You’re being “hysterical”, Steve Price admonished his fellow panellist Van Badham, in a fiery exchange on the ABC’s Q&A last night. It’s the line that made jaws drop, prompted the Guardian columnist to blame her ovaries, and is making headlines everywhere today. As it should.
But it’s not the only line we need to discuss. The line that underscores what was most diabolical in Price’s reaction happened earlier.
The final audience question of the night came from a young man Tarang Chawla who explained he is an ambassador against domestic violence: A role borne out of tragedy.
His 23-year-old sister was cleaved to death by her partner last year and he wanted to hear from the panel about their views on Australia’s blokey culture, a culture in which it’s still permissible for men to joke about killing women.
He specifically referred to Eddie McGuire’s ‘joke’ on Triple M last month about drowning sports journalist Caroline Wilson and Sam Newman’s subsequent defence of the remarks.
Watch Steve Price’s controversial comments from last night’s show.
Host Tony Jones went to Price first. “I happen to know all the people you mentioned there” he said.
For a solitary moment I thought Price must know this young man’s family. He didn’t.
He knows McGuire, Wilson and Newman and spent several minutes earnestly telling this young man how “too much” was made of the comments which were clearly a joke.
It took Price several more minutes (and three panellists’ responses) to even acknowledge the personal tragedy Chawla revealed. And that is the shameful travesty that needs dissecting.
A considered and heartfelt question was posed: How will politicians and the media play a better role in bringing about long-overdue cultural shifts, so tragedies like what happened to [Chawla’s] family are not normalised?”
Inexplicably, seemingly without even drawing breath, Price made his friends – and himself by proxy – the victims in that equation. Not the 23-year-old who was stabbed to death. Not her family. Not the man standing in front of him.
He made that question about him and his friends.
And as horrendously sexist (and predictable) it was of Price to lash out at Badham and label her "hysterical", that’s not the bit that kept me awake last night.
Long after the show concluded, my mind was fixed on Price’s ability to dismiss the real victims - and replace them with himself.
To Price’s mind the right for men to be men and joke as they choose, ranks above the right for women not to be subject to such jokes. It ranks above the right not to be subject to violence.
Price would not take kindly to that view. He would, no doubt, instruct me not to “verbal” him. He would, no doubt, accuse me of being hysterical. He would probably ask what I have against his friends, as if a personal dislike is the only possible explanation for being affronted by their “humour”.
The point Chawla hoped to have discussed is an important one: When will we recognise the dynamics of a culture that minimises violence against women, actually helps perpetuate it?
Price’s answer suggests a long time yet.
In September last year Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull remarked “disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.”
He is right. Violence against women doesn’t occur in a vacuum: it occurs in a culture that disrespects women. We didn’t have to look far in last night’s Q&A to see incidents of that.
The fact Price defended McGuire for several long minutes before even acknowledging Chawla’s murdered sister Nikkita, is a woeful case in point.
As is the fact that in 2016 in Australia we have popular and powerful broadcasters wedded to the notion that joking about killing women is acceptable material - and bears no relation to the actual incidence of violence against women.
What a joke.