Sunday, September 30, 2012

don't blame me, Alan Jones made me do it

Misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female”. Allan G. Johnson (sociologist)

This morning it’s hard to know who is the most hated man in Australia. If social media bytes are anything to go by, the award goes to Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones. A couple of days ago, without a doubt, it would’ve been a faceless man in a blue hoodie.

These two men, who’ve most likely never met, share a sense of entitlement, an internal disconnect between their actions and consequences and most of all, a hatred of women.

Am I drawing a long bow to tar these men with the same brush? Jones is notorious for his attacks on our Prime Minister, essentially because she is a woman. It could be because she’s not his hero John Howard, who is of course a man. But even her predecessor, and possessor of male genitalia, didn’t cop as much personal criticism from Jones, despite it being Rudd to topple Howard from his God-given right to rule our country.

Jones has long used his position as a highly influential media personality to promote the Liberal Party and push a right wing agenda. His listeners can’t seem to get enough of him. So while it’d be logical to presume that all non-Liberal politicians are fair targets for his ACMA-sanctioned vitriol,  female political figures seem to cop more than their male counterparts. Take the infamous “chaff bag” threats last year, when Jones repeatedly inferred on air that the Prime Minister should be “put in a chaff bag” and dumped at sea. If this doesn’t represent violence against women, I don’t know what does. But he didn’t just stop with Gillard, Sydney mayor Clover Moore and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young received similar, misogynistic contempt. As for the chaff bag, Jones also had one for the then Greens leader, Bob Brown, but perhaps being gay makes one less of a man in Alan's mind?

When influential figures have air time to repeatedly indoctrinate their audience with hatred against a gender, race or religion and the regulatory body, in this case the government appointed Communications and Media Authority, defend his right to do so, it legitimizes a culture of disrespect.

This weekend Jones was caught out taking his women-hating campaign against Gillard a step further, by publicly asserting that the Prime Minister is a liar and this caused her father to die of shame.

Will this be comment be a bridge too far for Jones? While other Lefties are rubbing their hands with glee that this could be his undoing, I doubt this will be the final death knell for his influential career. (Update: maybe not the original comment, but after seeing his "apology", who knows) Why? Because misogyny is rife in Australia and if his previous assertions about wanting to kill Gillard and dispose of her in a sack in the ocean aren’t deemed inflammatory enough, why would this be? By bringing Gillard’s father into the picture he might be offending our sense of good taste but he’s not actually accusing the Prime Minister of partricide.

And that brings us back to the man in the blue hoodie. What’s he got to do with Alan Jones? We all know that rape is about power not sex, right? We have a culture that is infused with and condones misogyny, if Jones’s popularity is anything to go by. Through the week victim blaming was rife.  On the Facebook site “Help find Jill Meagher”, before her body was found, a commenter asserted that she’d been drunk “led someone on”, this would have pissed the poor man off “and the consequences followed her”. His logical conclusion being “she met with foul play as a result of her actions inside the pub”. Let’s not blame the guy who anonymously wrote this, he was just mouthing the inference of more influential media figures. Through the week our own local shock jocks were calling Ms Meagher a party girl and drawing their own victim shaming conclusions. And we know that women having fun, outside of the marital home, drinking, wearing high heels and a pretty dress get what they deserve.

If Gillard deserves to be killed (put in a chaff bag in dumped in the sea) for being an outspoken woman, what chance do ordinary women have? According to trial by media, a woman drinking with friends, without the protection of her husband, and daring to walk home alone is obviously asking to be sexually assaulted and murdered.

So why do we hate the accused, when he’s done exactly what so many men in our country believe she brazenly courted?

According to the anonymous commenter on Facebook, rape and even “foul play” may be warranted, if a woman merely has a drink in a public place with friends. Is it any wonder in a society that doesn’t blink an eyelid, when a public figure explicitly states his "joking" desire to kill a number of female politicians? That he didn’t really mean it and anyway, nothing’s off limit if you hold public office. These two men are merely the tip of the iceberg, reflecting the deep vein of hatred towards women that simmers in Australia.

As I concluded in my last post about Jill Meagher:
Society needs to change and we all contribute in some way to the environment that creates people who do not respect human dignity.
 We’ve created Alan Jones too.

