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Guys, it’s well overdue. No longer can we defer to women to educate us, nor can we quietly offer support. In this country, we’re the problem. We need to accept this.
Men, bros, dudes, guys, amigos, fellas; listen up, we need to have a chat.
We’re fucking it up. Pardon the strong language, but it’s true. Time and again women are bearing the brunt of not only our crimes and misdemeanours—whether they be violent, sexual, or both—but they are also the ones carrying the burden of trying to change us, of showing us that our behaviour is unacceptable and that they, women, are human beings who deserve respect.
Here we are again, another young woman, Courtney Herron, had her life brutally cut short by a 27-year old man. This man, younger than myself, bashed a woman to death. A woman who was, at the time, homeless and struggling with mental health and drug abuse issues. The man who killed her, also homeless, sat in the dock at court and smiled at people. He is also alleged to have mental health issues.
All of this comes just months after Aiia Massarwe and Natalina Angok were found dead in January and April, respectively, which was hardly a few months after Eurydice Dixon was brutally raped and murdered, as well as having her memorial defaced by one of us. One man was just jailed for the August 2018 murder of his wife, Fahima Yusuf, in an attempt to be with her sister. The sister, it’s worth noting, did not know of, nor return, his romantic feelings. Yusuf’s final words to her husband, as he smothered her, were, “I love you”.
“Domestic violence is an issue in our society that has received a great deal of attention,” Judge Bruno Fiannaca said during sentencing for Yusuf’s murderer.
“There is a need for condign punishment to bring home the message that such conduct will not be tolerated in our society.”
And that’s true, but it seems we’re very willing to punish, without first teaching men – and each other – that certain behaviours are unacceptable long before such a tragic event occurs.
A recently published study showed that one in seven men think that rape is “justified” if a woman changes her mind after initiating sex. Men feel entitled to women’s bodies and they’ll do anything to get their hands on them. 52% of young men, in fact, believe that women are exaggerating gender inequality in Australia.
The way we talk about it in the media doesn’t help.
Joe Hildebrand, on Studio 10, stated that we weren’t keeping women safe from “very specific people”. The Herald Sun, in a disgusting display of levity and dismissiveness, used the headline “Party Twist” to set up the fact that the two met at a party in the city and left together.
Tarang Chawla, whose sister Nikita was also tragically murdered by her ex-partner, took to Facebook to decry their carelessness and expressed it best:
The narrative is all being set up nicely on a platter for his barrister to use in court: ‘Your Honour, my client is the real victim here. He is jilted man, hurt by a modern day woman who destroyed his life by leaving him, he has no choice but to resort to drugs and in this pain has murdered another, for he is the true victim here’.
In fact, those wheels are already turning. The Brisbane Times released an article about the “image” the killer presented to the world, and the first line is, “Early photos show a strikingly handsome young man.” It goes on to talk about how pleasant his life looked. There don’t seem to be any articles about the woman whose life he cut short, what her life was like, who she was before this tragedy occurred.
Every man knows at least one women who has been a victim, knows someone who has a #MeToo story. There will be those who say “no, not the women I know”, but odds are they don’t make their female friends or relatives feel comfortable enough to talk to them about it. Or they’re the ones who are the antagonist in someone else’s story. Compare that to the fact that pretty much zero men would say that they know a rapist or an abuser. Those two things cannot add up. The odds are pretty good that we all know at least one, but that we have ignored the little signs in their behaviour that betrayed their true selves.
The domestic violence problem in Australia is at epidemic levels. Every week, one woman is killed by her current or former partner; 85% of women have been sexually harassed, and one in three young people presenting alone to homelessness services have experienced domestic violence.
Assistant police commissioner, Luke Cornelius, deserves praise for shifting the dialogue from that of telling women to police their behaviour, to that of the actions of men.
“The key point is this is about men’s behaviour, it’s not about women’s behaviour,” he said in a press conference on Monday. “Women, and men are absolutely entitled and should feel safe to go about their normal day-to-day activities.”
Talk to your female friends. We need to force good, and not just passive supporters.
But the burden should not be on women to change us. It should not be on them to teach us how to behave like civilised human beings. Growing and learning are ever evolving processes. You don’t have to be the same person you were last year. It should fall on us to call our shitty mates out. We need to step in when someone near us makes a threatening move. We need to be the ones to campaign, to take action, to organise.
Otherwise, we can’t really say we care, can we? Otherwise, we’re just in it for the recognition, as long as that means no difficult conversations, no confrontations, no effort. Otherwise, we’re keeping things unequal in this country because it’s easy.
And that’s part of the problem.