Man-made Tragedies, Angelina Jolie, and Women



(Credit: Alberto Barreto; reprinted with permission, CIPE)

I haven’t yet sorted out all of the intense feelings generated by watching the new Angelina Jolie written and directed film, In the Land of Blood and Honey, but I will have something up soon.

The film is still haunting my thoughts — but during the after party which went longer than any policy issue-oriented, mostly heterosexual after-event I have been to in a long time (that is to say that ‘policy events’ with my gay crowd always go late), I got the chance to chat with the film’s director and to eavesdrop unintentionally on conversations Jolie was having with others at the Holocaust Museum.

steve clemons angelina jolie politico pic of the day.jpgDuring the crush that Angelina Jolie endured and seemed to enjoy for hours, elder woman after elder woman recounted in whispers stories of the trauma their families or relatives had experienced during either the Holocaust of World War II or the genocidal atrocities that occurred during the Bosnia War. I heard many talking about brothers and cousins and children who lived in the forest during the Bosnia conflict — and inevitably, the discussions — so many of them — came down to the abuse of women, their systematic rape, and other horrors that were pressed on them.

Frequently, Jolie and the women she spoke to would comment about what a different world it would be if women were running the show, were more empowered. Wars like this, they said, “would not happen.”

I’m not sure that ultimately this view is correct. Margaret Thatcher, as we are reminded of in Meryl Streep’s award-winning performance in Iron Lady, was no peacenik.

But what I do think is dead-on right is that around the world, the real nut cases that rise to power and decide to use war and killing as a tool of their further ambitions are nearly always men. And as part of their rise, they make the further subordination and harassment of women a key part of their playbook.

CIPE Gender Equality 2011 Winner Basir Ahmad Hamaid Afghanistan.jpgThe US is making major strides in the right direction in the equalization of the “state of men” and “state of women” as argued by Hanna Rosin in her cover story on the subject in The Atlantic — but much of the rest of the world lags.

Thus, awareness-wrangling is important elsewhere and political cartoons can generate a viral edginess that inspires and empowers others to insist on equality.
The Center for International Private Enterprise recently held an international competition of political cartoons in three categories — democracy, corruption, and gender equality.

Here is a link to the cartoon that won the gender equality prize as well as other category winners, and here is a link that gets you to the semifinalists. And for those who want to go a step further, here is a pdf of the interesting media package that includes bios and quotes from various of the cartoonists.

The entry pasted above of the world on the back of an old cleaning woman evoked the strongest response from me — and was one of the semifinalists in gender equality. It was done by El Tiempo (Columbia)’s political cartoonist Alberto Barreto. This cartoon, at least in my reading of it, depicts the doubled down abuse that women worldwide endure. First, they are expected to do the tasks many men won’t do, holding the world and countries and their homes and communities together — while nonetheless being looked down upon.

Other cartoons in the mix may move readers of this note more than the one I have selected, but as a person who doesn’t write much about gender issues — the power and solemnity of many of the post-film chats I heard Jolie have with women who have dealt with so much man-made tragedy got me thinking about this.

More on this powerful film soon. And yes, you should see it — but expect to be pounded.

— Steve Clemons is Washington Editor at Large at The Atlantic, where this post also appears. Clemons can be followed on Twitter at @SCClemons


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