Violence against women is a leading concern in the women's rights movement. While we are desensitized through the media to what is (or rather should be) unacceptable, real life violence makes the headlines. This morning I was late for work watching a story on GMA about a woman in Spain, Svetlana Orlova, who was proposed to by her (abusive) x-boyfriend on national TV. She declined the proposal and was found dead five days later. I guess Patricia's Diary producers didn't do a very good background check, otherwise they would have found that Svetlana had taken out a restraining order against this man in the past.
The spin that GMA takes on this story is an important one. GMA asks the question whether or not the show is to blame for the death (arguably) caused by the appearance on the Patricia's Diary Show. This story is similar to a few others involving TV appearances that lead to tragedies. For example, in 1995 the Jenny Jones Show did an episode about secret admirers where Scott Amedure confessed his love to a blank-faced Jonathan Schmitz. Jonathan, who turned out to be homophobic, killed Scott later that month. Two other shows that ended in tragedy are Nancy Grace and Dateline: To Catch a Predator.
Although I can write about media's direct accountability in all these cases, I'd rather discuss the culture of violence that we are overwhelmed by every day. What makes it acceptable for 1. a show to invite an abusive x-boyfriend onto their show for a surprise proposal and 2. for said x-boyfriend to then murder his x-girlfriend (disclaimer: he hasn't yet been found guilty but is the lead suspect).
As a culture, we still don't take violence against women seriously enough. Although there have been great leaps in laws such as establishing marital rape laws, domestic violence and abuse still way too often remain a private, rather than public, concern. Our culture's attitude towards violence against women is evident through how women are portrayed in media and advertising. Objectifying women (and people in general) is the first step towards violence against them. Dismembering women such as in countless ads and commercials is a perfect example is objectification. More blatantly, some designers advertise directly with images of violence against women. Now I ask you, am I reading into this or does this set up a culture of violence towards women in our country? Below are some photos to help demonstrate what I am referring to.
Another way in which we don't take violence against women seriously enough is evident in countless human rights violations through history. Women are the victims of rape as war crimes; in some cultures, baby girls are unwanted and devalued in relation to their brothers and thus killed in hopes for a baby boy during the next pregnancy; human trafficking in Nepal; I can go on and on. Here and internationally, violence against women is not taken seriously enough and thus leaves open opportunities for the "romantic reunion" of an abusive x-boyfriend and his terrified x-girlfriend. Romanticizing violence is a completely different story that I am sure I will cover one of these days. But really, would the audience have "oohed and aahed" if they knew what was coming out of this marriage proposal? They may still have based on how much pressure and value we put on marriage...
* The Fetish ad reads: "Apply generously to your neck so he can smell the scent as you shake your head 'no'." Seriously?!?!
(photos courtesy of about-face)