I never wanted to use the hyphen (-) for a murdered woman again

I attended La Trobe University in Bundoora.

From the years of 2002 to 2005. A couple of my high school friends went there too, however we were all varied in our fields of study.

One such friend and I, though interests apart, chose a general subject to study that saw us come together once a week.

Anthropology. 2 hours a week in the late evening, we would often drive in and then drive back home, taking turns at the driver’s seat, and then once the 2 hours were up, made our long walk over to ‘one’ of the car parks.

There were A LOT of car parks. Back in those years, there were about 8. You had to walk some distance through the buildings and grounds and amidst tall trees and bushes of varying greenery to get there…

But there was nothing to be scared of. I remember even when daylight savings ended, and our walk to the car park was amidst black night, our biggest concern was whether spiders had already set up their webs, and so we walked hands outstretched hoping to God we wouldn’t feel something unsightly crawling on our skins.

The only time I was attacked there, was in broad daylight. It was while walking to a tutorial when something whizzed past my head so quickly and so close, that it stirred the hair on my head. Damn bird.

They were the lethal ones.

Not people. Never ever did I feel unsafe from people.

Days after the fatal assault on Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe, who was involved with the university on an exchange programme and never made it back to her apartment on Tuesday night, and Melbourne and the rest of the country is still left reeling.

Not necessarily because this has never been done before. More, because it continues to.

The feeling of déjà vu is chilling. Only 7 months earlier, a vigil was planned for Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered in Carlton North. Thousands turned up to the silent protest to stand for a woman who was taken unfairly, and also, again so close to home. But that wasn’t the beginning either.

2012 saw the nation horrified at the sudden disappearance of Brunswick woman Jill Meagher. Even before the #metoo movement sparked a chord, 10,000 people marched Sydney Road in protest that once again, a woman could not walk home 5 minutes without being assaulted, raped and killed.

And not even that is the beginning.

Because the problem isn’t with all men. No, far from it. It is the underlying culture that men grow up in, the “boys will be boys,” under-handed sexism, and superior gender that prevails and dominates our everyday life, that is the REAL problem.

It is also the underlying culture that women have to put up with. The cat calls, leers and unwanted attention. The keeping keys on you at all times. Looking over your shoulder. Going out in pairs.

Calling someone as you walk alone.

This is the very act that Aiia did as she walked home for the last time earlier this week. So fearful was she over the 5 minute walk from her regular number 86 tram stop to her apartment, that she would call her sister. To imagine the fear that she held, subdued from her physical space, existing only in her mind, to turn into a full-blown living horror as her sister heard the phone fall, some voices, and then nothing… I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to. But I remember walking those grounds. I remember the Uni, and how dark everything was at night. I shudder.

As females we message our friends, partners, and family when we get home. Aiia didn’t get to message anyone that night. Her body was found strewn and badly battered, to the point where police are still keeping a tight lid on the horrific details of that night.

“But she shouldn’t have been alone at night,’ my Dad said yesterday as we were talking about it.

And therein lies the problem.

Not with my Dad. The problem isn’t with all of the men in my life, or your life, or even most of the men around us. Because most of the men don’t go around sexually assaulting and then killing people.

But some men DO go around imposing unwanted advances on girls that are alone.

And some men DO go around letting off jeers and whistles and making filthy remarks when a woman walks by.

And sometimes, its these actions that escalate to stuff of full-blown nightmares.

Sadly, females are contributing to this. I say this with hesitation, because as soon as I told my Dad it was not right that Aiia (and every other woman) wasn’t allowed to walk home safely at night, I added

“But, I would never walk alone, and I would never let baby girl do it either.”

We as women, are adding to the dialogue, by saying it is not safe.

The culture remains, and that is the problem.

We aren’t teaching our boys to not rape.

But we are teaching our girls to not walk at night.

Jill Meagher

Eurydice Dixon

Aiia Maasarwe

PLUS so many more before them. Plus those that are not murdered, but are left with permanent life-time bruises and scars that will horrify their minds for as long as they are alive.

How many more names have to be added to this list before a conscious effort is made to change the way men and women are taught, raised, expected to perform, and excused? How many more hyphens have to appear until repeated sexual offenders, are not put back on the streets to walk amongst everyday people, and given umpteen chances to strike again? (as was the case in the man who murdered Jill Meagher).

