Tarantino review: violence and violence against women

Tarantino review: violence and violence against women

Spoilers ahead!

In Tarantino’s new film, ageing actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) avenge the Manson family’s murder of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) through a fictional retelling of the story.

 

I was dragged off to the cinema last week to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (OUaTiH). I wasn’t too excited because I’ve never been much of a Tarantino fan: I find his plots too basic and his violence too extreme. His films usually make me feel as though I’ve stopped to enjoy someone else’s car crash or gone to the modern version of a public execution. 

I found OUaTiHa bit more sophisticated than Tarantino’s usual gore-fests: his views on murder and gender politics were original. Recently the world – myself included – has been obsessing over serial killers and famous murders (eg. Netflix and Hollywood’s new documentaries about Ted Bundy and Madeleine McCann).

The problem is that mentally ill and violent people are being made glamorous. The stories are horrible but engrossing, and many murderers such as Manson and Bundy have attracted fan clubs – people drawn in by their notoriety and by the mystery that surrounds them. 

Tarantino does not romanticise his violence in the same way. He strips it of its mystery and shows it as it is: colourful, brutal and animal – almost healthy. There is no glorification of any murderer – neither Cliff Booth nor the Manson family are shown as admirable characters. 

Both Booth and the Manson family are sinister: scenes with Booth and his monster-like dog hint at his sordid past. There’s a rumour that he murdered his wife, and it’s believable. The Manson family is brilliantly sketched – Tarantino focusses particularly on their movements, giving them the terrifying physicality of a brainwashed but sexually intriguing army.

Tarantino has never been a sensitive director, but for me, this film was about himself. The title pays homage to his love of Westerns, but also describes the film as a love letter to the industry. There was a warmth to it: this is a director who has had a long and successful career, who has worked with actors dealing with the highs and lows of fame.

The film does what La La Land didn’t: it captures humanity in Hollywood. It’s also very much about its director’s trademark violence. He plays with his audience. The film covers short periods of time with a huge attention to detail and, unusually for Tarantino, follows a linear storyline. Except for the last 10 minutes, the film contains only hints of imminent violence. 

The film almost ends without bloodshed. Knowledge of the Charles Manson story adds to the suspense: we already know where and when the violence will be. There will be no surprises, it will be a simple and satisfying climax. But when the violence arrives, announced by Rick Dalton’s TV – “Here comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” – Tarantino takes back control. 

Instead of being true to historical events, Tarantino twists the story so that the murderers become the murdered. Every viewer in the cinema exacts revenge on an infamous group of killers, and enjoys it. The punchy music and the gags make watching two men murder three teenagers a hugely enjoyable experience.

Criticism of the film has honed in on Tarantino’s violence against women. It’s set in 1969, and an eloquent 10 year old gives a comical rant about feminism to a hungover Rick Dalton, who looks lost. She is later thrown on the floor at his suggestion. Booth heroically rejects the advances of a teenage member of the Manson family, because she is too young. Sharon Tate is given very few lines, which has surprised many of Robbie’s fans. Later on, two female Manson family members are viciously murdered by two men.

If looked at from a certain perspective, these facts add up to an uncomfortable portrayal of women. But I don’t think this is what the film was trying to say. Robbie’s character is powerful: it represents a new generation of hollywood and the gentle thrills of burgeoning fame. The 10 year old may have been inserted as a joke, but her character helps a gloomy Rick believe in himself: her speech has an impact. Booth’s rejection of the girl who almost forces herself on him simply confirms that more men should ask how old girls are before they sleep with them.

The murder of the two women at the end of the film seems almost “an eye for an eye”: in real life, these girls stabbed an entire household to death. And Cliff Booth is no hero – Tarantino does not justify his actions, he simply shows a version of humanity that is in us all. An animal desire for violence. 

 

Photo by SONY Pictures Entertainment

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Gender Equality is imperative for a Just Transition

“Climate change is a man made problem with a feminist solution”. So quipped B team leader and former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. 

But to ensure women can be the solution, they must have a seat at the clean energy table and women’s rights and concerns must be a priority. 

To bring about a truly Just Transition, we need female leaders in energy transitions. 

One of the main drivers of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. Throughout the centuries, the fossil fuel sector has been dominated by men. 

Ireland is no exception. For instance, the majority of Bord na Mona employees are male. 

This trend of male domination looks set to continue in the global clean energy sectors. Women are poorly represented in these sectors, especially at higher levels and in STEM jobs. 

