An Unfortunate Culture

I woke up this morning to my Facebook feed, as I do most mornings (this from a person who in the early nineties was never going to get the internet because only bad things could come – insert forehead slap here).

Van Badham, an Australian commentator, has shared an article about Don Burke’s predatory bullying and misogynistic behaviour, and how the Channel 9 Television Network took no appropriate action because he was their cash cow. They acknowledge, at the least, that there was gossip about Don Burke’s behaviour, but nothing was formally reported.

Who knows what is true.

In the comments, often the best part of anything on the internet, was a seemingly harmless comment along the lines of, “This is so sad if it is true.” The man, probably thinking nothing much of the words he chose, opened himself up to some not nice responses. In one, he was called a “douchebag.” He tried to defend himself by replying that he hadn’t said he didn’t believe it, but he was erring on the side of caution until Don Burke was in front of a court, rather than being tried on social media alone.

God love him. His argument appears logical. I lean towards agreeing with him. I do believe that any court would find Don Burke guilty; there seems to be a lot of evidence, a lot of reports with similar themes, and a lot of witnesses to the behaviour.

However, it sent me into a tail spin. I was drafting a comment to let him know that I had heard him, but I couldn’t find the words to express it clearly, without sounding like I was supporting Don Burke’s disgraceful behaviour.

That forced me to look at my own potential biases. Where does my need to defend this man come from? Am I being so careful to not become part of a witch hunt that I am complicit in seemingly condoning bad behaviour? What is right and what is wrong?

I get that the man who commented and was then attacked, probably didn’t think his seemingly innocuous comment would unleash what it unleashed. Probably didn’t think. Probably doesn’t need to think. It is obvious from his replies and attempts to protect himself, that he didn’t mean harm and was not condoning Don Burke’s behaviour. The responders didn’t want to see that.

But, our society’s culture did and still does permit Don Burke’s behaviour. Women and girls are still routinely subjected to comments about their appearance, their sexuality, their personalities, their everything, and much of it is demeaning.

We are held to ridiculous standards of beauty and minimalised for our opinions if we dare speak them. For Christ’s sake, our first female Prime Minister was routinely attacked for not being married, for being childless, for her clothing choices, for the size of her bottom and for the colour of her hair. And so many moronic imbeciles condoned this behaviour from the media, and it validated misogynistic behaviours and attitudes from unintelligent people who then felt they had a public platform and public permissionto air this vitriol.

Australia went backwards at this point. Thank you, Tony Abbott and Australian media.

We then had the atrocious behaviours from Harvey Weinstein in the US made public, following the #metoo movement (interestingly, following on from the allegations against Bill Cosby which did not give rise to such a furore – I wonder if colour plays a part here). This opened Pandora’s box. In the US and here too. And, rightly so. For so long there has been none or not enough public condemnation of this type of behaviour.

I used the me too hash tag. I debated using it. I read articles from women who were against it, believing it marginalised men and vilified innocent men. It may have done. It was also argued that no woman should feel pressured to own their abuse/assault in a public forum. I don’t think there was pressure; it was personal choice.

I think it was powerful, ultimately. I think it provided an alternative platform for women to own their assaults/abuse (the distinction being that abuse is longer term). It was empowering. For me, who speaks and writes openly about my life, it wasn’t too big a deal. For others, who don’t, and who chose to use the hash tag, it was empowering and unifying. They knew they were not alone.This enables and empowers healing. It strips shame away. It makes the abuse the focus, not the individual.

And, the hash tag wasn’t gender specific – males suffer abuse and assaults. That is undeniable. The impact of violation does not discriminate; however, for way too long, too many women have endured the shame and guilt that comes with behaviour that is not condemned by our society. And I feel myself checking myself, too many people.

Gender politics. I am a feminist. I have been marginalised because I am a woman. I have fought harder because I am a woman. I have been abused because I am a woman. And, a strong woman at that. Intelligent, compassionate, articulate, informed.

I have also been privileged to work with a therapist who has empowered me to see what I have yielded as a result of the abuses against (for) me. And I mean privileged. So many are not in the position where they can afford or access this type of therapy (Demartini).

For every male student who has disclosed abuse to me, I have had five female students disclose. Neither is supported adequately at the end of the day, despite all of the child protection rhetoric. It’s all about ticking boxes. And this entitled behaviour from all genders needs to stop.

But, we all need to understand that change is a process and learning the right language takes time, and at the end of the day, only compassion and love will move us forward.

Abuse, assault, bullying, aggression, unkindness, violence – it all stems from the same place – disconnection. We need to work together to change this unfortunate culture, not against one another.

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