Smash Your Own Patriarchy.
There is lots of outrage and discussion happening right now in the wake of the death of Eurydice Dixon. We know a lot about her: she was 22. She was an aspiring comedian. She was kind and loving and had a promising life ahead of her. She was raped and murdered on her way home from a gig. She had called her partner. Had her phone on her. Was 100 metres from her home. Her murder is the ultimate horror show for women that proves that we shouldn’t be out at night, alone, walking – but it could have happened at any hour, the message remains the same. Without in anyway diminishing the tragedy of this brutal act, I wonder if some of the righteous outrage is because Eurydice is relatable in that most media of ways.
We’ve heard a lot about her potential to make it big as a comedian, her talent, her shy kindness. But what about if she had been a sex worker walking home from a job? Or an ethnic cleaner walking home after her shift? Or a middle aged homeless woman living in the park because her superannuation had fallen short? Or if Eurydice had been who she was but an illicit drug user who was high, or drunk, or wearing a short dress? Not one of these things would make Eurydice’ death any less disgusting. But we would have made the usual justifications that she was somehow asking for it, or was simply less reportable.
30 women have been murdered in Australia this year. 1 every 5 days. I don’t know the names of the other 29. I don’t know what they did, or how they died, who they left behind, or the unspeakable grief the people that loved them are feeling right now. I don’t know whether they were raped and murdered by strangers, or by the hand of someone they loved and trusted. Imagine if 30 people were killed in a shooting, or a train crash, we would have new sentencing laws and a royal commission before you could blink.
I saw on Facebook this week a meme along the lines of ‘young men get king hit, an entire city’s nightlife gets shut down, a woman is raped and murdered, women are told to be more careful.’ It was hard to know whether to laugh or be incandescent with rage at the reminder of how little women’s life’s are valued, and the kindly solutions that are offered so we can keep ourselves safe.
Right after the murder of Eurydice I was watching the ABC’s Drum program and their discussion of the situation. One of the panellists, Amanda Rose, Co-Founder of women’s advocacy group Western Sydney Women, made an impassioned plea to stop making men the victim by saying men were responsible, and kept on defending that men are good. She even defended the perpetrator, a 19 year old man, on the grounds he reportedly had learning disabilities including autism. Subtext: he wasn’t a bad man either, he had diminished responsibilities, men aren’t to blame.
We need to get to a place where we don’t, as women, have to preface every statement about the patriarchy with ‘but not all men are bad.’ Clearly, not all men are bad. And not all women are good. And not all anyone is anything all of the time. So to be making caveats about our real time good or badness is a completely moot point. If we were just to work with facts, the proportion of women killed by men, raped by men, physically abused by men, financially abused by men, verbally abused by men is magnitudes higher than the reverse. And has been for decades. We don’t need to mention the minority cases of men being killed by women as these are outliers, but are also symptomatic of the human condition which is that we harm each other, regardless of gender. The problem is one that is caused by men (as evidenced by the statistics) - and the macro body of men, including the nice ones, need to fix this.
So why the decades of inaction, when women have been rallying, writing, screaming out and dying for change? What is not being heard in the calls for safety, equality, appreciation of difference and recognition of worth? It’s not like they haven’t been loud enough. And yet when #metoo broke, it wasn’t because of the tireless work of an African American woman Tarana Burke since 2006. It was because it came from a white female celebrity, then a few celebrities, then a tsunami of celebrities and suddenly ordinary other women could tell their stories – AND BE BELIEVED. Men were mea culping all over themselves in the rush to say they didn’t know or they would have done something. But they did know, we had been telling them for decades. It took the lens of Hollywood turning on itself to ignite a movement that was already moving in an echo chamber.
The inevitable backlash was ‘lets not be too hasty’ ‘these women are making men victims’ ‘they’re making it up for revenge’ etc etc etc, and the pleasant scent of sanitised discrediting began by large and powerful (white) men everywhere. The question I ask is this: what is there to lose by dismantling the patriarchy and creating systems of power that at their heart favour the progress and happiness of all sentient beings? From my rational powerless women’s perspective, sharing the power and the profit has significant benefits that are sustainable and long term – for everyone.
Sure, a little bit of wealth might have to be evened out, but if that means more for everyone, including health, education, environmental sustainability and most critically compassion, what is there to lose? Clearly a lot, as there is no will to change, or else change would happen. And before you say change takes time, I remind you of the aftermath of Port Arthur and the strong swift bipartisan leadership that put gun laws in place.
But I’m asking so much. If we fixed the problem for women, then we would have to acknowledge that refugees weren’t terrorists and didn’t come on boats because they were too greedy to wait their turn, and that fear of rape and torture is a legitimate ground for asylum. We would have to wilfully acknowledge that we stole land, killed people and community and destroyed country of our first people, and that this wound remains so raw, aggravated by continual tokenism, discrimination and repetitive colonisation that it will never heal.
We would have to recognise that our desire for money and power as a global trading partner was destroying the environment and that short term gain will fall short when we have unliveable seas, undrinkable water and inedible foods. But still we watch boats of desperate, soiled animals dying of heat in their own filth as they sail into the sunset and somehow make a case that our live animal trade is more important.
Eurydice Dixon is a victim of decades of complicit violence against women by law, politics, power and language, the outcome of which is seen physical violence. It is the invisible structures that perpetrate the real violence towards women, and it is our desire and grasping for the belief that these structures are real and valuable that is killing us all.
The people without the power can’t smash the patriarchy. We can’t dismantle it one brick at a time, as the bricks we are kicking against have many more piled up to slot into place. Change happens when large, organised, strategic, uncomfortable and courageous decisions are made by those who hold the most power and resources, to give the profit and victory to others, so they can experience the real power of compassion and generosity.