Postscript: have just lost 42 minutes of my life live-streaming Alan Jones’s “apology”. To summarize: he was just repeating what someone said earlier on the day at his Godson’s birthday party and he probably shouldn’t have repeated it. Oh and carbon tax made me do it. The Gillard government’s failed promises made me do it. The “chaff bag” was just a figure of speech. And anyway, the tape could have been edited so he mightn’t have said it after all. Oh and people say nasty things all the time about him, so suck it up Juliar.

Enough rope?

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Friday, September 28, 2012

the tragedy of Jill Meagher, brothers Grimm and the bogeyman

A lot of tears are being shed in this city today, for a woman that most of us never knew. For six days we’ve been rooting for a fairytale ending to a news story that has touched every woman who has ever walked alone in a city street at night.

Jill Meagher’s disappearance, the emerging CCTV footage of her conversing with a seemingly unknown man and the  breaking news overnight that the same man has been charged with her rape and murder, brings this story to a sickening conclusion.

This is a real person, a beautiful woman, a wife, daughter, sister and friend who has unwittingly embodied a modern Grimm’s fable, while the accused, personifies the bogeyman.

Who didn’t fear the dark as a child; have moments of gut wrenching dread that an unknown creature could harm them? As little girls grow up, the bogeyman takes form. It assumes the shape of a man, who can look like any male, wielding the power to rape, humiliate and ultimately kill.

This awful rape and murder taps into our deepest fears, despite the reality that although approximately 1:5 Australian women are subject to sexual violence, abductions are rare. The bulk of sexual assaults or murders are perpetrated by someone the woman known. Random, opportunistic attacks like this account for so few, yet in the media are the face of this kind of assault. This distortion keeps us scared.

So what happens next? For a short time we may be more vigilant. Tonight I predict there will be far fewer women in Melbourne choosing to walk home alone after a few drinks with friends. There will be talk of learning self-defence. The annual Reclaim the Night march next month may get more attention and record attendance.

We will rail against the power of men over women. But secretly, I suspect many of us will mine our own deep pocket of vulnerability. When I saw Jill on the CCTV footage, I saw a vulnerable woman. This is not victim shaming. It’s acknowledging that while the predator was out stalking that night he may have deliberately chosen a women not just on age or looks but her kindness, ability to run or fight and her perceived state of mind.

But maybe not. Catherine Deveny wrote a compelling post yesterday, detailing her own brush with a similar man in Brunswick, who was possibly the same one who attacked Jill. Deveny is in her 40’s, was on a bicycle, sober and not someone who, by her media profile alone, would be described as vulnerable. 

Most of the women I know, myself included, have been in a vulnerable state in public at some time in our life. I personally thought I was invincible for most of my 20’s. I took what seems now like incredible risks (hitchhiking alone, in a foreign country, where no one knew where I was would probably top the list). When I moved to Melbourne at 23, I walked the inner north all the time (and I still do). I was car-less, with a low income and would almost always head home alone. I remember the irony one night, leaving a gig and about to walk the kilometre or two back to where I lived. A friend asked if I felt ok about doing that. “I feel so safe in Melbourne”, I said cheerily. Little did I know, a similar distance away in the opposite direction, Julian Knight was killing random strangers in Hoddle Street.

The reality is none of us are immune to violence. Sadly that’s more likely to happen in or near our own home by someone known to us. Not on the mean streets of the city. But for now, our fears have a face, our vulnerability has a name and we’ll feel uneasy in places we once felt safe.

There’s no happy ending to this story. Even strangers need to grieve for Jill before we can find a coherent narrative for this event. In the meantime, blokes be super aware to give a woman alone at night a wide berth. And women, we need to remember that not all men are rapists. Society needs to change and we all contribute in some way to the environment that creates people who do not respect human dignity.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

heading home

You know when a long trip nears its completion and desire to get home intensifies? You itch to be packed, left and landed.

I don't feel like that. Would prefer to be flying on to yet another city. To explore a different region. Walk until my feet ache.

These four weeks have only whetted my appetite.

One week after I turned 22 I boarded a flight to Tokyo and then London with a one-way ticket.

Can I do that again? No agenda. No time frame. Simply wander until it's no longer fun.

So here is my wish before I leave this land that indelibly shaped my future.

That I come back much sooner next time.

I attract a location independent income stream that allows me to share and enrich my knowledge. And travel those long flights in comfort.

That I can wander, see old friends and make new ones until it is no longer a joy.

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