Thoughts from Tampere: 8 March and Women’s Matters

Potrait  de Simone de Beauvoir
Alice Schwarzer in conversation with Simone de Beauvoir

The International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8 last week.
So, how was the day noticed in one of Finland’s leading news papers, Helsingin Sanomat? On the front page was a picture of beautiful red roses. However, the roses proved to be part of a commercial advertisement. It announced that such timeless style does not wither. Accordingly, it is this image that a global IT-company offers to women on Women’s day. Another advertisement asked: ”Did you know that 90 percent of girls are uncertain about their appearance?”. The suggested solution was workshops on how to build up a strong self-esteem with a project organized by a cosmetic firm.  Thus, the self-esteem and the appearance are closely connected.

However, the news paper had also other stories and news to read. Namely that appearance also can tell stories about mistreatment. Perhaps the most dramatic news were the ones told about sexualized and gendered violence. It has been estimated that about 700 000 women in Finland have encountered violence. Last week two organizations, Amnesty International and The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, had a campaign against violence targeted at women. As part of the campaign three well known Finnish women (a member of the Parliament, a journalist and television person, and a project manager in a ministry) had their faces made up to appear bruised and abused.  The authentic looking photos were published on social media and printed press. The women had used buses and trams and participated in meetings with their made up faces. They witnessed how people whom they met did not know what to say. They became silent, and did not know how to get close to them, as if out of their embarrassment people lost words. Even though the numbers of gender based violence are high in Finland compared to other European countries, also positive trends are visible. Perhaps the most significant change is that the violence against women is not any more found as a private matter.

Besides International Women’s Day, what also took place last week was Tampere Film festival. After reading the above stories on gendered violence, I went to the feminist film screenings in which women’s daily life and positions as well as masculine power were addressed with warm humor and satirical outset. One example was the short film Vox Lipoma (Fettknölen, 2018), a cartoon by Jane Magnuson and Liv Strömquist. The vox lipoma in question is a small growth on famous director Ingmar Bergman’s cheek and through which his relationship with romantic attachment, power and sexuality is explored. Furthermore, films from Kosovo, the UK, Egypt, and Iran told stories about women dealing with serious problems, such as violence or female circumcision, in their everyday lives. Last but not least, in the film Portrait de Simone de Beavouir (1974), directed by German feminist Alice Schwarzer, the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir and Schwarzer talk about their love life and about women’s emancipation and masculinity. Although the movie was made already in 1974, it gave a lot of inspiration to study women’s career chances and obstacles still today.

Päivi Korvajärvi

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