New Internationalist

Naked power

November 2004

Re: ‘The body as weapon’ (View from the South, NI 371): These women were walking proof that men are responsible for their actions – undermining the myth that rape is the woman’s fault because of what she wore/said, where she was, the political/cultural group she belongs to…

These women were ‘breaking the silence’ about violence against women in the loudest way possible. One hopes that their families were enlightened enough to support them. In my mind these women were also trying to reclaim their bodies as blessed. Their actions were powerfully subversive in that naked women are usually portrayed as submissive, passive, ‘open’ for exploitation, and necessarily sexualized. To show a group of angry, empowered, strong, naked women, joined in solidarity for justice, is a startling and powerful subversion of the dominant discourse that sexually objectifies women – whether clothed or not.

As Urvashi Butalia says, the media’s reaction was predictable, but this does not detract from the women’s power. In my view, the form of their protest was a crucial part of their message – apart from its effectiveness in getting people to support them or to think: ‘It must be serious indeed for these women to take such a step.’ I am proud of these women for using what most would see as their ‘vulnerability’ to wield healing power.

Andria Durney Sanz Epping, Sydney, Australia

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 373 This column was published in the November 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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