What Christy Mack's assault teaches us about modern misogyny

Assault victim Christy Mac (left) and  mixed martial arts fighter War Machine (right).

Assault victim Christy Mac (left) and mixed martial arts fighter War Machine (right).

If we needed a reminder of how women the world over are treated like property, we needn’t look much further back than this week. There is the utterly horrifying ISIS kidnappings of Yazidi girls and women in Iraq, with families uncertain whether or not their daughters will be forced into marriage or used as sex slaves. Then there is the violent assault of actress Christy Mack, who posted photographs of significant injuries allegedly inflicted on her by former boyfriend, War Machine, an MMA fighter who has previously joked about raping Mack on Twitter and who claims to have been going to her house that night to propose. One of these things is not exactly like the other, but they do share common motivations.

In light of both, the past couple of days have been interesting ones in social media land. Because at the same time as fielding obnoxious demands from anti-feminists to know exactly what I was doing about the whomen living under ‘real oppression’ in the world - women like the kidnapped Yazidis - I was also engaged in deeply upsetting conversations with men who felt that Christy Mack had ‘asked for it’.

The logic of the first is easy to dismantle. People opposed to feminism but unwilling to admit they actively oppose women’s rights look for an easy way to deflect and justify their own hostility. The subtext is always that we should feel lucky for being treated so well, as if the beneficiaries of patriarchal power are doing us a favour by not stoning us in the streets.  

And that leads to the second issue. People racially motivated to criticise, say, the Middle East love to cite the treatment of women as evidence of oppression. “We don’t treat our women like that!” come the cries, as if the benevolence they display in allowing us to live somewhat freely is worthy of daily reward and gratitude. “We respect women!”

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(Oh, except when we hold them responsible for their own rapes, blame them for staying in abusive relationships, call them ‘c-m guzzling sluts’ and increasingly limit the control they have over their reproductive choices.)

Or, in the case of Christy Mack, argue that she wouldn’t have been almost killed if she hadn’t ‘cheated’.

Yes, amazingly some people have found a way to pin blame for a violent assault on a woman currently lying in hospital with 18 broken bones around her eyes, a nose broken in two places and several missing and broken teeth. That Mack is also being held accountable for being a porn performer is key. According to the logic, because she has sex on camera for money she’s a ‘slut’, and ‘sluts’ don’t deserve to be protected from violence.

Look, let’s just get this out of the way right now - there is no scale of justification when it comes to violence against women. It is no less criminal and abhorrent to beat a sex worker than it is to beat a virgin librarian, and if you think that then you need to seriously examine your own deeply ingrained misogyny. Violence is violence, and outside of consenting BDSM relationships, nobody asks for it.

But in the hours since news of Mack’s hospitalisation broke, I have seen her variously described as a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore’, a ‘cheating bitch’ who should have known what was coming to her and, chillingly, ‘lucky’ that she wasn’t killed for her supposed egregious behaviour.

After challenging a tweet in which a man wrote, “Not condoning hitting females but let [sic] my girl have done this she woulda been looking like Christy Mack”, he told me I was overreacting and taking too seriously what was meant to be a joke. Male pride, he and his friends informed me, was a powerful thing and ‘bitches’ best not be insulting it.

Even now, people are still offering their support to Mack’s alleged abuser, sympathising with the hurt she is thought to have inflicted on him. Currently on the run from law enforcement, War Machine has taken to Twitter to lament the situation, arguing that if Mack had only been alone at home that night then they would be happily engaged by now.

Because remember - it takes two to tango.

One woman is killed every week in Australia by her partner or ex-partner. One in five women have experienced some form of sexual violence. Women are advised repeatedly to modify their behaviour in public to avoid rape, because short skirts are apparently better able to communicate consent than a woman’s own voice. And when women are raped, as they heartbreakingly are week after week, they’re often too afraid to report it because we are overwhelmingly bombarded with the message that rape is something women provoke, not something that rapists do.

What is this ‘male pride’ other than the absolute entitlement of believing women are the property of men? What distinguishes the viewing of large groups of women as subject to sex trafficking from the absolving of alleged abusers because women ‘asked for it’?

The answer is nothing. Both are predicated on the belief that women’s bodies - and particularly women’s sexuality - is something that belongs to men. In the minds of people justifying the abuse of Christy Mack, she took something that didn’t belong to her - her body - and gave it to someone who didn’t own it. In this collective narrative, she stole from a man and he had no choice but to punish her for it. Never let it be said that we don’t practice our own versions of honour killings.

But still we are told that we are lucky. And it is deeply frightening to see how many people believe this, even while demanding that feminists shut up about ‘made up’ oppression and focus on ‘saving’ the women who understand what real misogyny looks like.

* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

93 comments

  • Of course it is absolutely hideous. I think you are wrong though to directly compare the Isis and general Middle East with Australia, this is nothing but sensationalism and it really gets you nowhere.
    On the other hand how is it that a man can end up doing this to a woman? We must raise boys to be secure in themselves and to not see women as property, to control themselves, to look to themselves for answers and not be dependent on women for any kind of happiness. But boys are actually quite difficult to raise, they require really strong parenting, a strong and assertive mother and an equally strong and switched on father. When boys become adolescents even the really nice ones become very challenging and must be actively taught not to use their physicality to get what they want. It has to start early and parents must make raising their kids well, their absolute first priority. Where are our parenting programs for women and for men? Educational resources to help parents teach boys boundaries? There's nothing much out there and parents are increasingly hopeless at setting absolute boundaries.

    But really this still is a long way from IS and it is insulting to the women and children stuck on the mountain in Iraq facing certain death, to the 7 year old girls who are forcibly married to IS miliants etc etc etc that you are comparing the two.

    Commenter
    Melinda
    Date and time
    August 14, 2014, 5:57AM
    • Melinda, I read the article and I'm not seeing where IS is compared to Australia? You want to point that out?

      Commenter
      Lazor
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 8:36AM
    • Did you even read the article? A man ends up doing that to a woman because he believes she is his property to control, regardless of whether it is a woman living in western society or stuck on a mountain in Iraq.

      Commenter
      Miss Demeanor
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 9:14AM
    • For gods sake Melinda, Clem is NOT comparing the two at all, she is merely demonstrating that the similarities of both situations are judged wildly differently either as undeserved and deserved depending on society's values. This is an important mirror to hold up in the way women are judged. If you can't see that you need to read it again.

      Clem yet again a brilliantly written piece. Thanks

      Commenter
      Ms Patonga
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 10:02AM
    • "Never let it be said that we don't practice our own versions of honour killings" We do not practice honour killings in this country, it is against the law, it is abhorred by an overwhelming majority of men and women, no one would overlook honour killings.

      The assertion that Australian men treat women in the same way that ISIS treats women? This is an extraordinary claim based on the lowest, basest twitter abuse she could possibly find and then use as a representative sample.

      What I object to is the comparison and the hyperbole, it is utterly self defeating. Lobby for real change, lobby for funding for parental support, adolescent educational programs, for engaging, effective programs targeting boys, in schools before they reach adolescence, for good, well resourced people to become foster parents in order to rescue boys and girls from violent homes etc etc etc, if only there was something in this article that could inspire change. What this man did is abhorrent and there is nothing, no excuse under the sun for his behaviour. The solution has to be, to break the cycle of abuse. How? More societal intervention and support before girls learn that violence towards them is acceptable because both mum and dad did it, and before boys learn that violence is an acceptable way to express frustration. We are not Iraq, we can actually change this, where is the political will, where are the volunteers to protect children from violent families. What we have is middle class apathy, people too busy to help make a difference to children's lives before they are profoundly damaged by the cycle of abuse and then become abhorrent abusers. These articles don't do much to effect change, they are really just a continuation of a twitter war.

      Commenter
      Melinda
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 10:47AM
    • Yes Ms Patonga, that is called comparison. There really isn't a comparison to be made, the scale is so staggeringly, vastly different that it is insulting.

      Commenter
      Melinda
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 10:50AM
    • Hmmm, is Melinda a man?

      It's because we get idiots like my husbands cousin that screams outrage at muslims for their treatment of women but in the same breath call women sluts and blame them when they're sexually assaulted or raped. It's more about hatred for muslims than it is about women.

      Commenter
      Ripley
      Location
      Hunting Aliens
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 11:04AM
    • wow Melinda... you really didn't read the article did you?

      I have to have my little rant first... sorry!

      so, boys are hard to raise and 'they require really strong parenting, a strong and assertive mother and an equally strong and switched on father', that the cause of misogyny... you're kidding aren't you? ... all the research shows that this type of parenting breeds bullies... and whilst it is the norm for heteronormative people to assert that a female and male is required to raise a 'successful' child, studies have shown this is not the case, actually 2 female parents actually foster warmer relationships and provides more quality interactions for the children than having heterosexual parents (yep stole this from a psyche website with no references) ... so whilst we all have our views the research doesn't support this... but back to the subject.

      As Miss Demeanour and Ms Patonga point out this article is in relation to society's view of women and that women still remain the possession of men... until this changes will never be completely free in our own country.

      Oh and as always... I loved the article Clem, I always look out for your writings.

      Commenter
      cuteclaudia
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 11:20AM
    • So you're still somewhere on the sliding scale of justification, obviously. How you can minimise such an horrific assault under any circumstances is both baffling and disappointing. And I should point out that your views about raising boys apply equally to girls who, believe it or not, also need strong, assertive, switched on parents. I have no idea what you're attempting to justify with such psychobabble but it sounds an awful lot like you're excusing male violence on the basis of poor parenting or an allegedly innate tendency towards brutality.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      August 14, 2014, 1:17PM
  • Great article. What unites the likes of ISIL, Boko Haram and "War Machine" and his legion of moronic twitter followers is the belief that women are possessions or chattel who must be punished if they step out of line.

    Commenter
    Nomenclature
    Date and time
    August 14, 2014, 8:19AM

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