You will notice I have not named perpetrators. They are not people. They are inhumane monsters who deserve no name, no voice, no life. Theirs should be taken away, just like those they consciously and with evil effort decided to take.

All that is left now is the memories of those girls, all the could-have beens, should-have beens, and the questions over whether any of this, is leading to change, a conscious effort, anything good, at all.

 

R.I.P Aiia Maasarwe. Unknown-2019.

zoran-kokanovic-530941-unsplash

Photo by Zoran Kokanovic at Unsplash

 

Girls… we have a LONG way to go yet

(I’d like to forewarn, of my use of the word ‘men.’ I use it in a general all-encompassing sense in this post, however I don’t really mean ALL men, rather to the scum presented below, and those who hold women back from where they need to be in 2017).

Frankly, I’m a little appalled at myself.

This time last year, I wrote a gratitude piece on International Women’s Day. I wrote things like

 

“As women, we need to know our worth and value it, and not continually lay blame on the man, or complain that we are not given fair treatment because of him.

“It’s due to this that we should place further awareness of this important day, in order for those other parts of the world, those ‘cavemen,’ and likewise any unintentionally or not, abiding cavewomen, to catch up, and smell the coffee roasting from the beans that we bought ourselves.”

To read it in its full context you should probably click here. But basically I was saying that  women are sometimes equally to blame as men are for their unfair treatment, because of the way they expect to be treated – they don’t realise their worth, therefore, men will NOT realise their worth.

Excuse me as I bitch-slap myself.

Lucky for me, I am a keen and curious soul, and I LOVE to listen to other people’s points of view. And call it fate, call it opportunity, call it divine intervention trying to tell me something, grabbing hold of me by the wrists and shaking me and yelling “Listen! You have to take this in!”… but lately, I’ve been getting really mad, as I get exposed to a whole bevy of stories and circumstances where women are treated awfully unequally.

Like slaves.

Like nothing.

Like a pile of shit.

So I’m sorry to say, but on this International Women’s Day, we still have an awful long way to go.

Women are still being treated like sex slaves. Domestic violence leads to death for one woman a week. One woman a week. Women are raped, ALL around the world – Eastern and Western cultures do not discriminate. Sexual assault is one of the most undetected crimes, with many women fearing coming forward due to the traumatic process of needing evidence, and having to be strewn through the courts with examination after examination. Offenders get a slap on the wrist, before moving on with their lives, with the victims left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives, and try to make some sense of it all – only there is NO sense in it all. Side effects of the ordeal are long-term, psychological, physical and affect the entire support network IF there is one, not just the sole victim.

Women are still being paid much less than the opposite sex. Women are underpaid compared to their counterparts, and even though they are often given the advice to be ‘more confident,’ ‘more assertive,’ (like men), it is a double-edged sword, as displaying these career-driven characteristics place them in the unwomanly field – they are not acting in accordance with their sex, and that is a deviation.

What I have come to detest particularly is the victim-blaming: always on behalf of the woman.

The woman sends a naked pic of herself to her boyfriend, and it is HER fault when he later posts it when they break-up.

The woman gets side-lined for a promotion, and it is HER fault, because she was too assertive – too much of a bitch.

The woman gets raped, but it is HER fault, because she was wearing a mini skirt.

The woman gets assaulted, but it’s HER fault yet again, because she was drunk, and really she was asking for it.

Why are the women, ALWAYS to blame? Why is it their fault that men can’t act accordingly? Why is it their responsibility to ensure they will be respected and treated equal, like men are: that is, not discriminated against or assaulted in any way.

How about the MAN is held accountable? I mean, he DID upload that naked pic of her online.

He didn’t promote his female employee, because he was threatened by her assertiveness and drive.

He raped her, because her mini skirt ‘provoked’ him.

He assaulted her, because she didn’t know better, and wouldn’t remember it in the morning anyway.

HOW ARE THESE THINGS OKAY?

In September 2016, Stanford Uni student Brock Turner, walked out of jail after only serving 3 months of jail, where he could have received a maximum of 14 years. It was a severe breach of court justice, and the male judge is now removed from residing over any criminal cases. Brock was found guilty in March on counts of intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, and penetration of an intoxicated and unconscious person.

His father showed the world why his son turned out to be such a weak imbecile and cowardly piece of filth, when he infamously asked for a lenient sentence for his son in a letter, saying a lengthy sentence was a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.

