The Cycle of Violence: This is NOT Business

After reading Maria’s piece on Ravenhill, we had a bit of turmoil here at Faceless Ladies. Suddenly, we all realised we had things to say as Maria’s questions started burning in our minds. That’s why we decided to do two additional pieces on the topic, call this a Cycle and turn it into a beautiful experiment. You can find the first reaction here, written by Cristina. And here is Jade’s piece.

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I loved Maria’s piece on Mark Ravenhill’s Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat. It raised so many questions and thoughts were just popping up in my mind. Before I start my reaction to it, I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read any of Ravenhill’s works – and will proceed to change that as soon as possible – so I’m not going to dissection his beliefs but rather try to find my own answers to Maria’s questions in her essay…and create new ones.

I mentioned this in my first article here on Faceless Ladies but I’ll say it again, I proudly don’t have a TV. As a consequence of this, sometimes I can avoid being exposed to things that would just make me sad and frustrated. And more than anything, I can avoid being exposed to HOW these things are shown or told to me, which is a big part of my unhappiness with modern information. I believe the news in general have become pointlessly violent and really not informative at all. The news have become entertainment…often times untasteful, tacky and absolutely disposable.  After a small piece about Syria and how 100 children died in a raid, let’s talk about the Golden Globes with a big smile. News have become entertainment, and yes, they’ve accustomed us to violence, cynicism, and to being completely insensitive, cold. Blood, boobs, and guns have become all the same thing and  NORMAL. There are no limitations and there seems to be no common sense as to what should be said, how and what should be shown. So the more they talk about a certain thing, the more people think it’s normal, an everyday thing. And the more people will actuaMarito investe la moglie e poi la cosparge di benzina dandole fuoco.lly DO that thing. This obviously applies to abuse on women. The other day on the internet edition of a very popular Italian newspaper, I opened an article about a woman, Giuseppina, who was first run over and then set on fire by her husband in front of people in the street. She died on Valentine’s day. Now, this is not normal. Is this normal? How can it be normal? Why has it become normal enough that we just skip through it? Why have we become so accustomed, and as a consequence, bored by it that we don’t really care anymore?  A few days later, an article was published about Giuseppina’s funeral and how many women there took it as a chance to voice their rage and frustration. That article was never on the front page of the website. Was it not worth it? I’m not sure.

In the past 3 or 4 months, for some strange reason, abuse on women has been ‘trendy’ – for lack of a better word, I apologise. Of course this is a double-ended sword. It certainly sheds some light on the issue in general, which is good. But on the other hand, it makes it disposable and it  may take just a couple of weeks before we’re talking about something else even though the problem is still there. Now, is this sudden ‘trend’ just a coincidence due to the increasing popularity of movements such as One Billion Rising? Or maybe due to the focus on gender equality? Are pDomesticViolenceeople finally realizing how retrograde our society really is? I’m not really sure. And as a consequence of all this exposure, is abuse on women becoming (un)fortunately a literary trend, too? Now, I’m sure Mark Ravenhill feels enraged by it but sometimes I find myself wondering whether everyone writing and filming about it feels the same in an honest way or if they’re just riding the wave.

Finally, I wish I could ask Ravenhill about the fact that “he had written an almost all female play because there comes a time in an actress’s career when no one is offering them interesting roles to play and he thought that was crap.” Alright. So abuse on women in literature and theater is ‘interesting’…but how, in what way? ‘Interesting’ because they have to go through some sort of struggle? Or just ‘interesting’ because it’s a multi faceted issue? And yes, if it is interesting, why does he think that that’s the only thing he can write about so a woman’s role is honored? Is it really possible that abuse is the only interesting thing that can happen in a woman’s life? Does abuse deal with a woman’s struggle to find herself? Again, I’m not sure and I truly hope Ravenhill isn’t being so reductive when referring to a woman’s experience. Let’s look at it this way: when a man needs to find himself, he will do a number of things, for instance he will alienate himself from society and live in the woods (like in Into the Wild) but a woman seems to need some kind of abuse to have the same kind of epiphany.  (I had never thought of struggle as a gender-specific issue…) As a consequence, it also seems that a woman requires a man to find herself. Now I’m really not sure about this either. Actually, I really don’t think so. There are a billion things going on every day in any woman’s life and the majority are very interesting, the majority deal with some sort of struggle, and some sort of path to self-awareness.

