Victim blaming is a funny thing. When I was thinking about Eurydice Dixon’s rape and murder that happened in Melbourne, I thought to myself, “And it wasn’t even after midnight!”
I checked myself. Does a woman who walks through a park after midnightto get murdered?
The mantras that women have been taught for generations:
are supposed to keep women safe but they fail us in two ways. 1) They don’t guarantee safety, since if someone really wants to hurt you they will find a way. And most importantly, 2) They take the responsibility for the attack away from the attacker and place it on to the victim.
“Why were you walking alone after dark?”
“Why did you leave your drink?”
“What was she thinking, wearing an outfit like that?”
should be transformed into:
“Why did you grab her when she said no?”
“Why did you spike her drink?”
“Why did you kill her?”
No one is blaming Eurydice Dixon for her brutal death
She took a short walk through a familiar area at approximately 11pm, hadn’t consumed alcohol or drugs, and told her friends where she was and when she intended to arrive home. The random attack was by a man she had never met. It’s universally regarded as horrifying because she only broke one of the rules – “Don’t walk alone after dark.”
But what’s disturbing is the way our minds segregate violent crimes against women into the ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’. Our concept of violence against women blames women for attacks when they’ve failed to observe the ‘obvious rules’ that would have ‘ensured’ their protection. And I grieve that split in our logic – the point in history when we collectively decided it was more unreasonable for a woman to walk alone after midnight than it was unreasonable for a man to rape her.
If Eurydice Dixon had been walking through that park at 3am wearing a tube dress, would we collectively mourn for her less? If she had committed the crime of flouting of ‘the rules’, would it lessen the severity of Jaymes Todd’s crimes of rape and murder?
Why do we dismiss the idea that any woman should be allowed to wear whatever she wants, and go wherever she wants at any time of day or night? People who dismiss this idea as a fantasy will never help our society progress to the point where it could become reality.
People who make pseudo-scientific pontifications like “it’s in men’s DNA to be violent” or “it’s human nature to rape and murder” are implicitly condoning these crimes. More importantly, they are halting the development of higher expectations for men, which is the only possible antidote to what Nelly Thomas describes as “terrorism on women”.
In response to Dixon’s murder, Thomas wrote on Twitter, “RIP dear girl & may the rest of us mourn this terrible loss & then STEP THE F*** UP to stop this terrorism on women. What else can one say”.
If this seems like a histrionic comparison, consider it like this
After September 11, and after each subsequent terrorist act in the West, have you noticed how security has increased in small and surprising ways? Announcements at bus and train stations and airports warning you not to leave your bags unattended, as they may be seized by security. Staff wearing photo ID on lanyards in their workplaces. Airport security taking three times as long to get through. Bus stop ads telling you, “If you see something, say something.”
If you’re not a woman, it may surprise you to learn that generations of women have been taking equivalent measures their whole lives – I listed three of them at the top of this article. The purpose of terrorism is not to kill people, but to keep an entire population in a state of fear and uncertainty, never feeling assured that they are safe.
If you are a woman, it may surprise you to learn that you live under a terrorist regime we call Misogyny.
This is why you constantly check over your shoulder walking on a dark street at night. Why you thread your keys between your knuckles as you walk back to your car after a late shift. Why you give fake names and numbers to men at bars who ask for your details. And why you always have a sense of being watched by men, and never knowing whether the one walking towards you is going to pass by or grab you.
On Friday night Lisa Wilkinson, co-host of The Project, said, “Parents, instead of telling our girls not to walk through parks, maybe we should be telling our boys not to rape them.”
In response to Dixon’s murder, Victorian Police made an announcement that women should “take responsibility” for their own safety. The day after Dixon’s body was found Local Superintendent Dave Clayton announced, “Make sure you have situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings.”
To which Wilkinson responded, “Women are killed at the hands of violent men, yet it’s women who are being asked to change their behaviour?”
People like Clayton may mean well with this kind of advice, but it’s upholding a regime that refuses to address the true causes of these crimes. The elephant in the room, the information that is too obvious for us to even see, is that men need to change.
Telling women to ‘take responsibility’ is a band-aid solution that is barely effective and comes at far too high a cost
As Wilkinson says, “If one woman doesn’t walk at night, that one woman won’t be attacked, but the problem with giving this advice is that it’s at the expense of all women’s right to move freely.”
It’s time we replaced these ‘rules’ for women with new rules for men. And I don’t mean bolstering the law, since it just punishes the symptoms, the violent acts themselves, but does nothing to address the cause. I mean those deeply ingrained social rules that are taught by parents to their children.
Men need new rules like:
Encouraging vigilance in women (as if they weren’t already terrified) does not fix the problem and simply distracts attention away from it. The problem is that men commit 85 per cent of murders and 99 per cent of reported rapes in Australia. It’s men’s turn to take responsibility for their own actions.
And in case you need to hear a man say it to believe it, please read Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s comments: “We’ll keep asking ‘Why didn’t she leave him?’ instead of asking ‘Why did he hurt her?’ We’ll keep asking ‘Why was she alone in the dark?’ instead of asking ‘Why was he?’ We’ll keep ignoring the real problem, instead of actually fixing it.
“So our message to Victorian women is this: Stay home. Or don’t. Go out with friends at night. Or don’t. Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms. Because women don’t need to change their behaviour. Men do.”
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