This is despite a recent report which found strengthening women’s roles in clean energy is integral to achieving the SDGs. 

Women’s absence from these industries has implications for everyone – not just women! Poor gender diversity has been linked to a lack of openness to new ideas. 

The traditional domination of the energy sector by older white men is also said to have held back its ability to adapt to climate change.

Clearly, unleashing the power of women within the clean energy sector is essential. 

This is a pivotal moment as the need to transition away from fossil fuels is now almost universally recognised. 

Many governments, including Ireland’s, are introducing new fossil fuel policies and just transition policies. 

But – as Audre Lorde put it – “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.  This statement applies perfectly to the global energy transition. 

If we ‘transition’ underlying norms and practices from the fossil fuel industry to the clean energy industry, then it is unlikely that much will change. 

Transition policies need to be about more than just helping people (read: men) move into new roles or the provision of compensation. 

The UNFCCC guidelines for a just transition call for an inclusive transition that reduces inequality and empowers historically disadvantaged groups including women. 

This means the gender impact of transition policies must be considered. For instance, in the energy sector, women are mainly represented in indirect support roles including unpaid care work. Focusing only on the workers directly impacted by job losses can actually reinforce existing gender inequities. Instead, a broader focus on social equality and gender concerns is a must. 

Ensuring greater gender diversity and women’s leadership in clean energy is also critical. 

A recent report suggests some ways to address the barriers women face. This includes establishing gender quotas for the clean energy sector, building capacities of female workers, and ensuring inclusive work environments with childcare services.  

Quitting fossil fuels presents an opportunity to pause and critically reflect on how best to proceed. 

Instead of repeating mistakes of the past and allowing biased systems to continue, we should address historical imbalances and help those currently marginalised within our global energy system. 

Women need to make up our green future. Let’s not let this opportunity slip by! 

Photo: via Pxhere

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Climate change has taken centre stage in the news recently. From Iceland mourning its first glacier lost to climate change, to the fires currently blazing through the Amazon rainforest, to Greta Thunberg’s zero-emission Transatlantic sailing trip, it is becoming difficult to ignore these harsh new realities. 

These realities are particularly worrying for indigenous people – especially indigenous women for whom the impacts of climate change are doubled. 

The UN estimates there are 370 million indigenous people living in over 90 countries worldwide. They represent 5% of the global population but are custodians of 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Respecting their rights is central to protecting our shared environment. 

However, indigenous people and their voices and rights are frequently forgotten, overlooked or exploited in the quest for profit by governments, corporations and surrounding societies. This often has disastrous implications. 

Fortunately, indigenous women around the world are refusing to become victims of climate change and are rising up for climate justice. 

One such woman is Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (pictured). Ibhrahim is an environmental activist who comes from the Mbororo pastoralist community of Chad. She is a champion for the rights of indigenous people and indigenous women in particular. 

Ibhrahim is heavily involved in high-level policy discussions on climate change. She co-chaired the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change to establish their climate change priorities. As a result, the Paris Agreement expressly refers to indigenous people and their rights. 

Recently, Ibhrahim has been working to draw attention to the disappearance of Lake Chad, something which is fuelling conflict and insecurity in the region due to the growing resource scarcity. 

It also makes women’s lives more difficult because they are the ones generally tasked with collecting water for cooking, washing and other activities. With 90% of the Lake now gone, women in the watershed regions must walk further each year to get water for their families. 

Globally, women are the most vulnerable to climate-related displacement. UN Studies show 80% of people displaced by climate change-related events are women. 

Probably because they are on the frontline of climate change, Indigenous women’s participation globally in climate solutions and knowledge is extensive. 

Currently in the Americas, indigenous women of the Tongass region are working to protect their rainforest (the largest national forest) from industrial logging and the associated loss of wildlife habitat and indigenous ways of life. Indigenous women are coming together across Brazil to march for the Amazon and indigenous rights in resistance to President Bolsanaro’s destructive actions and policies. In the Pacific region, indigenous women are also leading the way in adapting to climate change. 

Ibhrahim says indigenous women are not “victims”, rather they “have the solutions through our indigenous people’s traditional knowledge that we developed since centuries.” 

It is time for the world to wake up and pay attention to what these women on the frontlines of climate change are saying and doing. They are key to solving the climate crisis. With so much at stake, we cannot afford to look the other way. 

For more stories of women taking action on climate change, check out Former Irish President Mary Robinson’s podcast Mothers of Invention https://www.mothersofinvention.online/

Photo: World Economic Forum via Flickr

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Coercive control is subtle. 

Understood as psychological abuse in intimate relationships which causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, it manifests as a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse, and has a substantial adverse impact on a woman’s day-to-day life. 

Coercive control traps women in a relationship making it impossible or dangerous to leave. It can damage a woman’s physical and emotional well-being and can result in her giving up work, changing her routines, and losing contact with family and friends.

It is not a “soft” form of abuse and coercive control and violence are inextricably linked. In the most severe cases, it can lead to fatalities.  

Coercive control is now a legal offence in Ireland since January 2019 when a new law on domestic violence came into effect which defines the legal protections available to victims. But there needs to be more training around the implementation of these new laws – and greater efforts to educate the public on these issues.   

One of the issues with coercive control is that it can be difficult to detect – both from inside and outside a relationship.  

And there is often a lack of understanding about coercive control from both women and men. People often ask “Why didn’t she just leave?”. They can’t imagine ending up in an abusive relationship themselves. However, research shows there is actually a science behind staying.

However, there are positive signs that the concept is now entering the mainstream. TV shows like ‘I am Nicola’ are helping to normalise these important issues. Women’s Aid also recently launched a powerful “Abusive Teller Machine” campaign to illustrate the terror of financial abuse, which can be an aspect of coercive control. 

More Irish victims have been reporting coercive control since Clodagh Hawe’s mother and sister gave a watershed interview on ‘Claire Byrne Live’ on RTÉ in February. Ms Coll said: “There was a control element… he had this silent presence. He could stand five foot away but you would know that he was in control.”

Unfortunately, it is still often deemed inappropriate to intervene in what are seen as private family matters – and this is something that urgently needs to change. 

Of the 225 women who have died violently in the Republic of Ireland since 1996, 61% were killed in their own homes and 56% were murdered by a current or former male intimate partner. Whilst men can also be victims, this is an issue predominantly affecting women. 

Other countries, like the UK, show a similar pattern. 

Luke Hart said his father spent most of his time “belittling his family”. He used money to control them, stopped his wife going for coffee, called his daughter stupid and said his sons were “not real men”

Then, one day, after years of abuse, Luke’s father killed his wife and daughter. 

The Hart brothers have since written Operation Lighthouse, which looks at events leading up to the murders — including the various methods of coercive control used by their father. 

They also focus on the role the media played in the aftermath. For instance, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail interviewed people who said their father was “a nice guy” who was “always caring.” Other journalists tried to “explain away” his actions by looking at his childhood. Luke says this feeds into constructs of masculinity, and endangers women and children. 

Feminist organisation Level Up recently won a campaign calling for the media to change how it reports on fatal incidents of domestic violence, and the UK’s two leading press regulators have now adopted its guidelines.  

There are similar issues with how the Irish media reports domestic violence. This needs to be tackled because the media has such a powerful conditioning role. Building public awareness – and vigilance – around these issues is essential. 

To learn more about Coercive Control please visit: https://www.womensaid.ie/help/coercive-control.html

If any of these issues affect you, you can reach the Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

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“How do you defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized.” ― Salman Rushdie, Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002

“Social media has changed the game for how people learn about culture. If we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of people telling stories about Africa”. 

Hodan Naleyeh was a Somali-Canadian Journalist, who rose to fame with her uplifting stories about Somalia’s hidden beauty. She died in July in an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Kismayo, Somalia.

Nalayeh moved to Somalia from Canada in 2018 and was the founder of Integration TV which told stories of Somalia to inspire those abroad struggling with a lack of identity. She posted videos on YouTube of Somali youth and female entrepreneurs, using the hashtags #SomaliaSuccess and #SomaliPositivity. She also used Twitter to share photos of her travels around the country. Nalayeh hoped this would encourage those in the Diaspora, particularly young Somalis, to move home and help create positive change.  

The attack in the hotel in Kismayo killed over two dozen other people. Nalayeh was pregnant with her third child and was only 43 years old when she died. Her family said she had “spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories” in order to “spread light and love to the Somali world”.

She will be remembered by many, including by her social media followers who will hopefully continue her legacy and fight for change. Somali’s government has announced it will award a journalism prize in her honour.  

Somalia hasn’t had an effective national government for over 20 years and much of the country has been a war zone during that time. In 2020, Somalia will hold its first democratic elections since 1969 – something that was previously impossible as the country was too dangerous and divided. Instead, Somalia’s parliament and president were elected using a complex system in which clan elders played an important role. 

