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.

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Photo by Zoran Kokanovic at Unsplash

 

#MeToo

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual allegations that have recently come out, a recurring thread has been popping up on social media.

#MeToo

It stands to encourage and empower women, by providing them with a voice to speak up now amidst the majority of women speaking out everywhere. This two-word hashtag is giving woman a platform to say “enough is enough.” A platform that is supposedly safe. A platform where supposedly judgment does not live.

 

I read an online comment the other day, posted by a male, who wrote that 50% of the blame lies with sexual harassment victims – basically if you dress provocatively, you need to be accountable for what will happen to you.

I cannot tell you how much I was infuriated by that bastard. He deserves all the Hate, Karma and horrible consequences of his unsightly accusations, and I hope he gets it three-fold. A woman can wear WHATEVER she chooses. She can do and go and be seen however she likes, because at the end of the day, if she says “no” to sexual advances, her opinions and choices need to be respected.

No buts. No excuses. No ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards.

She has red nailpolish? No means No.

She has blonde hair? No means No.

She has a tight dress? No means No.

She is flirty? No means No.

She fell asleep? No means No.

She is unconscious? No means No.

She said Yes before, but now she’s changed her mind? No means No.

Having the immature excuse of “she is teasing him in that dress,” is the most incomprehensibly weak excuse. It paints men as an immature, childish race, a race that cannot be held accountable for their actions since they apparently ‘can’t help themselves.’

(The female race has been dealt with the word ‘No’ for centuries now for not being as ‘strong’ as their male counterparts, and we’re still somehow surviving).

It paints men out to be like children. We say “they are learning” when our children draw on the walls, accidentally spill drink on the floor, and drop that ornament that has been in the family for years. They are learning, because they don’t know better. They are making accidents as they grow, and as they make their way through life. They are learning action leads to consequences, and so on.

A man forcing himself onto a woman, is not a lesson to be learnt. A man forcing himself onto a woman is NOT an accident.

NO means NO.

It is sad that despite years and years of sexual harassment, only now are women in the entertainment industry coming out and sharing their story. It is sad that there are other women in this field, saying it happens EVERYWHERE.

It is sad that women are expected to endure sexual harassment, and have to turn a blind eye, because ‘guys are just being guys.’

Like, No, these aggressors are not just ‘being guys,’ they are being DICKHEADS.

In the past week or so, as I started to see people I know posting the above hashtag on social media, some even commenting on scenarios they have been in, I started to think of myself and my life, and any incident of a sexual harassment nature that had made me upset, or scared to speak up.

I had to think for a while. Not because some incident happened years ago and it was something I had pushed to the back of my mind. No, I had to think, because I didn’t know where to start.

It’s a continual never-ending blur, the stuff we women must put up with. Incidences that occur in our day-to day-lives, the way we feel when we step out of the house alone, the thoughts that run through our minds, the scenarios of possible threatening situations, and the way we as women have been programmed to think, to be wary of all men, has now become an everyday normal thought process, something we don’t think twice about, and yet something that has merged all our unfortunate nightmares into one to make the opposite sex a feared one.

I have memories of dancing with my friends out at the nightclubs, and having guys tap you on the shoulder, push into your dancing space, or try to grab you not-so-conspicuously on the dancefloor. And when you tell them “stop” or show no interest, or turn away… they would get upset. A guy who I have never met before in my life, got upset I didn’t let him touch me, and he didn’t even know my name.

And knowing my name does not give him a reason to do it either.

Rule 1: why do you think girls go to the toilet together? Safety in numbers.

Sorry dude. Apparently me dancing with my girlfriends means I OWE YOU MY BODY.

There are the stares. The leers and the whistles. The way you walk past a group of guys, and their quiet lingering is unsettling as you pass them by. The deafening silence as they stare you down, their heads following as you disappear behind them, screams in your ears.

It is the day-to-day uncomfortableness. It is there ALL the time.

2. Don’t look a male stranger in the eye. It ‘encourages’ them. 

Do you know what I read today? An Egyptian lawyer has come out to say that women who wear ripped jeans deserve to be raped. In fact, it is a man’s cultural obligation to do so to women, because they are teaching them ‘self-respect.’

This is what is being said in this day, in this age. A man is publicly speaking and encouraging other men to do their duty and ‘take care’ of the women, who by wearing slits in their jeans as a fashion statement, are apparently not looking after themselves.

Rule 3: Do not live life freely. Do not for one second think you can live like a man and not get in trouble for it. Your sex will catch up to you.

I was followed once. I was followed after departing from a train station on a Friday night. The guy was breathing down my back, following me back to the car park until he realised Hubbie was waiting for me there – he then abruptly veered off and stood amongst some trees before back-tracking and making his way to the train station, undoubtedly to look for his next victim.

I can’t imagine what would have eventuated if I had not had someone there waiting for me. I shudder to think of all those girls who make their way home from work, from school, from being out with their friends, and DON’T have the luxury of someone waiting for them on the other side.

This makes me so sick.

There are not only 3 rules. The ongoing rules of life as a woman, are to avoid all kinds of male interaction EVER, in all of your day-to day activities, and ensure you avoid at all costs any alone time with a stranger man. With a man. Because you NEVER KNOW.

It’s the disparaging remarks in the workplace. Men can get away with making fun of the female form, vagina jokes and lesser-sex putdowns, but can you imagine if a woman poked fun at a man’s temperamental dick? At his sensitive testicles? About how at the beach, all of his manhood is on show?

Do you think us as women, would get the sack? Of course we would. And yet men are getting away with sexual discrimination of all kinds, of favouring one sex for promotions and jobs and opportunity, and let’s not forget the never-ending equal-pay dispute, the constant reminder that a woman still IS lesser than a man while at work, doing the exact same job.

It’s telling your Hubbie not to get odd-job house quotes when he is at work. It’s the unease about being in a house alone with a man you have never met before and having that nagging thought in the back of your head “what if?”

It is choosing to wear ‘safe’ clothing, because you will not be noticed.

It is bowing your head down low as you walk so as to not meet any lingering eyes.

It’s the world-wide excuse of acceptance, normalising the behaviour, and enabling it from incompetents such as the Egyptian lawyer, who added that his own daughter should be raped if she too, wore ripped jeans.

And after all of this, and so many more incidences that fail to come to mind because I have been programmed like the rest of women in society to ‘get used to it,’ I also say

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#MeToo.

Me Too. This has to stop.

 

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash