opinion

The horrific details of Aya Maasarwe's murder are not our entertainment.

How much do we deserve to know about the final moments of a woman’s life?

Do we, as Senator Derryn Hinch has argued this week, need to be armed with every dark detail so that we know “just what people are capable of”?

Or do we owe the dead privacy around the horrors that befell them? Offer them dignity to shroud the last things they felt. What they heard. What they saw. The last things.

Another young woman is dead and we all want to talk about it. It’s a service to our fury at the senseless waste, and a part of healing.

LISTEN: How much do we deserve to know about the final moments of a woman’s life? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss….

So when Senator Hinch tweeted out details of Aya Maasarwe’s murder last week – details until then only known to police – he said he was only doing so as a public service to the women of Melbourne. A monster walked among them, and they needed to know what strain of monster this was.

It was not enough, obviously, that Aya’s sister had already told us that someone attacked Aya as she was talking and FaceTiming, one of the most common ‘tricks’ women employ  – along with concealed keys – in a bid to keep us safe. It wasn’t enough that the police, in public statements, had said that Aya’s murderer would have been “covered in blood”.

Aya Masarwe
21-year-old student Aya Maasawre. Image: Facebook.

Women can read those words and we know what we're dealing with. An attacker so brazen - so deranged - he's unperturbed by a witness on his victim's phone. A frenzied, vicious assault. It's the stuff of our nightmares.

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And also the stuff of entertainment.

Increasingly, audiences demand this level of detail to feel engaged. Our obsession with true crime casts us all as amateur detectives - poring through the traumatising minutiae of the grisliest murders to solve a thing. The dead woman is a problem to solve, and we are certain we are smarter and purer of heart than the homicide detectives who may have gone before.

There's the long-held enthusiasm for glossy network television shows that centre on unthinkable things happening to women - SVU, NCIS, CSI - all of them prime-time blockbusters that unquestioningly use rape and murder, assault and kidnapping as plot points.

There are the horror movies of our teen sleepovers. Don't walk alone. Don't answer the door. Don't pick up the phone. Don't fall asleep. All of them, men's imaginings.

And there's the bingeworthy water-cooler fodder of the streaming age. The Fall, Making A Murderer. And YOU. Just because it's on Netflix, doesn't mean it's not stalker porn.

Aya Masarwe Facebook photo
A woman is gone. That is enough. Image: Facebook.

Women carry all of this "entertainment" in our heads, more than Mr Hinch or any other man can ever imagine. It's a long, spooling credit-reel of the Things That Could Happen To Us.

We've been raised on the fear, not only on screen and in our ears but of real-life murder cases like that of Anita Cobby in 1986. Any woman of a certain age can recite the details of the Sydney woman's murder to you in a traumatised whisper. "She got off the train and decided to walk home..."

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Books and movies and documentaries and countless newspapers were sold on those details. Women's bodies, commoditised even in death.

And now there is a new name seared into our psyches that we will conjure every time we walk alone. Aya.

So, we know.

We know this is not entertainment. This is not a buzzy new true crime podcast. This is every woman's reality, and one family's true tragedy.

aiia
This is not entertainment. This is every woman's reality, and one family's true tragedy. Image: Facebook.

It is not for Senator Hinch - or anyone else - to ignore the wishes of a family flattened by grief to deliver the women of Melbourne - of Australia - a gratuitous tweet dressed up as a Public Service Announcement.

A woman is gone. She is gone. The space she held - in her family's life, in her friends', in her teachers', in her community, her home - is now empty. Where there was life and possibility and passion and laughter and pain, there's now nothing.

Women understand what kind of a monster can reach out and snatch that. We know that there are men who live amongst us who could see all that life and choose to crush it. We live with that, every day.

So please, you can spare us the details. And leave Aya with her dignity.

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