We, like many Australian women, spoke of the 22-year-old comedian’s rape and murder with a guttural hopelessness. Another woman. Gone. Again. Storming the park where her life was taken armed with gloves, scarves, candles, and matches felt like the only thing we could physically do; an act of solidarity in the face of inexplicable violence and selfishness.
The armies of people that spilled out of trams and onto the Carlton streets last night looked colourful and defiant. So many young people filled with restlessness and rage, watching their warm breath hit the icy evening air as they marched. So many girlfriends, arm in arm, heading to Princes Park’s soccer pitches together. So many mothers. So many little girls. So many dogs and babies and big blankets wrapped around shoulders.
And so many men.
When my family and I pinged messages back and forth in our group chat over the weekend I had assumed that almost everyone in attendance at the vigil would be women and girls. I imagined there would be an ocean of us, with a peppering of boys and men. After all, we are the ones who instinctively carry our keys between our fingers at night. The ones who jog through dark and quiet car parks. The ones who are dying at men’s fists in our homes and on the streets.
As Jill Meagher’s husband Tom wrote a year-and-a-half on from Jill’s murder, the voices of non-violent men are pivotal in discussions about men’s violence against women.
“I wake up every day and read a quote by Maya Angelou – ‘history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again’,” Tom wrote for White Ribbon in 2014. “We cannot end the pattern of men’s violence against women without consciously breaking our silence.”
The more men who turn up, the better. Women have been shouting and crying and shaking with anger about this for too long.
And there they were last night, almost in equal numbers, their chins glowing from the candles in their hands. In the other, holding onto their partners, their children, bouquets of flowers, or sometimes even dog leashes. Men turned out last night in heartening force to tribute Eurydice; allies to the women in their lives, enemies of anyone who strips our safety from us.
As my own candle’s flame flickered and danced against the wind, I stood next to a man donned in a hood. We were nestled deep within the 10,000 others. He was alone, and kept his head down the whole time. As those 30 silent minutes passed, and we stood side-by-side in the dark, I felt grateful that the man had turned up.
I feel grateful for any man who chooses to stand out in the cold with us, when the more comfortable option is to stay home and pretend nothing is wrong.