“Where are women safe? Not on the streets after dark, not at home with the increase in domestic violence over the past year and certainly not inside the hallowed halls of our national parliament,” writes columnist KATE MEIKLE.
ON April 17, two years ago, I penned a column headed “Do men know how scared we are of them?”
It’s one of my proudest. It outlines my personal experiences of constantly adjusting my behaviour in order to mitigate potentially unsafe interactions with men.
It challenges men to try to understand the constant threat we live in and for them to make adjustments too in order to support women (it’s here).
Sadly, there’s nothing in that column that has changed for the lived experience of women over the past two years.
In my 2019 piece, I wrote about the then recent murders of women in Melbourne who were walking home at night. Now, we are tragically confronted with the horrendous murder of Sarah Everard in London when she was walking well-lit streets to her home. It shows again that sometimes women don’t have a chance.
Be it walking across the street to avoid passing someone coming up ahead, holding keys at the ready as we walk to our cars at night, to politely manoeuvring ourselves out of interacting with men who won’t take the hint – every day women are adjusting our behaviour – always careful not to shove men off or tell them off for fear of abuse or violence.
When I discuss this with the men in my life, it’s hard for them to fully understand why women do these things when you have generally been able to go through life free of prevailing threats to your safety, real or imagined.
Where are women safe? Not on the streets after dark, not at home with the increase in domestic violence over the past year and certainly not inside the hallowed halls of our national parliament.
In response to what feels like a tired argument, “Enough” read many of the placards raised at the March4Justice protests across the country.
Women are angry like never before, as demonstrated by the numbers who flocked to the peaceful protests around the country. And yet, we should be grateful that we were not answered with bullets!
“My story was on the front page for the sole reason that it is a painful reminder to women that if it can happen in Parliament House, it can truly happen anywhere,” said Brittany Higgins in her address at the Canberra protest.
It is a shame on all of those in power that what has been exposed by Ms Higgins and other brave women is the full extent of the toxic and dangerous culture of our national parliament. Those in leadership should be ashamed.
What can be done? Listen to women, believe victims, create fairer and safer workplaces and take responsibility. That’s a start.
Criminal arrests, independent inquiries, changed laws and influencing our entire culture from the very top is also another change we need to see. Education, I believe, can influence gender equality from young ages. Opening young minds beyond gender stereotypes that surround us, and calling out sexism can, in real time, role-model better ways to respect and understand diversity for the next generation. We can all play a part.
But action needs to be taken now. This crisis will not go away.
I hope that in the next two years, I can look back at this column with some sort of pride that action has been taken.
Like the Prime Minister, I also have a daughter (he has two). I truly wish men and women can continue to work together for a future in which my daughter can move around this world, free from harm and fear. That she doesn’t have to constantly regulate her behaviour and look over her shoulder. That she is safe at home and at work.
She should aspire to enter Parliament if she wishes, and if she does, I can only hope that the decisions our leaders make now have created a place and indeed, a country, where she can be safe, be respected, be herself and not look behind her shoulder wherever she goes.