A Weird, Hypocritical, Paradoxical Species.

Trigger Point with banksia, fuchsia, magnolia, camellia and pine needles

Along with many other women who have escaped domestic abuse, I’m finding the current conversations around gender-based violence triggering. My own experience – which changed me forever – is a silent statistic, another measure of the vast abyss between what humanity with all its traditions, ideologies, and systems of governance promises, and what it delivers.

Over forty years since participating in my first protest ‘Reclaim the Night,’ to make nighttime streets safer for women, we are still running in circles, uttering those same platitudes – ‘enough is enough’, ‘this has to stop’, ‘men must step up’. All that has changed is we now have a few new labels such as ‘coercive control’, a few more safety enhancements such as lighting on paths through parks, and a few more laws to punish and incarcerate perpetrators.

Emergency meetings and talk of a Royal Commission just add to those gaseous emissions.

When it comes to violence against women, these are all simply band aid solutions covering a global disease.

After all, these calls and solutions come from the same male dominated system that created the problems in the first place. Fixing the whole issue of gender violence from the inside is akin to performing open heart surgery on oneself.

This isn’t just an Australian problem, it’s a human problem.

Consider not only regimes that oppress women through traditions and theologies that deny them equal accesses to education, jobs, and freedom of movement, but also the Nordic paradox, and the disproportionately higher levels of violence against women in the supposedly more progressive Scandinavian countries.

Consider the number of religions that, despite starting off with the best of intentions (love, peace, unity) have devolved to embrace misogyny.

We are a truly weird, hypocritical, paradoxical species.

So, for a better perspective, let me take you to outer space.

Once we have travelled past all the debris and satellites circling our planet, channel your inner alien and reflect on that reactive, invasive species below. Consider their investments in weapons of destruction, those stakeholders rubbing their hands as yet another war boosts the value of their weapons portfolio. Notice how war on this planet is big business. While violence feeds economies and egos, civilians, women and children are the collateral damage. 

Consider one of the theories of  the Fermi paradox that, the reason no extra-terrestrial life has made contact with humanity is that at a certain point, through environmental degradation, or careless use of advanced technology, civilisations self-destruct. That’s one theory of many – another being that humans are so brutal and unevolved that higher civilisations just can’t be bothered saying ‘Hi’.

Back to planet earth. And Australia, back to you. To repeat the words of the palpably furious criminologist Vincent Hurley on the recent Q@A episode on gender-based violence (addressed to the government representatives on the panel): ‘How Dare You?’

Yes, indeed. How dare you spend so much taxpayer money on giant, outrageously expensive masculine fripperies?

Yes, I’m speaking about AUKUS and all the surrounding propaganda regarding the ‘protection and defense’ of our sea lanes from China.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all this planetary gazing, it’s that serious, long-term change won’t come from protective, defensive posturing on individual or institutional scales.

Long-term change won’t come from investing in more jail time for perpetrators of domestic violence (although in the short term, that’s urgent and necessary) or in military machinery. Transformation won’t come from spending hundreds of billions of dollars on fleets of giant, testosterone-powered metal bandages.

Transformation for women (and correspondingly, the human race), will come from massive and long-term investment in quality education. Globally, change will come from dismantling the reactive forces that define humanity – a masculine preoccupation with war, rivalry and the desire for vengeance when things don’t go their way. In other words, the patriarchy.

And while we’re at it, let’s call that catch-phrase ‘positive’ masculinity what it really is – embracing feminine qualities of empathy, compassion and vulnerability.

Until the benefits of this investment in human education and intelligence bear fruit, the bandaging must come from far more support for front-line services that protect women.

Back to the Fermi paradox. And hope. Hope that it’s  the patriarchy that self-destructs, without carrying off the whole planet in its wake.

Meanwhile, no more running in circles, please. I’m dizzy from all the spinning.