You’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
And there’s a dangerous man. And he’s swearing and yelling, infecting everyone’s experience, polluting the atmosphere with an edge of anxiety and uncertainty. Inserting a sharp sliver of danger into what’s supposed to be a shared experience to enjoy.
We’ve all been there, sitting in that paralysing place between knowing you should speak up, but being terrified of what will happen if you do.
You tell yourself that someone has to show these bullies that they don’t run the world. Someone has to let them know that they don’t get to ruin everyone’s day, everyone’s night, that they don’t have a right to make you feel unsafe, to frighten your children, to unseat you, in a public space where you have every right to be.
But probably, you keep your mouth shut. Because you’re afraid. You change seats, you shift positions. Often, you leave. You let the Dickhead win.
We’ve all been there.
But on Friday night, a 38-year-old Perth woman didn’t keep her mouth shut. She spoke up.
At the massive AFL Finals game between the Fremantle Dockers and Hawthorne, Jody* was sitting with her two children, a boy who is 13 and a girl who is eight, when a Dickhead came towards them.
He – a Dockers fan like Jody – had been drunk and abusive throughout the game, and security had already been told about his behaviour. But still, halfway through the fourth quarter, the Dickhead remained, yelling and weaving and spreading a thick sense of unease among the crowd.
Jody had had enough. As the man came towards her and her children, she spoke out.
“Listen,” said Jody. “You need to calm down, you are ruining the game for the children.”
He yelled back at her, telling her he didn’t care what she wanted him to do.
“I said ‘Mate, you just need to settle down and just go and sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, you are scaring my children’,” Jody told Triple M radio. “And that was when he said ‘I don’t give a F about your children, I will smash them too’.”
And then he punched Jody in the throat. In the middle of a football crowd of thousands, in front of families and security guards and countless strong men, this man considered it entirely acceptable to pull back and punch a woman who dared to reprimand him for his behaviour. A woman who had the nerve to tell him to sit down and shut up.
Jody went down, crashing into the seats behind her, and what happened next is in equal parts heartening and depressing – the crowd around Jody erupted. And all the children were taught a strong visual lesson that the way you deal with a violent Dickhead is to beat him up.
Of course, there’s a video. Of course there is. It’s here:
When it was posted, there were a lot of hits. Because it is truly shocking, watching a grown man punching a woman directly in the head, in public. Surrounded by witnesses.
We know that Dickheads usually do their woman-punching behind closed doors.
We know that. Because with domestic violence rates as they are, it is impossible not to.
We know that no matter what is said by some commentators that a part of our country’s attitude to women is deeply, deeply broken. That there are still too many people who are trying to normalise a violent response to a “troublesome” woman.
People like the Northern Territory’s Attorney-General John Elferin who was perfectly comfortable saying he would like to give his female colleague “a slap right now”.
And people like the football defendant’s partner, who has said that Jody should never have confronted him that night at the football. That she was asking for trouble by daring to ask an unpredictable man to sit down and stop frightening children at a football game.
“As he went to leave… the lady decides to get up and get in his face instead of sitting down like everyone else and letting him go,” she told the media.
For her part, Jody is okay, physically. She says she is a bit battered and bruised, but fine. But she says her children were terrified, and that she will never take them to a football game again. Another win for the Dickheads.
We are constantly being told by the AFL and NRL, that these are family sports. We are constantly being told that the uber-blokey, alcohol-fuelled image of Australian sport is outdated and false.
We are constantly being told that Not All Men are violent. And of course, of course they are not.
But taking your children to a football final should not be a dangerous proposition in 2015.
A woman in a crowd should not feel so unsafe that it is considered a huge risk for her to ask an obnoxious person to be quiet and sit down.
A man so drunk that he has been hurling abuse at players and fans for most of a huge, commercial football game should have been removed long before he snaps.
And for us, watching a man punching a woman, seemingly without hesitation or remorse, shouldn’t feel like a dark reminder of all the work that needs to be done.
That behind the funding announcements and body-counting headlines, millions of individual attitudes need to shift. Millions of tiny crises need to be averted. Millions of fires extinguished.
It felt, when we watched that man pull back his arm on Friday night, like the whole nation needs to be holding his fist back. Not only jumping up and down on him once the blow has landed.
Do you feel unsafe at large public events?
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* Jody spoke to Triple M radio on Saturday. At the time of posting, her surname is unknown.