Friday, 6 November 2009

Can celebrities help women's organisations to tackle violence against women?

Celebrities have a huge presence in our everyday lives, but should they be doing more to highlight the issue of violence against women? Do we, as women’s organisations, need their support?

Some of the biggest news stories of the past few months have been violence against women cases that involve celebrities, either as the victim or perpetrator. In the US, the conviction of singer Chris Brown for the assault of Rihanna has highlighted the issue of domestic violence with a younger audience. Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland and pending extradition to the US for outstanding sexual assault charges has sparked debate internationally. Back in Britain, Katie Price’s claims that she had previously been raped by a fellow star have been widely reported.

Despite all these cases, and others, only a few celebs have explicitly spoken out against violence against women. Many, like Keira Knightley, have supported violence against women organisations by taking part in their advertising campaigns. It’s undeniable that having ‘celebrity endorsement’ of your work is really useful for raising awareness and encouraging donations.

However, there is a shortage of high profile women who are willing and able to talk about the underlying gender equality issues that are vital to understanding and tackling violence against women. Sometimes, when celebrities do talk to the media about violence against women they do more harm than good (Helen Mirren, anyone?!).

The only star I can think of who seems to really talk about violence against women as a human rights violation is Nicole Kidman (UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador), who acknowledged the links between the film industry’s portrayal of women as sex objects and violence against women during an address to US Congress last month.

So, do we need a ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ for violence against women organisations in the UK? Who would be your first choice?

1 comment:

Hugh McMullen said...

Speaking of UNIFEM, today they are launching Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, an online campaign giving people around the world a chance to speak out against violence against women.

Here are some links to check out:

~Photos and accounts of Say NO launch events in Kenya with women working against violence:

~Embeddable videos about the campaign: “No Is No In Any Language”: & “Say NO Welcome Message”:

~Embeddable graphics:

~Instructions and ideas on how to take action through Say NO, either through joining actions or starting your own:

~Add your name to the main petition to help meet it the $50,000 Omega Challenge Grant – watch company Omega announced a challenge grant of US $50,000 for the first 50,000 actions to go to organizations working on the ground to end violence against women and girls: