What the fuck, Australia?
Another day, another woman killed by a man. According to advocacy group Destroy the Joint, as of March 17th, before Masa Vukotic’s death on Tuesday, 22 women had been killed in Australia in the first 11 weeks of 2015. Two every week, and double the average from the past few years. Seriously, what the fuck?
Inevitably, when a woman is killed in our streets, close to home, we talk about women’s safety. Over and over again. Of course safety is important, and must always be a consideration, but where is the discussion about men’s violence and why these deaths are so common? Almost exclusively, when a woman is killed it is by a man. And while killings that are perpetrated by men in our streets in seemingly random attacks grab the attention, overwhelmingly, women are killed by men that they know. They are often a family member or an intimate partner; a man who at some stage has told the woman he has just killed that he loved her.
Why aren’t we talking about this as the national emergency that it most certainly is? Why the hell aren’t we talking about the violence against women epidemic that we currently find ourselves in? Is it because female deaths don’t matter as much as men’s? In 2014, NSW introduced legislation practically overnight following the deaths of two men in Sydney. Sweeping changes were made to liquor laws and sentencing for those found guilty of ‘one punch’ attacks was increased dramatically. Where is the political will, at a national level, to address women’s deaths in the same fashion?
We are in a fortunate position at the moment, particularly in Victoria, where domestic violence is on the public agenda. We have our first minister for the prevention of family violence and there is also a royal commission in to this problem. But still, within all of this, a discussion on men’s violence is largely missing. Today, we’re still talking about why a young woman was walking on her own through a park, or whether it’s safe for a woman to run on her own, or why a woman doesn’t leave a violent relationship. Why aren’t we seriously asking ourselves why men in our community are committing such horrible acts of violence against women?
As a society, we must take responsibility for the culture we have created where to be a man often means to be violent. Where if, as a man, you are disrespected or ignored, you use your masculine power to reassert control and reclaim dominance. Where, if you are viewed to be weak, you are less of a man, and the target of ridicule. We must acknowledge that we all contribute to this in our definitions of manliness and our expectations of men. How many times have you heard someone tell a young boy to ‘man up’, to ‘be a man’, or ‘don’t be a pussy’? Countless times I’m sure. But there is not doubt that every one of these seemingly benign statements contributes to broader culture of violent masculinity.
Every time we hear in the news that a Muslim man has assaulted a woman, or a group of Indian men have raped a girl, we, as the dominant group in Australia point the finger at those cultures as having a problem with women. What’s ignored is that we in Australia also have a culture, and it too is killing women.