Comedian Adrienne Truscott responds to a question about authorities telling women not to walk alone. Photo: Q&A
A promising start to some important conversations around male violence on Q&A last night sadly fell back into many of the same tired old "well meaning" responses that nevertheless implicitly blame women - or at least, make women responsible for the actions of men.
It seems that while most of us find it easy enough to voice condemnation of men who have been convicted of actually bashing women in the head on multiple occasions (hello progress, what a world we live in), when it comes to questioning the ways we talk about more complex forms of male violence against women, and the way our society responds to it, we just can't get past the victim blaming mentality that accepts male violence against women as a 'fact of life' that women must navigate rather than society eradicate.
In the space of just two questions we saw panellists Peter Singer, Amanda Vanstone, Greg Hunt and Mark Butler all go from vociferous condemnation of boxer Floyd Mayweather (and those who watched the "fight of the century", especially those who - inexplicably - did so in support of him) to agreeing that it's fine to tell women not to walk alone in order to avoid being raped.
It was disappointing especially to see ethicist Peter Singer - who made a strong analogy in the previous question about how we wouldn't tolerate sportsmen who bash people because of their race, but somehow we allow hate crimes against women - go on to suggest that comments about avoiding parks and not walking alone apply as much to men as they do to women.
This just does not play out in reality. When a man is assaulted, men are not told to avoid walking the streets alone, because that would be ridiculous. Women, on the other hand, are consistently given this directive after violent incidents - even when the victim is attacked in broad daylight. It might not sound like "blame", but implicitly, it is. It comes from the assumption that the streets are not women's territory, and we don't have the same right to walk them in safety as men do. We are expected to keep ourselves safe, because of an assumption that the dangers facing us are unavoidable except if we take extraordinary measures of our own to avoid them.
Performer and comedian Adrienne Truscott, known for her controversial satire around rape culture, gets it: "I certainly think suggesting that women should not walk alone is no less illogical… it's as illogical to suggest that men don't go out so that women can be safe."
But unfortunately, she was the only one to see it this way. Even after Truscott pointed out the arrogance and ignorance of telling women to avoid parks and walk in packs, the other panellists couldn't recognise the problem with the ingrained paradigm of "it's OK, because we're trying to keep women safe."
Face. palm. Here's a few tweets that get it more than most of last night's panellists:
Dear #qanda don't discuss violence women ever again unless every sentence starts with either "Men must "Men's behaviour "Men need to change— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) May 4, 2015
Start to police men if you want to stop rape. Stop policing women. #qanda— Jenna Price (@JennaPrice) May 4, 2015