20 minutes of action.

20 minutes of action.

Really. 20 minutes of action. Your son assaulted a woman who was both intoxicated and unconscious. It was sexual assault. Choosing ‘lighter’ words make you sound like the type of scum that needs to be removed from this earth, rather than make anyone submit to your case.

If you want to get really angry, you can read the victim’s full statement that went viral last year, here.

Closer to home, and recently I read the explicitly disturbing story of Tara Brown, who was savagely beaten to death by her ex-partner in 2015. Lionel Patea had dropped off their daughter at school, before chasing her down in his car, running her off the road, and then picking up a hydrant and bashing her repeatedly while she was trapped in the car.

She died due to the extreme injuries she had sustained later in hospital.

And you know what he wrote in a letter to her family? He questioned how a tragedy such as this could have happened.

He had beaten her to death, and yet, he did not understand how he did it. As if it wasn’t his fault. Excusing himself from blame.

These examples are primary ones in the issue of women’s equality, however they are only the beginning of the tip of the cold and stark iceberg that is buried deep beyond sight. The discrimination, the fear, the uncertainty that you are born with when you are born a woman… sure, we can vote. Sure, we can work. Sure, we are treated equally in some workplaces, to some degree.

But we are living in 2017 people. Repeat. 2017.

Sexual assault.

Sexist culture.

Unfair pay.

Discrimination.

Bias.

This is happening to a woman, RIGHT NOW.

It doesn’t feel very forward-thinking and living to me.

Sure, I appreciate the women in my life on this day of ‘Women.’ And sure, I am grateful for their positive role in my life, and how they still to this day continue to shape me with their strength, their courage, their fragility, and their never-say-die attitude.

But I don’t have my head in the sand anymore. I am looking at the bigger picture, rather than just my small circle. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know how one person can even make a difference.

But together, as women and men respectfully unite, WE CAN.

Education must start in the home. Children must be taught to treat all as equals. Schools must follow suit, and then there must be legislation against the deviants who think themselves above the law and system, and take it upon themselves to ‘show a woman whose boss.’

WE need to show the deviants whose boss.

They are simple sentences, but they are big, HUGE, ideas. They require a lot of reform.

So on this day, the 8th of March, I celebrate one thing in particular:

The women who make things happen, and make positive changes for the better of all future women EVERYWHERE.

Because it is that woman that I also, want to be.

 

 

 

 

What it feels like for a girl

“Do you know what it feels like for a girl?

Do you know what it feels like in this world

For a girl?”

‘I’d love to wear this – but too revealing.

Better pick this covered option. I don’t want the stares. People would talk.’

 

“Girls can wear jeans

And cut their hair short

Wear shirts and boots”

‘I can hear someone approaching behind me… wait, do I turn just yet?

It’s ok, they’ve passed me. Another worker. Breathe.’

 

“’Cause it’s OK to be a boy

But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading

‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading”

‘Do I take this alleyway? Too dark.

Next one, just in case.’

 

“Silky smooth

Lips as sweet as candy, baby

Tight blue jeans

Skin that shows in patches”

‘Don’t meet his eyes, don’t meet his eyes, don’t meet his eyes

I wouldn’t want to give him the wrong impression

(That’s what women are taught)’

 

“Strong inside but you don’t know it

Good little girls they never show it”

‘Oh crap, two guys are approaching. Scan the area: do they seem legit?

Workwear: check.

Walking with purpose: check

They’ve passed me now… phew. Walk faster.’

 

“When you open up your mouth to speak

Could you be a little weak”

 

‘Just because I’m a girl he thinks he can get away with his insurance claim?

Because girls are incompetent drivers I guess. (I’ll show him).

 

“Hair that twirls on finger tips so gently, baby

Hands that rest on jutting hips repenting”

 

‘I hope they take heed of my points in the meeting…

If they don’t, these loose buttons will grab their attention. Better than nothing.’

 

“Hurt that’s not supposed to show

And tears that fall when no one knows

When you’re trying hard to be your best

Could you be a little less”

‘I wish they didn’t look at me like that. Don’t objectify me.

I’m a wife, a mother, and a daughter. What if someone stared at your sister the way you stared at me?

How kindly would you take to a wolf whistle then?’

 

“Do you know what it feels like for a girl

What it feels like in this world…

Do you know

Do you know”

???