When Al-Shabaab attacked the hotel in Kismayo, clan elders and regional politicians were inside discussing an upcoming regional election. 

Al-Shabaab is a jihadist fundamentalist group based in East Africa and allied to Al-Qaeda. It has lost control of most towns and cities but still dominates in rural Somalia. It has been responsible for several terrorist attacks in Somalia and was blamed for the killing of at least 500 people in a truck bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, in 2017 (although it did not claim responsibility for that attack). 

Globally, terrorism is on the decrease however. In Western Europe and the US, total terrorist attacks have decreased significantly since the 1970s. This can seem surprising given the extensive media coverage of high profile attacks like those in Paris in 2015 and Nice in 2016. However, this highlights a bias in the Western media in terms of which terrorist attacks receive media attention. 

According to the START Global Terrorism Database, the overwhelming majority of terrorist victims are Muslims. For instance, in Somalia, where the population is 98.9% Muslim, terrorists carried out over 359 attacks in 2016. Other terrorism hotspots include the DRC, South Sudan and Turkey. 

Terrorism snuffs out many promising lives – and creates a climate of fear. But communities around the world continue to demonstrate their resilience in response to these attacks. By going about their everyday lives, they counter terrorism in schools, markets and places of worship. 

Today, 21 August, is the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. This year’s theme focuses on the resilience of victims and their families – how they have transformed their experiences to aid recovery and healing, and how they have become stronger and more united in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. 

On this day, we can remember inspiring figures like Hodan Naleyeh and this will ensure her legacy of hope continues. 

As Nalayeh herself said, “If I pass away, I want people to remember my YouTube channel and Google the videos that brought them joy about the country where all we’ve known was war … the culture here is really beautiful,”. 

Photo via WikiCommons.

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Rakete’s NGO ship was carrying migrants from Libya rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers. Salvini refused to let the ship dock in Lampedusa, one of the main Italian ports of arrival for refugees,  until other European countries agreed to take them. Rakete bravely decided the migrants had waited long enough and decided to dock without permission, saying it was a matter of human rights. Her organisation tweeted: “Its enough. After 16 days following the rescue, #Seawatch 3 enters in port.” Rakete hit an Italian police boat which was blocking her path to the dock which led to her arrest. 

While some deplored her actions – Salvini himself dismissed her as a “rich, white, german woman” who had committed an “act of war” – many were on her side, including UN experts who declared that “rescuing migrants in distress at sea is not a crime” and called on the Italian Authorities to “immediately stop the criminalisation of search and rescue operations”. 

The judge ruled Rackete was fulfilling her duty to rescue persons in distress at sea. She ordered her immediate release and dismissed the charges that Rackete had hit a police boat and ignored police by docking at Lampedusa. However, the judge has since been the target of sexist messages online as well as rape and death threats. 

Rakete remains under investigation in separate criminal proceedings, facing allegations that she endangered the lives of police officers and facilitated illegal migration. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Such a conviction would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on migrant rights defenders. 

Almost 700 deaths have been registered in the Mediterranean so far in 2019; nearly half as many as the 1,425 recorded in 2018. Libya is a main departure point for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe by boat in a bid to escape war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.  Italy is one of the main EU landing points. Until recently, it accepted nearly all of the refugees and migrants rescued by humanitarian groups at sea. However, when a populist coalition government took power in 2018, they swiftly moved to close Italy’s ports to NGO ships.

The EU ended its own Mediterranean rescue operations in March following disagreements on how those rescued should be divided between EU member states. UN agencies have called for a resumption of the naval patrols and for European countries to stop returning refugees and migrants to Libya where they are at risk due to the ongoing conflict and endure dire conditions. The agencies also said NGO rescue ships play a “crucial role” and must not be penalised for saving lives at sea. 

A tentative agreement, which aims to create a system for the European distribution of rescued people on a voluntary basis, has just been reached. It is hoped this will improve the situation for refugees and migrants, and that the vital EU rescue operations which save countless lives will now resume.  

If this does not happen, the situation for migrants in the Mediterranean will become even more perilous. 

The criminalisation or blocking of humanitarian help for migrants and refugees is an important human rights issue that we should all be concerned about. For five reasons why migration is also a feminist issue see: https:/ www.unfpa.org/news/five-reasons-migration-feminist-issue

 

Photo courtesy of Daniel Arrhakis via Flickr

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