Andrea Dworkin said, “…it is an agony to be fully conscious of the brutal misogyny which permeates culture, society, and all personal relationships.”
Male violence against women thrives in a culture of misogyny, one in which men have a sense of ownership and entitlement to women, and one in which women are regarded as ‘less than’, as mere sexual conquests, or as existing for men’s use and entertainment.
It is this culture of misogyny that shapes the discourse surrounding men’s violence against women. Men’s violence against women is treated as something that happens to women, rather than something men do to women. Mainstream media uses watered-down terms like ‘domestic violence’, ‘family violence’ or ‘violence against women’ when what they mean is men killing women.
In a culture of misogyny, men’s violence against women is widespread. On average, one woman is killed by a current or former partner each week in Australia. This year, 57* women have been killed by men, and it’s still October.
In July, we gathered in Hyde Park to mourn the loss of Eurydice Dixon, a young woman who was raped and murdered by a man as she walked home from her stand-up comedy performance. Days later, another man, also a stand-up comedian, vandalised the site, spray painting an ejaculating penis where Eurydice had been raped and murdered in a statement of utter contempt for women.
In the last six months in WA alone, there have been three separate mass killings where men have allegedly killed their families. Men who were husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons and son-in-laws, massacred five women and nine children. One of these men was Peter Miles, who shot and killed his wife, daughter and her four children while they slept. In media reports documenting the incident, Peter Miles, having just committed mass murder, was described as a “good bloke”. How little value do we place on women and children that a man can execute six of them and still retain his status as a good man?
A culture of misogyny means that the responsibility for men’s crimes of violence is placed on women, who are taught from childhood to navigate the world with the ever-present threat of male violence. We know that entering the public space presents a number of risks- men loudly appraising our bodies, putting their hands on us, yelling abuse or ‘compliments’. We know our bodies are regarded as public property and that walking down the street may be seen as an invitation. And so we modify our behaviour and restrict our basic freedoms, as if by following the rules we can guarantee our safety, all the while knowing we never can, because women cannot prevent men’s violence. The reality is, most violence against women is not perpetrated by strangers, but by men we know, and most of all by men we love.
In a culture of misogyny, women who come forward as survivors of men’s physical and sexual violence are punished. Women around the world watched as Dr Christine Blasey Ford recounted the experience of being sexually assaulted as a teenage girl and the impact it had had on her life.
We saw ourselves in her. We needed her to be heard, to be believed. We were desperate for evidence that women matter, that our stories matter. Our hearts were broken when, despite credible allegations of sexual assault, the US Senate voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court anyway. It was yet another blow when we saw her publicly mocked by the President of the United States while his audience laughed, an echo of the laughter of the teenage boys who assaulted her, that haunted her over the years.
We know that men’s violence against and sexual exploitation of women is widespread. We know that one in three women will be victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, that police respond to domestic violence matters every two minutes, and that men’s violence is the “leading preventable contributor to death and illness for women aged 18 to 44”. We know all this, yet when women exercise the tremendous courage required to come forward and report these crimes against them, as a society, we tear them down. What were they wearing? Were they drinking? Why did they put themselves in that position? Why didn’t they leave? We tell women they contributed to the assault, that they invited it, they provoked it, or even that they wanted it. We call them liars and hateful names, we cast them as the aggressors and their rapists as the real victims, and after all this, have the gall to question their failure to come forward sooner. We say women are basically equal now and that it’s a scary time to be a man.
A culture of misogyny means there are rarely lasting consequences for men who commit acts of violence against women and children. Their reputations are not tarnished, their careers are not over. Almost no rapists, even those reported, will ever set foot in a prison, and most men who sexually abuse children will never be held accountable. Committing sexual assault does not even disqualify men from the supreme court, or the White House.
Like many women, I’m angry. I’m angry that women are treated as though we are disposable. I’m angry that we are still not being heard. I’m angry that women who speak against male violence are met with hostility or derision, while men’s lethal violence is met with indifference. I’m angry that the most common response to condemnations of male violence is “not all men” and not “What can I do to change this?”, as if the real issue is women making men uncomfortable rather than men killing us. I’m angry that in the coming weeks and months, women who are today alive will be dead.
So tonight we march against male violence. We march for our sisters, for those women and children lost to male violence. We march for our rights. We will not stop fighting.
Reclaim the Night Perth, Russell Square
26 October 2018