It’s Not About Women. It’s All About Men.
Last week, a 17 year old girl was stabbed to death in broad daylight less than a kilometer from her home. She was alone, but had no reason to be fearful for her safety. The man who killed was a stranger to her. The murder occurred in an inner suburb of Melbourne, and was a completely random attack. It’s a tragedy, and my heart goes out to Masa Vukotic’s family and friends. This is something that nobody deserves, and in a better society, it would never happen.
Detective Inspector Mick Hughes’ gave a warning to women, one that caused outrage across the country.
People are right to be outraged at this comment, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Out of context, this comment seems ill thought out. In context, it may not be as thoughtless as it first appears. The fact that the assailant, one Sean Christian Price, was still on the loose at the time the statement was made was a contributing factor to the comment, and rightly so. The man is a dangerous person, capable of murder and rape, and nobody in their right mind would want to be around him. I’m not defending the police officer’s words, just offering a bit of context to the comment that is seems to be routinely overlooked. The officer’s advice should have been “The man is dangerous and should not be approached. Everyone be careful.”
The outrage the comment sparked was on the basis that it continues the idea that the victim is to blame, and that we should expect that men are going to act out like this, so there’s not much we can do about it. This is of course false, but it raises a particular question: “If it’s not safe for women to be on their own in broad daylight in a public space, when, if at all, is it safe for women?”
Only problem is, this isn’t about women at all. It’s about men. Men commit most of these crimes, against women (and men), and men are responsible for their actions. Women don’t ask to be raped or bashed. Women don’t wear particular clothing in the hope they’ll be violently assaulted. Women don’t walk home at night in their own neighborhoods with the expectation that that’s the last thing they’ll ever do. Women don’t walk in parks by themselves in broad daylight asking to be killed by a stranger. Men perpetrate these crimes, and in these cases, victimise women in the process. Remember, it is never the victim’s fault, no matter what.
So what is the actual problem here? In the case of Price, he has had prior convictions for rape and assault. Much like Adrian Bayley, the man responsible for the murder of Jill Maegher in 2012, Price was “rehabilitated” and released back into the larger society, having seemingly paid for his crimes. But of course, in both these cases (and many many others), their rehabilitation was unsuccessful, and we have the deaths of 2 women to show for it. Regardless of the mental instability of these men, they are still responsible for their actions, and women cannot, and should not, be expected to live their lives in fear of what might happen to them. Maybe paroling dangerous repeat offenders isn’t such a good idea.
It’s symptomatic of the kinds of standards we hold men to as versus the ones we hold women to. Males are taught from an early age that aggression is not only okay, but expected of them. It’s on the TV, it’s on comic books, it’s in sport. They are taught that women are to be beautiful and soft and weak. Popular culture only helps to bolster this ideal, and little headway has been made in reversing that trend in recent years. In some cultures men are even taught that women are only good for having babies, cooking and cleaning, something that I hope we have moved well beyond in this culture.
At the same time, females are bombarded with lists of expectations about how they look, how they act, what they should wear, where they should and shouldn’t go, what they should eat, who they should be with, who they should marry, how many children they should have, what job they should get, and this list goes on. In each and every one of these expectations, there is a double standard at work. Women are expected to have children AND hold down a career. Women are expected to be beautiful AND not care what they look like. Women are expected to be confident AND expected to be wary of potential murderers in broad daylight. Not to mention the fact that there is a much larger list of negative adjectives that can be used against women than there is for men. The hypocrisy is gobsmacking, yet we all play a part in it.
It is the very same system that holds men to these standards of masculinity as the one that holds women to the standards of femininity. The men that are feeling hard-done-by, being mocked by people for having feelings, is the very same system that aims to keep women down. These unrealistic gender-specific expectations, the manly versus the womanly, cause a lot of the problems we see in society worldwide, and any deviance from this is shunned.
Back to the topic at hand, there is this ludicrous notion that women have to fear for their safety in public, and would be safer in their homes at all times. It’s almost as if society is telling women that the outside world is not a place for women. “Sorry ladies, reality is not safe for you, take part in life at your own risk.” In actuality, women are more at risk of violence or murder in their own homes, and at the hands of someone they know, than in the world at large. Already in 2015, at least 23 women have been murdered in a violence situation, and at least 8 by a partner or ex partner (partial list). This article in The Monthly by Jess Hill has some alarming stats about domestic violence:
And while it is true that men are sometimes the victims of domestic abuse, the truth is clear:
Again, this isn’t about women. It’s clearly about men.
We need to stop blaming women for violence perpetrated by men. Victim blaming is wrong, no matter what the situation. Never assume that the way a woman dresses, where she goes, who she’s with, or how many drinks she’s had makes the woman responsible for rape or murder. Never utter the words “she was asking for it,’ because she isn’t asking for it, ever.
We also need to face up to the facts about violence in society. If around 80% of violent crimes is committed by men then it’s clear to me that men have a problem. We should embrace this awful statistic as indisputable truth, own it, and work to better it AS MEN. Sure, men do have their problems in society, but the system is so heavily biased against women, that groups like A Voice For Men come off as a half-assed attempt to garner some attention for a non-issue. Men, stop trying to muddy the conversation by sating “But what about us men?” You look foolish, and you;re not doing anyone any favours.
The death of Masa Vukotic is tragic and needless. A mix of failures in the justice system, failures in mental health support, and of rotten luck are all to blame for this. But first and foremost, it’s our failure as a society to stop these crimes from happening that is to blame.