Despair is understandable, but there is hope on the horizon
LIFE AS I KNOW IT
WITH Christmas and the New Year just around the corner, the desire to pause for reflection often increases, and given the ordeals many Australians have faced there's always room to welcome some hope in the sea of despair many seem to be drowning in.
But that's only if you want to see and think about those things. Otherwise it could be endless happy days here with all that great weather and freedoms we enjoy, but if you feel there's more to this picture, read on.
This year has not been a good one for Australian women. Another 68 have been confirmed dead as a result of male/family violence, up 14 more than last year.
These are the confirmed deaths, many more come close to dying, or are deaths waiting on official investigations to be completed. A lot of women live with domestic violence in their daily lives, physical and mental, obvious and casual, so much so they adjust their entire being around dealing it. This is a coping mechanism applied to regimes overwhelmingly installed by the male within their family unit. It so entrenched it becomes normalised.
Occasionally some women rule the roost at home and can do so by resorting to violent behaviour. This also needs addressing but not on the scale as male violence, and it very rarely results in the deaths of their loved ones. Bad female behaviour is still a direct symptom of the social infrastructure that allows dominance and violence within the family unit in the first place and because this is almost always geared toward males being in charge, overwhelmingly men perpetuate the worst examples of this power.
The culmination of this insidious practice reached a new level of despair when the Olga Edwards ended her own life recently. The mother of the two teenagers, who she found shot dead in the bedroom of their family home, could no longer go on living with what had happened. How could she get through each day let alone an approaching Christmas holiday season when your whole reason for existing has been wiped out in the cruellest, most evil set of circumstances?
Her narcissistic, misogynist ex-husband premeditated an act of revenge directed squarely at her by borrowing a shotgun from a sporting club, stalking and killing his own children as they cowered in a bedroom. He then killed himself sending his ex-wife a clear message that cold-blooded murder was too good for her, what she deserved was a slow, torturous death sentence. He won. And the system that enabled him to win carries on.
You have to wonder about women living among us, the ones you might see up the street or in social situations, the ones who are potentially trapped in various degrees of submissive domestic circumstances. What impact is the #metoo movement having on them? The enormous scrutiny men suddenly find themselves under can exacerbate an already frightening situation if more anger-provoking dialogue is thrown onto the furnace even if it comes via a television set.
It's a symptom of the times that if something so horrible and devastating goes unchecked for so long, once it is highlighted, especially in an ongoing grand sense, a tsunami is likely to follow.
Maybe that's why we're at 68 dead women so far this year. Perhaps men thought it would all go away, like other issues questioning their behaviours have done in the past. But it hasn't. It's exploded in their faces and those time bombs seem set to continue to drop. While this is happening, women in vulnerable positions, are at more risk than ever as their perceived empowerment can tick-off those in control, especially if they see other women being encouraged and assisted by organisations to get out of their situations. That's the downside to seeing so much of it in mainstream media; it can increase the paranoia of the offenders being called out and cornered by society.
When massive social changes like this are happening, carnage, in this case women, is sadly inevitable.
But the hope. Don't forget the hope. There are examples of changes afoot in every corner despite what seems like World War III unfolding.
Encouragingly there are plenty of men out there whose first reaction, when the topic of male violence towards females comes up, isn't to be defensive. They don't respond with #notallmen or 'but I'm one of the good guys'. They get what women are fighting to change - the attitudes men have towards them and the treatment that ensues as a result of this. They also get the role social infrastructure plays in perpetuating and protecting these behaviours. They finally understand how they had a direct hand in making it near impossible for women to do this until now and they genuinely want to be a part of the behavioural and societal changes required for this to happen - even if it means giving up stuff and looking at their own behavioural history.
The ultimate example of this is when a guy can stand up and call out his mates on anything that contributes to the minimisation of women. Rather than joining in with the banter or staying silent during displays that reinforce negative female stereotypes, they cut through the conversation pointing out the problem with it. Maybe they have to leave the pub or lose a few friends over it, but again it's one of the toughest challenges going for guys willing to stand up be part of the change.
Once one guy does it, more will feel okay about backing them up next time. It's a step forward through the toxic landscape of blokey peer pressure that ensures nothing will change. Good on those early ground breakers. Half the world's population and your fellow progressive mates appreciate your efforts.
Then there are the kids. Go the kids. This will be the generation that will benefit from the changes that are starting to happen now.
While most of us won't be around to see it become mainstream, the future is happening now in homes and classrooms around the world.
One shining example of this was a video doing the rounds on social media recently.
A class of kindergarten-aged children somewhere in the UK arrive at their classroom and one student is designated as official greeter. On the two occasions I've seen this practised, boys were on greeting duty. Fellow students would then enter the classroom door and point to a sign that had four greeting options on it: handshake, high five, knuckle touch, or hug.
Whatever option the kids pointed to, the greeter performed with them.
A lot of the girls opted for robust handshakes, or fun high fives and knuckle touches over hugs with the young boy greeting them, but a lot of the boys entering the classroom opted for the hug.
Watching the choices made by the children was a beautiful thing, friendly interactions you hope to hell are encouraged by all the adults in their lives as they grow up into teenagers and young adults.
It may seem like a simple exercise in instilling friendly and polite social behaviour but the effect it can have on shaping attitudes between boys and girls can be world-changing.
- Women's Domestic Violence line (24hrs) 1800 65 64 63. Mensline 1300 78 99 78