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Keira Knightley in CUT, Women’s Aid Campaign

I agree with Cristina’s article in a lot of ways, and I also think violence on stage and on the page can be amazingly helpful to raise questions in the viewer’s and reader’s mind but – as she says so perfectly – “I believe it’s also necessary to differ between a senseless portrayal of violence and a denouncing approach to it, and, at the same time, I am fully aware that the line between both is extremely blurred. I believe using violence on stage, or rather, say, on entertainment in general, is necessary in order to shock the spectator, in order to provoke a reaction.” My problem with this is that we will never really know where the author’s honesty is and as Maria and Cristina pointed out in their wonderful pieces, we’re running around in circles. I’m fine with that, life is an ellipsis of experiences and feelings that repeat themselves but, call me naive, I hope we never lose touch with our inner critic and honesty in place of mere entertainment.

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Lady Nobody: on Being a Song

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Illustration by Catalina Estrada.

This is a little awkward for me because I swore to God – and myself – I would never write about my own music. But this time it’s for a good cause – maybe even a couple good ones. So I’m going to be talking about my song Lady Nobody. This is without a doubt the most special song I’ve ever written, both for the way in which it happened and for its meaning, obviously. So that’s what I’m going to try to do in this essay: I’ll talk about the magical way in which it wrote itself and about what it means to me. If you’d like, you can listen to it here, before reading and here are the lyrics:

Lady nobody
hiding in your room
Lady nobody
living inside your doom

Lady nobody
guilty of your pain
Lady nobody
always the one to blame

Oh oh oh…

You are free, finally
You can breathe, can’t you see, you are free

Lady nobody
crying out your tears
Lady nobody
life is led by fear

Lady nobody
a story for every bruise
Lady nobody
there is no excuse

Oh oh oh…

You are free, finally
You can breathe, can’t you see, you are free

So, what came first? The title. I remember writing the two words – lady, nobody – on my Blackberry notepad. Just that. I left it at that and then went on to write something else, some other attempt at ‘title-writing’. It didn’t mean much back then.

After a few months, I found myself being out of school for a quarter, during which I had time to just let ideas marinate and sink in. And then it happened. It was exactly as magical and mystical as I remembered it. I sat down and words literally flowed in the right manner, at a steady pace and with a plan. My mind immediately went back to those two words on my phone and I wrote them on top of a blank page on my notebook. The rest was easy, I finally knew who she was, what her place and mission were. Lady Nobody was every abused woman I had read and heard about. The ease with which the song happened balanced the amazing weight it had meaning-wise.

Lady Nobody was born inside of me a long time ago. When I lived in Barcelona I watched the news every single day – a bad habit I have since then lost fortunately – and I remember the disappointment and frustration I would feel watching how every day one woman – or more – would die because her current or ex partner thought she was seeing somebody else, or wearing a skirt that was too short, or because she had talked back to him…or simply because she had uttered a word. That to me was, and is, unacceptable, disgusting, enraging. Every woman who was beaten or died in the attempt of making her voice heard became an amazingly powerful symbol which grew and grew inside of me. I couldn’t stand the thought of hearing about another dead or barely-alive woman. It was something that really hit me, more than I’ve seen it hit other people, for some reason.

Either way, years passed, more women got beaten, stabbed, shot but I couldn’t find the right words to express all my rage and all my empathy for them. That is probably one of the most frustrating artistic processes; you can try and write pages and pages, but sometimes, you’re just not ready for your own words yet. However, Lady Nobody had already been born. I just needed to see her better in my mind. As elegant and graceful as you can imagine but equally denied in terms of her own identity, she was obliterated, made invisible, torn, stripped of her individuality and personality. All women and none at the same time.

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Finally, the day that Lady Nobody flowed out of me, I finally became her in a matter of instants. I was her, something had clicked. I could see her sad eyes and frail appearance; I could feel the fear she felt for her own life, her sense of desperation and entrapment, her physical and emotional pain, her exhaustion, the polluted air she was breathing. The corner of her room where she’d take refuge, the light she’d leave on at night, the concealer she’d use to cover her bruises. And I could see a huge broken heart. I could also feel how brave she was, trying to fight for her right to have a voice. Such a heroine against such a monster. But the key is, I could feel her relief after all, her sense of freedom and how all the pain had proven to be useful to liberate herself, to wake others up, to provide awareness. Lady Nobody had finally attained her freedom; she had been able to speak up with her chin held high. And she had done it through me.

Lady Nobody still doesn’t have a face in my mind but I can hear her firm voice in spite of the abuse she’s had to endure – she is a faceless lady but she is not voiceless. Despite her apparent powerlessness, she is amazingly powerful.