Question #228: So now what?

April 12, 2015

Yesterday I created some discussion on my blog’s Facebook Page about the #putyourdressout movement – where women around Australia got out their wedding dresses, took a photo of it and posted in on social media, with the above hashtag – to honour Stephanie Scott on the day she would have been married. Stephanie was horrifically murdered six days earlier.

I’m always trying to teach my daughters – especially the one that just entered high school – to think about the core reason for doing anything – mainly due to her recent small engagement with the online world. I tell her that that’s what drives action and that even though her actions may change as she gets older, the core reason behind them, may stay the same. It’s an important thing for all of us to identify, I think.

Yesterday, when I saw the first few wedding dresses pop up on Facebook, I thought about taking out mine but then questioned the action when it didn’t sit right with me. I believe it’s a very well meaning and touching tribute (organised by her friends, so I’ve been told), but after 28 women having been murdered by male violence before her – I felt like I needed to show my respect for her differently. Plus, to be honest, I couldn’t imagine the family perusing through the wedding dresses of others and gaining comfort from them. I may completely wrong here but it’s what stopped me from doing it and think it’s an equally caring action.

My Facebook post prompted a friend to wonder if it was the same as when people put Cricket bats out for Phillip Hughes’s accidental death. I think it is very similar in sentiment, but ball parks away in context. Phillip died due to a freak accident, playing his beloved sport and was honoured as such. Stephanie, however, was the 29th woman murdered by male violence, (or suspected male violence) in Australia so far this year and today the tally went to 30*; a teacher at school in the holidays setting work (like so many of us do). She was a fellow Drama teacher and we may have met one day in the future, at HSC marking perhaps, if her life hadn’t been tragically taken. It’s hit us all in our own way. This is what I did write on Twitter to show my respect:

My post was never one to put this movement down but truly question what the drive was for the action. I won’t go into detail about the responses I received, as most mainly explained the sentiment –  which I reiterate, I understand – but others wrote it’s to create awareness.

This is where it hit the wall for me. Awareness? As a good friend of mine said to me – Awareness we have –> the rate of female deaths from male violence has gone up from one per week – to #OneEveryThreeDaysfrom one year to the next; a little more than double! A few weeks ago I started that hashtag to attach all the stories containing Male Violence Against Women; which is at epidemic proportions. Another one started online was, #MysteryIsMisogyny, a category Stephanie’s murderer falls under – the ‘he was such a quiet man’ or ‘it’s a mystery why he did this’ blanket. These hashtags could actually create more awareness, but sadly, they won’t be as popular as #putoutyourdress, though.

And there’s the conundrum for me. It’s action we need.

As I was pondering this, I read a piece written by my good friend Lily Munroe from REAL for Women titled: While men decide what they stand for; we women must be warriors. Bam!
Just the title alone birthed two thoughts about the #putoutyourdress movement:
1. Are women collectively being warriors about the situation we’re finding ourselves in?
2. Women also need to decide what they stand for.

Well, I stand for a society that finds the spike in male violence against women – against ANYONE – abhorrent and I’m sure most of you do too.
So, what’s next?
The dresses are up and they gave needed comfort to many. But that was yesterday.

What about tomorrow?

Wouldn’t it be a sight if every person who found this murder – and the 28 before Stephanie’s – an insufferable blight on our psyche and safety, marched in every major city demanding a tightening of laws? Check the #OneEveryThreeDays hashtag and see how many men of position charged with sexual assault, have walked free on bail recently in Australia. Legislation was changed due one man’s death due to a King Hit – ads telling guys not to engage violently with other men – but only the sound of crickets is heard on the news and in our timelines about our shameful tally of female deaths.

Look around at what wallpapers our lives and stories; females (girls and women) demeaned as mere sexual objects, whilst males are hailed as heroic through their hyper-masculine toughness. When females are deemed, through representation, as less worthy and merely objects – violence and murder becomes easy (and even condoned to an extent) by the silent society that lets it all slide.

Let’s not forget those first 28 women:

Image from 'REAL for Women'

Image from ‘REAL for Women’

and of course, Stephanie.

Stephanie Scott

Stephanie Scott

May she – may they all – Rest in Peace.

Paula x

PS Up for a kick-arse march? Let’s fill the streets like they do overseas when a few people are killed by terrorism. THIS is terrorism – by our own.

* There has been some confusion about the actual tally. For those using the Destroy the Joint tally, this includes women killed by other women (three this year). This is not to diminish those deaths in the slightest (in the same way that male violence against males is also not to be ignored) but as Male Violence Against Women is the issue that needs a searing spotlight, I use the tally linked in the piece as it follows the #countingdeadwomen campaign of the UK, started by Karen Ingala Smith. Only male murdering female)
Notice the UK tally stands at 25 and they’re three times the population…

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7 Responses to “Question #228: So now what?”

  1. I agree with your feelings on #putyourdressout 100%. The sentiment and intention comes from a loving and compassionate place, but the execution made me uncomfortable personally. I didn’t want to put out my dress when she couldn’t.

  2. Pam Harrison said

    I wonder whether we should be talking about the number of men who kill, along with counting their victims. Then the men who kill their own children, can be included in the count. I just can’t help but think that counting the men is a better, direct way to highlight male violence.

  3. tiffany267 said

    Congratulations for having the courage to put this out there. I just don’t know if I feel, as I used to years ago, that marching really changes anything. Females are still – after thousands of years of being warriors just to survive – violated, killed, harassed, abused, labeled or at best ignored when demanding to be respected as human beings. I think I agree with your point that “awareness” doesn’t equal political change, but I don’t know what really brings about political change. Certainly it’s not voting – people keep voting in the same racist, misogynist, power-tripping dudes year after year. Sorry for ranting and being a downer… just a few thoughts.

    • I share your sentiments, more than you know, Tiffany, and it’s a very valid one.
      I have had many, MANY moments where I just thought, ‘What’s the point?’ But that is followed by me remembering the slogan with which Wicked Campers replaced the one my daughter saw – about being mosquitoes.
      We need to annoy and annoy and annoy, in as many ways possible for whatever the issue is. Marching may not do anything (again) but I think if it’s big enough – where all those people put their action (or wedding dress photo) where their mouth is / then who knows?
      I have to go with that because the injustice I feel for all those families of dead women, for our Indigenous sisters, for the youth being developed in so much muck – regardless of social standing – for the way we’re grooming boys, for the way we’re grooming girls and calling it ‘natural’ etc. etc. etc. makes me compelled to do something. Anything.
      No one one knows the disappointment of inaction more than I do, when the world of ‘outrage’ about Wicked Campers and ONE slogan was replaced with indifference and the sound of crickets six months later, even though they hadn’t done what they promised and still have a LOT of terrible slogans out there in our public space. But I have not stopped going for what I originally asked and have a meeting with a Federal MP about it in the coming weeks. Will anything come if it? Don’t know.
      If we don’t march, we do nothing and then we just accept to be rolled over by the rich of this planet. Whether anything comes of a march will be the clincher. *Hopefully* people of great magnitude seeing inaction on this issue, may get a lot more pissed off – and if not? Well, I’ll simply turn all my attention to the upcoming youth and use my workshops to hopefully change their minds about the ‘way things are’ because the adults driving this beast are consumed by greed, selfishness, lust and wrath.
      Then you and I can have a stiff drink together. 😛
      Sorry for the reciprocal rant but I *totally* hear you, Tiffany. x

    • PatrickC said

      Hi Tiffany, I’m an old fossil who has been a social justice activist since the late 70’s. Whenever I start like you to question why I am reminded of two things. Bad things happen because good people stay quiet and let them and as I read your post the words of the Redgum song Killing Floor; If you don’t fight, you lose came to mind. I understand your weariness but don’t give up, just yet anyway.

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