Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Walking past the White Ribbon Day battles

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The internet feminists are scary, the commenters are angry, the men are wrong and the women aren’t listening. It’s another Day on the internet.

Another White Ribbon Day / International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women/ something something male violence female victimisation day, and another dozen articles about how violence against women is abhorrent.

And under article after article after article is a comment from a man about how we should shut up about violence against women because men are victims of violence too and why don’t they get their own special day?

And the oh so predictable fights on social media as the guy with a White Ribbon avatar starts telling women how to do Being A Woman properly and follows up with but-you’re-a-feminist-you-have-an-obligation-to-teach-me-even-though-you’re-wrong-about-everything.

And the men wanting to be allies who fall over in spectacular attempted irony fails, and then spend the rest of the day lashing out because they’re hurt and angry that they’re suddenly thrown into the problem pile when they thought they were part of the solution.

And the other men, the ones who manage to get through the day without a fight, did so being terribly worried about putting a foot wrong and not always sure where the right foot goes. Sometimes too scared to say anything at all because they’re not sure if they have the right to speak on an issue that is predominantly caused by their own gender.

And the very few men, like Ken Lay and David Morrison, who knock it out of the park are quoted over and over again, because they’re so rare that we can’t help but idolise the few with the courage to do empathy without fear.

And across all of it are the internet feminists. In the ongoing public debate about violence against women the feminists, apparently, are the scary ones.

Then you watch them, the internet feminists, as they gather at the end of the day and slump together exhausted and tearful, because what do you become if you refuse to walk past the standard you won’t accept?

Every feminist on the internet, particularly if they’ve written on the subject of violence against women, is a focus and outlet for anyone who needs their anger and their injuries recognised. It comes from all sides - the women enraged because someone has written about the rape or violence and triggered something that needs an outlet; the men who are carrying their own wounds and feel that their pain is rejected by women talking about the pain felt by others; the people who have escaped injury and, in their blissful ignorance, dismiss the need to recognise and defend those who were not so lucky; the survivors who reach out to someone they think might help, understand, comfort or heal. It comes from all sides and all of it demands a response because what do you become if you do walk past the standard you won’t accept?

All the victims of violence carry injuries - the children who grew up watching it, the men scared of violent friends and colleagues, the women terrorised by husbands and lovers, the activists who learn and work with the victims, the people who love the survivors, they’re all hurting. The injuries from violence are not just physical. No man who beats his wife is a loving supportive husband when he’s not blackening her eye. No bully who beats his apprentice is a kind encouraging boss during working hours. No father who abuses his children is a caring nurturing parent in every other aspect of their lives. The nature of violence is that it requires not just physical pain but also fear, humiliation and helplessness in its victims.

The problem with talking about violence is that pain, fear, humiliation and helplessness takes years to heal, if it ever does, and therefore the debate is never objective.

So, on White Ribbon Day and International Women’s’ Day and all the other Days set aside to talk about male violence and female victimisation, the victims, survivors, allies and defenders saddle up their internet connection to fight about who the real victims are, who the real perpetrators are and how we talk about all of them.

We need to have those fights, all the victims of violence need us to drag violence out of the shadows and uncover its shameful secrets. We need it to be a loud and public discussion about the perpetrators of violence, about who they are and why they do what they do – not excuses because there are no excuses, but the reasons for it and how we deal with those.

Without that public debate violence continues to be the standard we accept, but the debate takes a toll on everyone involved and that too needs recognition, understanding and comfort.

violence against women

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics



Jane Gilmore

Jane Gilmore is the editor of The King's Tribune.

Follow Jane on Twitter: @JaneTribune