Conflicts & War

Female activists protest gender violence in New York by painting slogans

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York, Nov 22 (EFE).- A group of young activists with the Feminist Collages Nueva York collective is focused on raising the awareness of New Yorkers about macho violence and the “oppression of the patriachy” by painting slogans by night in highly visible and emblematic sites around the city so that they will remain in evidence longer than mere shouts at a protest.

They have selected for their activities Fifth Avenue, a metro stop or, on Sunday night, the carousel in the Dumbo district of Brooklyn Bridge Park, from where tourists enjoy one of the most emblematic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of the Big Apple.

“Against the patriarchy, feminism is responding internationally,” “What is the government doing to prevent femicides?” and “50 percent of restraining orders obtained by women against abusive partners are violated” were some of the messages that about 10 activists, including two men, painted Sunday night on large paper banners in Brooklyn.

Big rolls of paper, ink and many liters of cola are the weapons of this small group of young people who, at present, say that they post their messages in spots where they know there will be no problems from the authorities, like panels that temporarily cover buildings under construction or in certain public areas.

A total of 50 women have participated in the group’s activities since it was founded last April, but about 15 are presently engaging in various activities and staging new ones like painting new slogans, the majority of them written in English although some are also in Spanish.

Chowi, a New Yorker of Peruvian origin who recently joined the group after by chance seeing a message making reference to a rape in Peru, is one of the young women who has gone out at night to post protest slogans.

“The Collage caught my attention and I got in touch with the group to work with them,” Chowi told EFE before adding that she’s been an activist for years and had participated in different movements from the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011 to Black Lives Matter in 2020.

Chowi said that working with this group provides her with an artistic element to activism that is not offered by other activities and she confessed that she likes the idea that the message endures after the protest has ended.

“I liked the idea of leaving behind a message after being on the street. It lasts longer than a shout,” she said.

But she is also aware of how fleeting her actions are, given that they only remain for a few days before being painted over by the authorities or removed or papered over with all sorts of posters and other announcements of public events.

“There’s also beauty in that. It’s all temporary, above all in a city like New York where everything changes the next day. This grows with the city,” she said.

Besides English, the group has used Spanish on some of its posters and signs, given that it’s the second most widely spoken language in the Big Apple, and the Spanish-speaking Chowi said she hoped that with her participation in the group they’ll put up even more Spanish slogans in Brooklyn.

“There’s a big Latino population, so speaking about sexism and machismo in Spanish is very important to get to everyone,” she said.

Julia, another member of Feminist Collages Nueva York, told EFE that the group is part of the Collages Feministes movement which was launched in Paris in August 2019 and which has spread to several other countries.

In keeping with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which will be celebrated on Thursday, several of these groups are thinking of publishing photographs of slogans put up in the cities where they are active.

For their activities on Sunday night they selected the stairs giving access to the emblematic Jane’s Carousel in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn Bridge Park to post their protest messages so that the messages could be identified with an iconic image of New York.

“This is an issue that affects everyone, in all parts of the world and any kind of awareness can help to create a political narrative,” said Julia, who is of Italian ancestry and who participated in similar activities in Italy along with one of the New York collective’s sister groups.

But, she said, participating in this activity is also “a healing treatment” because in the past she suffered macho abuse and violence.

EFE jfu/fjo/laa/bp

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