s 24 years ago. 2015 marked 20 years since the world sat in Beijing and developed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We are now, in 2016, experiencing the 60th Commission on the Status of Women and the 71st General Assembly “to take stock” of the last 20 or so years. And the progress? The new Sustainable Development Agenda that replaces the 15 year old Millennium Development Goals.

We are invited to by the UN to UNiTE to End Violence Against Women. In 2014 we were invited to “orange your neighbourhood”. In 2015 it’s the world.

Photo: #orangeurhood Solomon Islands (Nov 29th, 2014) by UN Women. CC-BY-NC-ND via Flickr

It’s a bit like greening Ireland and the world around Paddy’s day – just orange. The 2015 campaign’s focus was on militarism and the right to education in various settings. If you’ve seen the documentary He Named me Malala the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who suffered under the Taliban in Afghanistan is an excellent example of this.

For some ideas about the 16 days and background information, the Rutgers School of Arts and Science page has some good info and action points, besides painting the world orange. But sometimes the message behind the activity gets lost.

For me, as someone who engages in issues of global human rights, I had no idea that the colour orange indicated the 16 days. Perhaps it’s my fatigue with the slow progress as I look through the various UN departmental reports, the WorldBank, the IMF, and all the others that produce statistical reports on the state of the world and in particular the plight of its women.

But then, if I go back to where I started in this blog, where an Italian tyre manufacturer takes a radical step in recognising women’s achievements rather than their measurements, I think perhaps that, after decades (perhaps even more than a century if we are to include the suffragettes) of raising awareness of the issues of gender inequality the message may well be getting through.

But ever so slowly.

We just need Pirelli to improve on the calendar for 2016 and the rest of us to continue to engage with these ideas, debates and practices – and not just for 16 days.