Marco Cochrane- safe for women

Gloria Steinem: October 2014 Associated Press

When the women’s movement started, there was not even a term called domestic violence. It was just called life. When  we think of violence against women, for instance, we understandably think mainly of other countries, where the degree of violence is much higher. But what is also true is that if you added up all the women who have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends since 9/11, and then you add up all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq, more women were killed by their husbands and boyfriends.”

Marco Cochrane is a sculpture of a series called Truth in BEauty presented at Burning Man for a  years who asks “how can we have women feel safe?”  It’s a profound and astounding question when you consider the landscape of where we are with violence against women.   Speaking not just on women who are violated, but as well when they don’t feel safe to express themselves:  their happiness, their joys, their pain and their perspective.  The tech world is making moves to have the tech environment which is majority men welcome women in such a way that they feel seen, heard and full participants in the work place.  They want the contribution and creative input from women, and they want them to feel safe in working with their companies.

So the question Marco raises can be looked at in various ways.  One way is to look at the history of women and violence, or more to the point to look at what has been ignored, denied and patronized when women call out abuse by a man in the workplace or in the home.  The very sense that that has been the norm may have a lot to do with women withholding themselves and their experience of the world-part of which tells them women are not safe.

The scandals exposed recently in the abuse by NFL husbands and boyfriends on the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Woman Act of 1994 brought the world’s attention to a condition that has been tolerated, ignored or justified by the business of sports and their performers. University of California Berkeley, among other esteemed universities and colleges who have been called to the task of taking seriously the safety of their students with responses that are more of consequence to the offenders of the acts of rape and assault. In the military, the officers who have generally been the responsible agents for addressing violence against women are facing having those incidents out of their hands and into the non military legal professionals.   The United States as Gloria Steinem states is just now becoming aware of the reality that has been under the radar of bureaucratic systems that minimalized the consequences to the abuser. Violence has an impact not only on the victim, but is integrated into how women feels about themselves and their safety. Marco Cochrane in a recent interview offered a window into how women feel and what the effect is of living in the world where they may be unseen, unheard and may have to deal with the potential of  physical attack or assault.


Marco Cochrane with his wife Julia Whitelaw Cochrane, a collaborative attorney in Marin and partner to Marco served as the interviewer at the Innovate Berkeley event July 2014, and brought a new consciousness with a simple but profound questions.

“What would it be like in the world if women felt safe and what would it take to have women feel safe?” Internationally known for his exceptional series Truth is Beauty in The Bliss Project of Burning Man. Marco’s ‘Woman’ made from mesh wire a 55 foot essence and form of a woman reaching with every inch of herself toward the sky. She is felt as well as seen, and celebrated at Burning Man’s annual celebration in the desserts of Nevada.

Marco is speaking at the Innovate Berkeley event at the Impact Hub Berkeley as creative artists, writers, welders, designers and mostly people excited about life and its possibilities gather for his presentation. Marco describes himself as the child of hippie parents raised in Berkeley in his early years. He was introduced to antiwar and feminism viewpoints and by age 7 was aware and sensitive to the possibility of the need for radical change from that young age. He was aware of the insanity of war and saw how people treated each other and wondered why and what that was about from early age. The inequity of how some were treated well, and others not was an early observation that didn’t make sense to him, and gave ground to his challenging rather than accepting these disparities. The radical question of what it would take to have women feel safe comes from that realm of consciousness and also in his attention and focus not just on the inches and hills and valleys of a woman’s body in the process of sculpturing the Truth is Beauty series.   But over time with the subjects he noticed their silence, the holding back, the absence of exposure behind the unspoken speaking by women around him.

Marco’s question “What would it take to have women feel safe” brings to mind that because of their silence, the withdrawal of their presence, humanity has less to work with. Marco expresses the value that women feeling safe and free to express would make their feminine energy to the world. He has observed his response, his speaking is available to him, and that is not the case with women. He observes that men don’t need to have permission to speak, that men fear other men, knowing they themselves carry so much aggression at all time, perhaps from fear of survival, but they sense it in other men. The violence against women, rape and abuse by men he sees as a coping mechanism to keep women silent. The effect is to shut down women.

“We need the direction from women that would make the world a different place.” He does not mention specifically what we all know if we read the newspapers. We have a world where rape and assault, not just in far off worlds, but in our military, in our universities, in our churches, in our schools are constantly being revealed. The revelations generally come through exposure by a woman who at significant cost to herself and often under duress speaks out. She may not be believed, her character and behavior may be attacked; her life can be at risk.

The emphasis of Marco’s message is that the different energy that women contribute and its potential to the world is where the world will find its answers, and that will come through women feeling safe.

If women felt safe, their silence would end and the feminine energy of connectedness, transparency, creative possibilities would be available to the world, and is needed to handle the problems we have in creating a sustainable world, the world we have to deal with now, Marco points out. Women feeling safe did not come through the feminist movements or the hippie movements of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, he observes. He says that at every gathering ike the one we’re attending tonight, someone brings up at this point the work of One Billion Rising and Eve Ensler to defend the value of the work of feminists which he values, but it doesn’t change his experience of how women feel and how that affects what they say and what they do and what they keep to themselves that is lost to the world.

Marcos is intent on the challenge of having women feel safe being taken up by all. The implication is that everyone who wants to see the end of violence against women and in the world needs to be up for the job. He suggests “Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it’s fun, not generosity,” emphasizing the difference and making clear there is no exchange or obligation to be expected by making the effort to do the right thing.

“Its going to take all of us to do it,” Marco says in closing. In saying all of us, I am reminded that everyone means women as well as men making it safe for women. Women making it safe for women to speak out is the basis for women’s groups or the sanctity of the chosen friends with whom we share ourselves without editing. Sometimes our sisters, sometimes our daughters and mothers, but it doesn’t come with the role or relationship status. The sense of safety that we have as women with other women is born of trust coming from consistent experience of having our thoughts, expressions and emotion-ourselves valued.

But out here in life, in the office, meeting or social event-family reunion or class- it is not assumed those conditions will be there for us. Our job as women coming from the perspective presented by Marco is it’s our job to make it safe for women. Just as well as the men-maybe even moreso, we must honor the women around us –their perspective, their vulnerable moves out to express what lives in their hearts and minds, their value, their gifts.

Marco has traveled around countries far and wide to speak to people about Truth is Beauty, his magnificent sculptures celebrating the beauty and spirit of women, but it seems that his quest is in making it safe for women, and what that can contribute to humanity is also his gift. Who women are and what they have to contribute is a work of art he presents to the world. That opening is an opening is as high and solid as the 55 foot sculpture Woman – and then some.  Truth as Beauty provides that reach for us all.


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