i Am unbeatable

Donna Ferrato is a photographer who is well known for her determination to end domestic violence. Her photographs have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Life, Time, USA Today and many other magazines and articles. She tells stories through pictures focused on women who get out of abusive relationships and free of their abuser. She takes photographs that express abusive violence from all perspectives: the victim, the abuser, the audience.

On September 12th, she displayed her first exhibition of her series, “I Am Un-Beatable”, in Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery in Cohen Memorial Hall. “I Am Un-beatable” is a documented photo collection about a girl name Sarah who made it out of an abusive relationship. She met her boyfriend at a very young age. He was 18 and she was 13 when they started dating. He saw how vulnerable she was and used many tactics to make her think he was the one for her. He got her pregnant and made her move in with him and his family. Leaving behind her life, he persuaded her into thinking they will be a happy family. Her fairytale story didn’t turn out to be much of a fairytale. He started mentally, physically, and emotionally abusing her. This isn’t the life she had expected. The moment he broke her jaw was the moment she feared staying with him more than leaving him. She eventually broke free him and moved out on her own with her two kids.

The argument of “I Am Un-Beatable” is that the US needs to stop making domestic violence part of culture. About 25% of women in the US are in an abusive relationships. If kids are involved, 75% of the boys will begin to participate in domestic violence at age 12. These statistics from the exhibition help to show why domestic violence is such a big issue in the US. Females are the easiest target in our society, especially when it comes to sex and getting raped. Donna is trying to empower women to take back their power and stop allowing men get away with hitting them. Male dominance is shown through most her pictures and the males seem to always break all their limits. Males use different tactics into making the female think he loves her. After he has her fooled, it when he changes. The males are violent towards their girlfriends or wives because they feel the need to be a man. The definition of being a man is being in control of what he needs or wants. In most cases, he wants to make sure he has access to sex whenever he wants. Our culture seems to value the male orgasm.

I connected Donna’s photo documentary exhibition to Kristen Barber “Sex and Power” article on heterosexuality and power. Males use sex as a way of having power over many females. Majority of domestic violence is sexually related. The expression of masculine traits such as aggression, power, and violence during sex shapes the meaning of sexuality both for men and women. (45) The female role in sex is to be the submissive and say “yes” to sex. It is all based off what the men desires. When the male doesn’t get what he want, he gets aggressive and very demanding. Sex is viewed as a social power. The male and female get so used to the social constructs society has formed that it becomes part of culture. Females are used to being powerless and males are used to being the aggressor. As a result, many domestic violent situations aren’t reported until it is death threatening because both genders are used to being in these type situation. Females don’t leave their abuser either due to fear, family history or dependency. Women may have less freedom to explore, discover, and play with their own desires and pleasures, but they are not completely powerless. (45) Females need to get back their dignity and demand more control or power.

The Ray Rice situation is a great example of a heterosexual abusive relationship.


As you can see in the video, a heated argument escalated, caused Ray Rice to hit his fiancé. A male hitting a woman is looked down upon in our society. He was knocked his wife unconscious in an elevator as if that is normal. He didn’t call for help or try to see if she was okay. The most ironic part about this situations is that his wife didn’t leave him after being beaten. She asked the public to stop being cruel toward Ray Rice. She isn’t thinking about how embarrassing the video looked, but rather the NFL not cut Ray Rice’s income.

Domestic violence is so common in the US. Sex, power, and relationships may or may not have some correlation between each other. Which sex should control the relationship? Does it matter which sex control the relationship? If the person who is has more control over sex have more power in the relationship? When involved in an abusive relationship, is sex a reason the victim (female) stays in the relationship? After answering these questions, if a male was being sexually abused by a female, would he be considered less of a man, or a “punk”?



