Happy international women’s day!
Except we don’t have a lot to be happy about.
Especially if you’re an Australian woman.
Why? Let me count the ways.
- Intimate partner violence kills one woman every week in Australia. “Why not just leave him?” say people who have no idea what domestic violence is like or how your chances of being killed increase when you try to leave your abuser. Intimate partner violence reflects a perception of women as possessions.
2. Reports of rape and sexual harassment of female staff at Parliament House. The prime minster didn’t seem too keen to look into it until his wife suggested he should. How would you feel if it was one of our girls? Because yes, women only have value as daughters or wives. Why not feel outrage at this “As Prime Minister” or “As a human being” or “As leader of my political party” instead of “As a father of daughters.” I’m really sick of that line.
3. The attorney general was accused of rape. This is the man who is in charge of the law in Australia. The woman who accused him has since killed herself so there cannot be a criminal case, but the government seems to be dragging its feet over setting up an inquiry.
4. There was a nice bit of victim blaming by the head of the defence force, telling cadets not to drink too much or be “attractive” it seems. Because being drunk in charge of an attractive body causes rape? No it does not.
5. A girl who was groomed and sexually abused by her teacher had to fight to be able to tell her side of the story due to what is effectively a gag law. Under Tasmanian law no sexual assault survivor can speak to media using their real name unless a court makes a special exemption order. Grace Tame has now spoken out on this issue many times (the bravery of this is incredible) and was awarded Australian of the Year.
6. Female politicians are subject to abuse within the House from other politicians, plus online abuse and rape threats. And don’t give me that bullshit about “If you can’t take the abuse, don’t take the job.” Excuse me? What part of being a politician means you have to be open to harassment, abuse and rape threats? Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard (she was Prime Minster at the time) gave a famous 15 minute speech outlining the misogyny she experienced. And yet people say, “We need more women in politics to improve it.” Really? Well you’re not going the right way about encouraging them to join.
Should we make international women’s day be about men? When are men going to step up and say, “Yes, sexism is a problem and I want to help fix it.” People used to ask me why it was I left Australia. I would reply, only a little bit jokingly, “Australian men and Australian politics.”
What needs to change in Australian politics so women are treated with respect? What needs to change in Australian society so crimes against women are treated seriously?
I don’t have the answers.
But hey, it’s international women’s day so let’s all have a cupcake (that we baked ourselves) and feel better.