Dazed and Confused

What a forking shitshow the last few weeks/months/years/decades/forever has been. But let’s just narrow it down to the last couple of months with the Parliament House rape / Chrsitian Porter rape shitshow because I don’t have enough words in me to cover the whole lot.

Or should I say I’m going to cover the whole lot in sweeping terms? On Monday I made the decision to go to the March4Justice protests in Sydney (which was hard because I’m really loving my course). Some things are more important than cooking retro food…. who knew?!

I think the (not so) recent sexual assaults in Canberra have been extensively covered and the marches have also had extensive coverage (though my boss, when I was telling him I had gone to the march on Monday, asked “what march?”…. um…sigh…). What has really stopped me in my tracks and got me angry/ier is all the stories. It is not a joke or an understatement to say ALL WOMEN HAVE A STORY. I have shed many tears these past few weeks as I’ve read very personal, long buried stories of what has happened to women… women empowered, angered, agitated, motivated by recent events.

I don’t think a single woman has not had a pounding heart walking through a dark street or a silent car park on her own, not had a sleazy comment or 20 directed at her by a random stranger, a boss or a “loved one” apropos of nothing, not had to smile through gritted teeth at a colleagues propositions while she contemplated resigning. I’m not even talking about the actual violence many women live with in their daily domestic life; I’m not talking about the actual rapes, whether in a dark alley by a stranger or in their own teenage bedroom by an uncle or a “boyfriend”. So many forking stories. So many shameful secrets (though the shame is never theirs to carry).

When I stood waiting for the bus to take me to the march on Monday morning I noticed a woman probably ten years older than me waiting at the bus stop with me. She held a piece of brown cardboard under her arm and had a determined look on her face. We started chatting about the absent bus, moved onto the fact that we were both heading to the march and then she was telling me about her violent marriage at the age of 19, over 40 years earlier…and the anger unleashed by recent events.

She is the woman in front of you at the supermarket, the grandma waiting outside the school… just an ordinary woman… and she has a story of violence and fear. A story she’s carried for a very long time, told almost no-one, but it has burned inside her and she had to travel from the far North Coast of NSW to stand should to shoulder with her sisters to let the world know that enough was enough.

We had a lovely trip into the city together, chatting and getting to know each other a little. It was such a privilidge to meet by chance and have this time together.

But before, during and after the march all I could think about was why and can this really stop? Why has it always been women and continues to be women who must alter their behaviour to “stop” rape and violence? Why is it always the short skirt, the cleavage, the “too much to drink”, the walking alone, the being in the wrong place/wrong time… always the woman to blame. I grind my teeth as I reel off the list. It’s never about skirts or drinks… it’s about men making a choice, a choice based on power, strength and opportunity, to assault a woman, generally a vulnerable woman. It’s stupidly simple.

In the infamous words of Ozark’s Ruth – I don’t know shit about fuck – but I know nothing will change much while we’re talking about how women could have/should have prevented their own rape and assault. Maybe something will change when we start talking about women’s fear of men, men’s fear of other men, about why men won’t challenge other men who are violent towards women. I am fascinated/horrified by the idea that men fear other men and this is a lot of why they haven’t historically stood up on this “women’s issue”; why they haven’t shot down the wiseass at the pub or the party; why they have turned their back rather than participate in the discussion. Only when it’s something that could or has happened to THEIR daughter does it become meaningful to them. Are women still just a man’s property?

There is talk about Consent Apps (FFS! Seriously!), about harsher sentences, about tone deaf Prime Ministers… but in the end men are violent with women because they can be, because they are mostly stronger and because they still have the power in terms of brute strength and employment and finances and housing.

It occured to me that the entire Kings Cross economy was shutdown, almost overnight, because some young men were tragically killed by other young men in horrific acts of senseless violence. Yet women have historically and currently been violated, humiliated, beaten, tortured, financially controlled, raped, cruelly tormented in ways that are hard to comprehend, the list goes on and on and on…and the public and governmental response has always been piss weak and tokenistic at best. The women’s shelter I volunteer with is a tenuous affair because there is no consistent funding for wages or housing so we struggle on month to month, applying for grants, hosting tiny fundraisers. It simply beggars belief.

The contempt for the issues shown by our *cough* leaders these past few weeks is devastating. We seem to be going nowhere fast and while I joke about why do we need to keep protesting this shit, the answer is simple. Because nothing ever fucking changes. The bullies and the boys at the top of the food chain continue to win, continue to use their physical, financial and social power to get what they want at any cost.

Before you say #notallmen (yes of course not all men) please go look up that there is, in fact, an International Men’s Day and deal with the reality, the ongoing, never ending reality, that most of the women you know, work with, stand in line at the bus stop with have either been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted or threatened or are even simply scared to walk to their car at night. It’s 2021 and yes we still have to protest this shit.

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