Since joining the Destroy the Joint page on Facebook this year, prompted by reading Clementine Ford’s brilliant but confronting Fight Like a Girl, I have watch with sadness and a feeling of helplessness as the death toll of women killed by violence in Australia rises.
This issue has become higher profile than usual in Australia after the brutal murder of Rosie Batty’s eleven year old son, Luke, by his father, in broad daylight at cricket practice in 2014. Despite the terrible horror of this incident, Rosie has courageously used the spotlight to campaign against domestic violence nationally.
I don’t mean courageous like giving up sugar in your coffee, but courageous in a way that is in every degree equal to climbing Everest or storming the beaches at Normandy.
I have been thinking about this, while sitting in my cocoon of educated, white, privileged maleness. Where do the roots of this behaviour come from? Have we always been this way as a society? Has the enslavement and abuse of women by men been the way of things for the past million years?
It irks me the way that Western Christians look with scorn on the ‘terrible suppression of women’ in Muslim culture. Look back 300 years and you will find child brides, legalised rape, disenfranchisement, underpayment, public torture and execution of women for trivial infringements and other general abuse of women in so-called civilised, Christianised, Europe.
In considering the widespread physical and mental abuse of women by male partners in Australia, and other developed countries, I have to think there is something in the upbringing of both victim and abuser that is at play. In the instant when a man raises his hand to hit a woman because his tea was cold, the dinner wasn’t what he wanted or the children were too loud, there are two psychological structures at play which go beyond the mere physicality and immediacy of the situation.
I will caveat here that I know there are real cases where males are physically abused by women, and that I suspect similar psychological factors are in play.
I am looking forward to seeing the new Wonder Woman movie because it highlights my next point. I disagree strongly with the twentieth century argument that women are physically weaker than men.
You don’t have to go far to find this ridiculous view still held by many men (and women), for example this Polish politician. To quote from an ex Australian Prime Minister in 1979:
I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons. – Tony Abbott (SRC Paper)
Here is my thesis, the physiological argument about women’s weakness is complete rubbish, and that any group of women, if conditioned and trained from birth for physical violence, would be every bit as capable as a similar group of men. In Steve Backshall’s book, Ghosts of the Forest, he includes the idea that US Marines are trained to shoot the female terrorist first because they are far more ruthless when threatened (I’m not sure of the veracity of Steve’s claim, but it seems reasonable).
In the most recent installment of the Wolverine franchise, Logan, the daughter has extra claws based on the premise that women need to be able to defend their pack as well as themselves.
So women have the capacity for power and strength, not just some women, but every woman. Yet they are conditioned from birth in Western society to see themselves as diminished and subservient to a man. Recent evidence of this absurd view at a Christian conference here in Australia.
I have no first had experience of domestic violence, but a part of me suspects that if a woman felt internally empowered to fight back, if they had been instilled with a sense of their worth, independent of their child-bearing ability, and made aware of the willingness of their family and clan to defend and protect them, that our society would not be the way that it is. I am not at all suggesting that women who find themselves with a violent partner just needed to fight back harder, I just wonder whether part of the will to fight back has already been sapped from them through psychological conditioning.
If boys had been punished or re-directed every time they try and force a kiss on a girl in primary school, if they had been shown examples of respect for women, if every television show, movie and advertisement didn’t re-inforce the concept of women as property and playthings, I doubt they would ever consider violence in the home an option.
Maybe every girl should graduate primary school with a good understanding of Krav Maga. I know because I have heard it in so many accounts that the psychological seeds of “you deserve this”, “what did you do to upset him?”, “you would shame the family if you leave” must ring in the mind of every woman confronted with the horror of a violent partner.
At the same time, the “teach her a lesson”, “keep her in her place” phrases are ringing in the ears of the perpetrator. These thoughts don’t come from nowhere, they are planted in our children from an early age, by parents, grandparents, siblings and society.
There is no point trying to tackle this problem in the first weeks of marriage or a relationship. It can only be tackled in the messages and exposure given to our youngest members of society. I wrote this song for Domestic Violence Prevention Month, but I realise that by the time we are trying to help victims escape their situation and put their lives back together, we have already failed as a society.
I cannot offer a better future, I don’t see this issue being brought into the national school curriculum, or all advertising and media that condones minimisation of women being restricted. There is too much to be gained for men by maintaining the structures that keep women down. The irony of this situation is that I don’t think any real satisfaction or fulfilment comes from a relationship where one half is bound to the relationship through psychological chains.
I hope for a world where men and women work together by choice, as equal and powerful masters of their destiny, but we have so far to go.