Right, before we start, let me make clear that this post deals with content that you could find *triggering*. I will discuss-
- sexual assault, and
Please take care of yourself and avoid reading if you feel you will be triggered.
For some people, Occupational Therapy can be said to be something that we can share with the individual to facilitate Recovery. For me, it is wider than that, it also addresses environmental and social justice aims, as we attempt to create a human environment that facilitates the highest expression of each individual’s function to the benefit of all. So I will make no apologies for stepping into this territory with this post.
Bettakultcha caused a bit of a stir in Leeds this week.
I didn’t attend, but gathered the following sequence of events. There was a film (“Killing Amy”) presented, it seems roundly acknowledged that this was misconceived without a trigger warning, due to the theme of sexual violence and murder. There are reviews a-plenty on teh internets now, including this one from Kate Fox, which succinctly documents the contribution of the physical and social environment to the showing of this film and the audience reaction. However, the surprising thing was the Twitterstorm afterwards, where people who were distressed seemed to have their distress denied- it seemed like playground bullying at times.
Exploring Leeds covers the event by describing the scenario, and contains comments both from people who didn’t feel the film exposed them to worse images than they see every day, to people who were upset by the film.
Other blogs landed squarely on the side of “who the hell thinks porn and nudity and females being killed is shocking or offensive anymore?” and seem to miss the point of triggers which can affect people’s mental health, cause flashbacks in people with PTSD, and which in any case have been the subject of extensive deconstruction by feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and others.
Is it really necessary to go over this ground again, and again, and again? Clearly it is, as the response of many who attended will show.
This presentation was somewhere in between
- an artist’s attempt to subvert our acceptance of online exposure, and show the dangers that lurk in wait for us around every corner through the medium of shlock horror (scaring those with triggered memories/flashbacks/any women walking home alone), and
- an example of patriarchal cultural fodder with the express or covert aim of ensuring the responsibility for sexual assault and murder is laid squarely at the door of women/victims, rather than men/perpetrators.
So, what’s new? Just in case, here are some handy tips on avoiding sexual assault, that actually work.
It’s a shame that this, the worst presentation of the night, has dominated the discourse regarding the event. But it’s hardly surprising. It is important to remember that most people don’t complain, they just stop coming. And it would be a shame for up to 51% of your potential audience to feel uncomfortable about attending your event, or walking home after it. It also highlights the potential of Social Media for enabling us to hold up a mirror to ourselves, and grow as people and as a society.
The “press release” from the evenings facilitators, @ivortymchak and @richardmichie is available on The CultureVulture’s Blog, and strikes an appropriately considered and apologetic tone, whilst appealing for understanding from the immediate and social media audience for the way the evenings are organised and the presentations shown. They manage to concede the necessity of developing a strategy for dealing with potentially offensive trigger content. Because although free speech is important, it comes with responsibility for the impact of that speech on the audience.
And given that 1 in 4 of your potential audience is managing mental health difficulties at any time, it makes sense not to alienate them. Increasingly, we feel able to deal with stigma and discuss mental health. Hopefully, events like this will help people to realise how to care for each other’s mental health when planning events such as this.
Next Bettakultcha is in September and tickets are available here. Let’s ensure this remains a force that combats consumer culture and commodified sexual mores, found so easily in popular culture. Let’s make a better culture. A Bettakultcha.