As a class we went to this gallery on campus were we looked at Donna Ferrato’s photography which looks at domestic violence. Ferrato’s pictures and event in the gallery is called “I AM UNBEATABLE”. Ferrato started “I AM UNBEATABLE because it aims to educate through photography to understand the dangers associated with domestic violence. To recognize the warning signs. To know that love has nothing to do with violence.”(http://www.iamunbeatable.com). This video above shares many of the photographs taken by Ferrato and shares some stories and statistics about domestic violence.

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After attending this class event I thought it would be a great opportunity to write an engaging assignment on it because I took a lot from it and also took some neat pictures from this gallery. This event called “I AM UN-BEATABLE is about everyone having the right to live free from violence. Our society today we hear a lot about domestic violence happening between relationships and married couples. This class event we looked and discussed domestic violence through pictures and a short video clip that was presented. This mission of I AM UN-BEAT-ABLE is to raise awareness, educate and prevent domestic violence against women and children through real stories of real people (http://www.iamunbeatable.com).


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What are we going to do about celebrities, the media, and society’s response to domestic violence??

Before reading: Prepare yourselves for lots of links and information about recent cases of domestic violence in popular culture. I encourage everyone who looks up the links to pay attention to the titles of the articles. Think about the phrasing and the order of names. Which person is the actor, or who is given power, and who is the one being acted upon in these titles? Are the authors of these articles attempting to frame domestic violence cases in a particular way? Are they trying to evoke some emotion or thought out of the reader?

Do you guys remember the Rihanna/Chris Brown incident back in 2009? Here’s a link if you don’t remember, even though it would be hard to forget, with everyone talking and gossiping about it: Chris Brown charged with assault on Rihanna. Domestic violence became a pretty huge topic, but over time, the discourse changed and focused more on romance, who the two were dating, or whether or not they’d get back together. Five years later, Rihanna, Chris, and the topic of domestic violence are back in the news and in our thoughts and conversations.

Rihanna and Kanye West were planning to perform at the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, but CBS pulled the plug on it. Why would the TV network cancel such a high-profile performance? Well, the Baltimore Ravens recently released Ray Rice earlier this week, for reasons I will discuss in a moment, and CBS thought it best that Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence, should not be featured at that particular game. Taking this news in, two things come to mind. 1.) Once again, large television networks and the media are controlling decisions about what to show the public, and ultimately controlling what we should be talking and thinking about. And 2.) Domestic violence has followed Rihanna and marked her, even five years after she was abused by Chris Brown

Rihanna’s case ties to the Ray Rice case going on right now. Here is a link to the timeline of events: A complete timeline of the Ray Rice assault case. This case and how it’s played out is really interesting, for it tells a lot about today’s society’s thoughts on and definitions of domestic violence. The case started in May, when Rice was charged and released from jail on assault charges. There was a video used as evidence in the case, a video of Rice pulling his now-wife’s (Janay Palmer) unconscious body from her shoulders out of an elevator. As the case went on, Rice was able to get out of jail time, and the Ravens only suspended him for two games, assuring that he would return. Then, in late July, the full video of the incident was released, and it showed Rice punching Palmer in the face so hard that she passed out. It took this video and three months after the incident for the Ravens to release Rice and for the NFL to develop a domestic violence policy. And all while this is going on and amid the assault case, Rice marries Palmer!! What?!

Another couple that has been in the news recently is Jonathan “War Machine” Koppenhaver and Christy Mack. Here are three articles that serve as a timeline of events: 1.) MMA fighter arrested for assaulting porn star 2.) Christy Mack claims War Machine beat her and threatened to kill her 3.) Christy Mack posted an updated about her condition after War Machine brutality. This case also tells a lot about we deal with and respond to assault and domestic violence cases in the United States. This was a case of not only physical abuse, but verbal and mental and emotional abuse as well. Everything started on Instagram, when Koppenhaver joked about their aborted child and showed off a tattoo he got in remembrance. When Mack broke it off with him, he attacked on Twitter, defaming her and her mother, and then he threatened to kill her and her mother. Then we later learned that on the night that he physically attacked her, Mack called 911, but the police were not quick enough to prevent the abuse. The interesting twist that I’ve noticed in the articles about this case is the way people write about and describe Koppenhaver and Mack. Koppenhaver is War Machine, a character of violence and aggression, while Mack is his “porn star girlfriend.” Did Koppenhaver’s character’s aggression translate over into his reality? Should we blame Mack for dating him or see her at fault just because she’s a porn star? These are their identities in these articles, and if affects how we read them and interpret the situation. How do things change, though, when we see pictures of Mack being hospitalized for broken teeth, a fractured rib, broken bones to her face, and a ruptured liver?

As scholars of sex and society, we should also be thinking about sex and its relation to domestic violence. What are the different social institutions involved in these cases? …the media, TV networks, the NFL… What do these social institutions have to say about sex and sexuality? Who, in these cases, has the power to define what is domestic violence and what is not?

Lots of topics about sex and society that we’ve discussed this semester are brought to life in these cases of domestic violence. There’s the feminist perspective from Catherine MacKinnon who emphasized male dominance and argued that men use sex as a tool to control women. As it says in “Theoretical Perspectives” by Steven Seidman, “To the extent that men have the power to define what desires, feelings, and behaviors are sexual, they can define women’s sexuality in a way that positions them as subordinate. Does MacKinnon make a fair point and how does this relate to domestic violence?

I hope I’ve given you some things to think about. I’ve provided examples of three very different incidents of domestic violence. In closing, I encourage you continue thinking about a few things. Are these domestic violence issues being talked about or being hushed and shoved under the rug? Why do we need to talk about domestic violence? How do we educate people about the various issues of domestic violence?

what’s sex got to do with… LOVE

“Sex is not love. Jealousy is not love. Pressure is not love. Possessiveness is not love. Control is not love…

Love is gentle. Love is kind. Love is brave. Love cannot be beat or be beaten. Love is unbeatable.”

This past September a new exhibit opened at the art gallery right here at Vanderbilt University. I AM UNBEATABLE is a new mission to raise awareness, educate and prevent domestic violence against women and children through real stories of real people. One story that this exhibit primarily focuses on is the story of a thirteen year old girl who got pregnant and was forced to drop out of school and raise the baby by her abusive partner. For years following the birth of her first child and even the birth of a second child, she was abused physically, mentally and emotionally by the father of her children. Now 29 years old, the mother of two boys and finally free of her abusive ex, Sarah Augusta’s story is photographed through a series of pictures displayed in this exhibit. Sarah is portrayed as no longer a victim, but a fighter.

As I was reading and examining the various photographs and captions throughout the display, the words which appear at the top of this page (which were presented as an explanation to one of the pictures in the exhibit “I Am Unbeatable”) really resonated with me and got me thinking. What does sex truly have to do with love? Many times in abusive relationships this idea that sex is love, and doing what your abuser desires, is “love”. However, love often times has nothing to do with any of this. There is no distinct description that constitutes what love really is, but if one this is for certain it is that pressure, possessiveness, control and jealousy do not have to do with it. The photograph that accompanies these words portrayed a young girl, Emma, who was the neighbor of Sarah and her two sons. At only 13, the age of Sarah when she got pregnant, Emma strongly believes that parents should start talking to their children from a young age about how to recognize abuse. This is something I completely agree with. It’s never too early to talk and inform people everywhere of the realities of abuse in this world.

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In fact, one in five girls are found to be victims of abuse. Alongside of this, it is said that one in twenty boys are victims to abuse as well. Self report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a sexual abuse incident during childhood. These terrible statistics show the realities of abuse, but sometimes numbers do not always do the trick. Seeing the exhibit, “I Am Unbeatable”, today allowed me to visualize a real family that underwent the atrocity of abuse. How one person be so strong and overcome such adversity? Sarah Augusta and her family are inspiration for us all…and they show us that real love is truly gentle, kind, brave and most importantly UNBEATABLE.