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Gender and Violence in Spanish Culture

From Vulnerability to Accountability


Edited By María José Gámez Fuentes and Rebeca Maseda García

For the true exercise of citizenship to occur, gender violence must be eradicated, as it is not an interpersonal problem, but an attack on the very concept of democracy. Despite increasing social awareness and legal measures taken to fight gender violence, it is still prevalent worldwide. Even in a country such as Spain, praised in the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women (2010) for its advanced approach on gender violence, the legal framework has proved insufficient and deeper sociocultural changes are needed. This book presents, in this respect, groundbreaking investigations in the realm of politics, activism, and cultural production that offer both a complex picture of the agents involved in its transformation and a nuanced panorama of initiatives that subvert the normative framework of recognition of victims of gender violence. As a result, the book chapters articulate a construction of the victim as a subject that reflects and acts upon his/her experience and vulnerability, and also adopt perspectives that frame accountability within the representational tradition, the community, and the state.

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Chapter Eight: From The Rape of Europa to Art Against Gender Violence in Spanish Culture (Marián López Fernández Cao / Juan Carlos Gauli)


chapter eight

From The Rape of Europa to Art Against Gender Violence in Spanish Culture

Marián López Fernández Cao and Juan Carlos Gauli

Educating the gaze on domination

A walk through the Western art of the sixteenth to twentieth centuries can be a disturbing experience for those whose gaze is not used to images of domination. Contemplating representations of the judgement of Paris, the abduction of Leucippus’ daughters, the abduction of Europa, the rape of the Sabine women, or Hippodamia can become a violently unsettling experience for many a young child or teenager, who might fail to understand how these exhibitions are not only possible, but also legitimized in the history of their culture, and that they are forced to accept and study them without an ounce of reflection about the symbols they convey regarding women, men and their bodies.

It is an undeniable fact that these heavily sexualized images imply a consented domination legitimized by our society through their exhibition in a canonical space such as the Spanish Prado Museum, which makes them signified as what is worthy of being seen, studied, appreciated and recorded of our past. Contradictorily, and almost schizophrenically, messages about women’s right to sexual freedom abound in the institutional iconography of the Spanish Health, Social Services and Equality Ministry,1 while images officially recognized as artworks convey just the opposite, legitimizing as natural that women’s bodies should be up for (male) grabs....

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