TRIGGER WARNING: This post or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
If you ever needed a reminder that misogyny is alive and well in this country, just open a newspaper or hop online because this week has been a shitstorm. It’s all there in plain sight. Another woman has been killed by her partner while another woman is silenced on national television by media personalities. Another woman is experiencing bizarre workplace double standards as she is sent home for opting for flats instead of heels and another woman having to defend her choice of clothing while other women attack and attempt to shame her.
It’s not just happening to strangers in the news though, just this week I was verbally attacked and physically/sexually threatened by a complete stranger while I was at work. The motivation behind his tirade you ask? The simple fact that I was a woman telling a grown man that he couldn’t have something he wanted. It apparently didn’t help that I am an unapologetic Queer woman who is uninterested in his bullshit or his penis. He stood over me in an attempt to intimidate while informing me that he was going to follow me to my car, beat the shit out of me with a baseball bat and then fuck the straight back into me. As someone who has experienced violence and sexual assault as a teenager, this encounter could have undone many years of hard work, therapy and counselling. Instead, it had me thinking about the bigger picture and then the nurturer and protector in me took no comfort in recognising that I am not alone and this is not an isolated incident.
We live in a world in which women are being taught from a young age to cover their bodies so that they don’t ‘distract’ or solicit unwanted attention from men. Your punishment, should you choose to not cover parts of your body that society may see as sacred or shameful or sexually provocative is verbal attacks, threats of sexual violence and/or rape. Let’s be real though, we have been warned. We’ve been told not to go outside after dark alone and encouraged to lock our doors while we drive at night. Oh and don’t forget to keep your eyes fixed firmly on your drinks while you’re at a party and carry whistles with you to attract attention should you feel violated or sexually threatened in any way. The whole idea is that you need to protect yourself and take away the risk of being seen as an ‘easy’ target to rapists; because if you don’t follow these rules you were clearly ‘asking for it’ and will get whatever is coming for you.
While I’m all for making good choices and taking responsibility for your own safety, I am sure as shit not down with the assumption that walking alone at night is an invitation to interact with me sexually without my consent. I shouldn’t have to tolerate being accused of advertising my sexuality or somehow provoking or instigating a threat of sexual violence on myself when all I have done is be present in the world. I’m not buying into this fuckery any more and neither should you.
“Research from the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey and Australian Institute of Criminology shows that both men and women in Australia experience substantial levels of violence. Domestic and sexual violence is overwhelmingly committed by men against women. 89 women were killed by their current or former partner between 2008-10. This equates to nearly one woman every week.”
The statistics are heartbreaking. 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced sexual violence. 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner. 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence.
Some women have become so immune to the way misogyny has infiltrated our minds and sense of self that they find themselves questioning the legitimacy of these abuse claims all together. Victims find themselves being interrogated while the person you have reached out to is searching for justification; just like the female police officer did last week when I called to report the man who attacked me. This is part of the reason why 58% of women who experience abuse never contact the police and 24% had never sought counselling or support. For many years I carried the shame of a crime committed against me and even today I struggle with shame and stigma surrounding my abuse. This is not okay.
Watching the Logies last week I found myself cringing when Craig McLachlan put his arms around a visibly uncomfortable Miranda Tapsell while he cut her off repeatedly during the nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Hey Craig, you shouldn’t touch other people without their consent. Hey Miranda, you shouldn’t have to smile through unwanted attention for fear of looking like a asshole or a prude amongst your peers. This is pretty straight forward. When the camera panned to Celia Ireland from Wentworth (who later won the award for Best Supporting Actress) you can see her mouthing the word ‘bastard’ to the rest of her table and I tend to agree.
On the same night, Noni Hazlehurst then became the 2nd woman in the 32 years of The TV Week Logies to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. She used her platform to call out gender in-equality and the presence of ageism in the media as I clapped and cheered at the TV on behalf of all women, everywhere. The following day though, I was rolling my eyes while Jesinta Campbell experienced girl on girl crime when Kate Langbroek accused her of being ‘desperate’ for wearing a revealing dress. Jesinta was then subsequently forced to defend herself on social media against the slut-shaming backlash of a see through gown.
Just a few weeks ago Van Badham, a columnist for Guardian Australia was spoken over on national television by Mark Latham. He insisted he was simply doing what everyone else should do by ignoring her during a debate on the topic of whether ‘women get preferential treatment in society’. I shouldn’t need to say this but the fact that this topic was even televised is clearly a load of actual steaming horse shit.
It seems it doesn’t matter where you look, gender inequality is becoming more and more prevalent. We’re working hard to bridge the gap and yet here we are moving at such a glacial pace, it often feels like we’re stuck at a complete standstill. No matter how slow the journey, while inequality still exists, we will continue to fight.
I dream of a world where slut-shaming, cat-calling, unsolicited dick pics and revenge porn are not a thing. Will we see an end to misogyny in the workplace, the streets and online during my lifetime? We need to be reminding women and men that it is not our fault or something to be ashamed of when someone tries to take our rights away. We need to try to develop more inclusive ways of talking about sexual vilification with young people and find ways to ensure that acts of violence are not carried out by anyone of any gender.
We should be looking at better ways to educate children so that they can be present in the world as loving and compassionate adults without the desire to assault or attack anyone else in any way.
We’ve all got a part to play in this. It is up to us all to call out social injustice and to not tolerate behaviours that are harmful to everyone, not just women. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I know for a fact that I shouldn’t be apologising for standing up for myself and others while taking my power back from the assholes who intend to take it away.
If you or another person is in immediate danger call 000 now.
If this post was triggering or you would like to reach out to someone for support please contact the numbers below.
WIRE: 1300 134 130 or www.wire.org.au
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au
National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service for people living in Australia: 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 or www.1800respect.org.au