Expanding the Definition of Human Expression
As of this writing, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has completed more than 100 days of a hunger strike to demand the release of 26 prisoners of conscious who have health problems.
His protest began after his friend Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in prison following more than 80 days of fasting. Fariñas claims he was arrested and beaten on the way to his friend’s funeral.
Fariñas lives in a country where people who speak-out against the government are routinely brutalized and jailed. Unable to protest with his voice, he uses his body to express his dissent and petition his government.
Sánchez wrote, “When this kind of protest, a protest of empty stomachs, happens in a country we have to question whether they have left citizens any other way to show their lack of consent.”
A similar sense of desperation drove Liberian activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee to organize a sex strike to end the civil war in 2003. She encouraged the nation’s women to withhold sex from their male partners until they put down their guns. She even offered to pay prostitutes for lost wages.
Gbowee continues to work for peace. Mostly recently, she spoke at the Daily Beast’s Women in the World summit. There she urged Michelle Obama to convene a summit of African First Ladies to address the issue of sexual violence.
As an editor and writer, I tend to associate free expression with writing. But these activists have challenged and expanded my ideas of what constitutes “expression.” I have come to see the body as a site of articulation that is as powerful as the written or spoken word.
This idea raises difficult—and exciting—questions for me in terms of how we can protect and promote this type of expression on Sampsonia Way.
What other examples do you know of of body protests? Please use the comment field below.
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