International Women’s Day

The older I get, the more I realise that the Holy Trinity of race, class and gender are the immutable schisms that structure every bloody debate.

Grace Tame amongst others, features in a video about increasing safety, respect and equity of women in Australia. For the middle class Twitteratti, there’s only one way this can go – a criticism about the lack of diversity or intersectionalism in the video, “advanced Karen-ing”.

I’m not interested in that. I’m an old school feminist and I’m wary about the censoriousness of contemporary purity politics. We can have multiple demands for justice and they can all be valid.

I like Grace Tame, and Lucy Turnbull, for that matter. I think it was high time someone gave the PM stink-eye.

Listening to the local ABC this morning we were informed that the focus of this IWD was ‘bias’ and a female scientist was interviewed for her thoughts. Rather awkwardly for the interviewer’s proscribed text) she confirmed what a lot of we already know – for many women working in professional, technical fields, there’s not much implicit bias. That which does exist lies around the structural factors – child rearing and ‘career’.

Of course, there’s a reason this is the focus of IWD – modern, western feminism’s obsession with the idea that women’s equality is primarily oriented around equality in the workplace. Our identities are our work and vice versa. Thank God for IWD highlighting that my 200k annual income might be slightly less than that of my be-penised colleague.

Yes, that stuff is important. As I said before, I’m not interested in engaging in whataboutism – this campaign is a good one, but to me, there is a far more important issue.

Two year’s ago Hannah Clarke’s partner murdered her and her three children. He burned them to death after hunting her like a tracked animal.

These are the things that don’t seem to be changing. When I was a teenager, in the 90s, there was the kind of sexism that enabled teachers to have sex with their young female students. Grace Tame’s story and her teacher’s frank belief that he’d done nothing wrong, tells me that this has not changed. I knew women who were raped, bashed, hit with cars, women who were literally starving so they could get away from their partners. When I was at high school there were several girls who were 14 (I left school at 14 so can’t talk about older age groups) who were in sexual relationships with teachers, who were in their 20s and 30s. Some got pregnant – I remember one who moved in with the teacher, and some of the older women I knew being very approving that he’d decided to take care of her. This was in the early 1990s.

This does not seem to have changed.

What has changed is that I don’t know them anymore.

When I went to university, I felt I’d moved into a completely different world. My female friends were bright, motivated and fascinated by their fields of study. They did well, as did the males. It was gendered, for sure, engineering for instance was almost entirely male. But many of the other sciences were not, and many of my female friends went on to have very fulfilling careers in many varied fields.

Domestic violence is not solely a ‘class thing’, I guess I want to say that, but it is generously enabled and amplified by it. Social mobility is exactly what it says on the box – mobile. Yes, it is the practical ability to leave a poisonous situation but it’s also the ability to think of oneself in different terms.

Women accept the treatment they believe they deserve.

Ms Higgins features in the IWD video. I’ve known a few women who’ve woken up from black-out drunk sex. What makes Ms Higgins feel indignant about the experience when others don’t? What makes Ms Higgins speak out about it when others haven’t?

Social class is a distal cause. And yes, I realise the main cause is obviously that a male had sex with her when she was too drunk to consent. And so with that in mind, I think I’d like to move away from ruminating on the cultural causes and simply rely on reality – we know this shit when we see it. We should act on it.

Instead of endlessly wringing our hands about respect or the root causes or whatever, let’s just apply the laws that we have. Let’s take it seriously. When someone like Hannah Clarke gives an account of the controlling behaviour of her husband and then leaves him, let’s see that for what it is – one of the most dangerous periods in a woman’s life.

When a teacher starts fucking a 14 year old student, let’s see that for what it is. Let’s actually use the laws that exist.

We know all this shit – endlessly pontificating about the root causes of violence against women is a parlour game. You can see this in the language – see all those documents that talk about ‘gendered violence’, instead of violence against women.

Watch the IWD video if you like. It’s slickly produced and beautifully represents the moneyed classes beautifully. Or, watch this video, in between the Facebook ads for diet products and cute dogs. It’s from 2018, of a woman giving a speech about her dear friend and colleague who was murdered by her partner. Watch all of it. It’s about a million times more compelling than Lucy Turnbull telling you off.

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