Invisible Women: the Greek edition
Paying homage to my good friend Aristotle
Hellooo GFPs, I hope you enjoyed the final episode of Visible Women season 2 — how amazing did that one-ring-to-rule-them-all sound 😱. It was so great to hear from you about what you liked about the series — please do send in any thoughts about what you’d like us to cover next! Just hit reply to this email :)
In other news, since I last emailed you I have been to ATHENS, where I spent much of my time gawping at ancient monuments like this…
and wondering…how did they do that??? (That’s the Parthenon by the way, and it’s every bit as awe-inspiring as you may have suspected)
Moving on the the Ancient Agora, I was intrigued to discover that Ancient Greek lady statues also do The Pose…
At the Roman Agora I made a friend…
Let’s call her Georgie (I have no idea how to sex a tortoise, this is just a default female tortoise having a grand old munch by some ancient ruins)
Here is me standing in front of some more ancient stuff aka the Roman Agora — a nice man took the pic for me so I could prove CCP was here.
Obviously I also came home with a souvenir…
Yes, my good friend Aristotle, who now lives on my fridge, reminding me every day that I am but a mutilated man, sad.
Anyway, I shan’t bore you with all my holiday snaps, I already inflicted them on my whatsapp groups…oh go on then just one more…
It was honestly awesome, in the literal meaning of the word. To sum up, and in conclusion…Athens: believe the hype. Athens tourist board can have that tag-line for free. (Oh and, let’s return the Parthenon marbles ffs — having tbqh never really thought much about this issue, while I was up on the Acropolis, in this incredible, and…frankly spiritual place, it just felt so obvious that this was where they belonged, not stuck in a museum in London.)
I was in Athens not (just) for a holiday, but to give a talk at an event hosted by ActionAid Greece, who have been doing some really exciting work with women and data, in part inspired by Invisible Women! So obviously when they asked if I’d come out and speak at the event that marked the end of their 3 year project I had to say yes.
It was held at the Greek Parliament Library in the Kolonos district of Athens…and look!
I was also very taken with the decision to mark this specific page in the copy
For GFPs who don’t read Greek, this is the section in English:
In Muriel Rukeyser’s poem ‘Myth’, an old, blind Oedipus asks the Sphinx, ‘Why didn’t I recognise my mother?’ The Sphinx replies that Oedipus answered her question (what walks on four legs in the morning, 'two in the afternoon and three in the evening) incorrectly. ‘[Y]ou answered, Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.’ But, replies Oedipus, when you say man, ‘you include women too. Everyone knows that.’
Gender data gap of the week
The Action Aid office in Athens is based in Kolonos, one of the city’s most ancient neighbourhoods (it’s the location of Plato’s school) and also one of the poorest. The building where their office is also hosts a community centre where women come for help with finances, for social support, for somewhere to take their kids.
And it was with these women, who lived in the area and were using the centre, that Action Aid ran their project. Matta, who led the programme, drove me to Kolonos, and on the way, she explained how they got started:
They ran a series of walking tours of the neighbourhood, one in the evening and two during the day, to detail how accessible it was for women. The women noted pavements that were too narrow or too broken to push a buggy down; underpasses and overpasses that felt unsafe because of bad visibility or no lighting; schools with no bus-stops outside them; parks with no obvious exits and, of course, no toilets. Based on what they noticed they produced this map:
…which has since been shared with the municipality.
During the walking tours of the area, the women also noted the availability of local sports facilities, and it will probably not surprise GFPs to find that the current offering is highly skewed towards men, with poor lighting, teams for boys and men but not for women and girls, and, of course, no female changing rooms. Matta told me that when she had pointed out that there was no girls team, she was told that there was nothing stopping the girls joining in with the boys (anyone who listened to S1E2 of Visible Women will know that there very much is, and it’s called the boys). So she asked them if there were female toilets or female changing rooms. Obviously, there were not. The good news, Matta says, is that asking those questions did get the cogs turning in the local sports community so… watch this space!
Default male of the week
Another thing that the women noted in their walking tours of the area was just how many streets and monuments celebrate men. Matta tells me that they found that nine out of ten public monuments in the area were dedicated to men. And the statues that do exist of women are of muses, ie mythical women who inspired real men. This obviously did not surprise me given the research I did into the UK’s statues back in 2016, which revealed that there were more statues of men called John than of real-life women. My response to this finding was to campaign for the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square — and the response of the women in Kolonos has been very similar. Action Aid commissioned a series of portraits of local women and have plastered them around the area.
They did allow themselves ONE mythical figure, Antigone, who is pictured below along with a reworking of a quote from Sophocles’ play, which reads something along the lines of “Creons of the world, our voices will always follow you.”
For those not familiar with Antigones’ story (I wasn’t before Matta explained it to me), in Sophocles’ play, the ruler, Creon, who has ordered that Antigone’s brother Polynices, cannot receive a proper burial, or even be mourned, and anyone who disobeyed him would be stoned to death. Antigone says that this may be the law, according to Creon, but it’s not justice, and she defies the king, telling him that, do what he will to her, her voice will always follow him, he will never be able to hide from her voice. I may have slightly garbled this (so Classicists please be kind!), but in short, Antigone won’t be silenced — and this poster warns all those who, like Creon (hence, Creons plural), try to silence women, they will never escape our voice. I loved that.
To conclude, here is a pic of me with Matta herself, my new Greek BFF, in our matching leopard print trousers with MASSIVE POCKETS, because love of pockets and leopard print knows no borders 💪
Toilet of the week
Poppy pic of the week
That’s it! Until next time, my dear GFPs….xoxoxo
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