What happens to women who fight back against harassment

Tugce Albayrak was bashed with a baseball bat in a McDonald's car park.

Tugce Albayrak was bashed with a baseball bat in a McDonald's car park.

Two weeks ago, a young woman living in Germany was eating at a McDonalds when she heard two teenage girls screaming for help. The girls were calling out from the restaurant's bathroom, where they were being harassed by a small group of men. Tugce Albayrak confronted the trio and they were ejected from the restaurant.

It was a simple interaction, and one that every woman should feel entitled to participate in particularly when supporting other women. But a short time after Albayrak intervened to tell those men that their behaviour was unacceptable, she was allegedly assaulted by one of them with a baseball bat in the car park. She sustained critical head injuries and was placed in an induced coma. Last Friday, on her 23rd birthday, her parents made the agonising decision to turn off her life support after doctors declared her brain dead. Since then, over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on the German president to posthumously award Albayrak the national order of merit.

Albayrak's death makes me sick with rage. But just as palpable is the rage I feel over society's double standards when it comes to men's violence against women. How many women need to be murdered before we start seriously addressing this issue? How many conversations about male entitlement and power have to be howled down by men as 'man-hating' and 'misandry' before we accept that these are the very things which drive this form of gendered violence?

Tugce's parents turned off her life support on her birthday.

Tugce's parents turned off her life support on her birthday.

Do women's complaints about harassment, objectification and pernicious misogyny only become acceptable in the brief window of legitimacy created when other women die?

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Ask any woman you know between the ages of 15 and 45 and she'll likely tell you that street harassment is a big enough problem for her that she assesses every situation for its potentiality. Living with that constant vigilance can be hard, but women are often further victimised for the ways we choose to react to dangerous or invasive incidents. When we ignore demands for our time and attention, we do so with the experience based knowledge that doing so means that at the very minimum we might be met with vicious verbal abuse about our looks, our f--kability and our very worth as human beings. If we retaliate, we run the risk of being targeted by more serious forms of physical violence, including homicide - just as Albayrak was, as Maren Sanchez was, as Mary Spears was and as countless other women before and since them have been.

For women, it's never just a friendly handshake from a stranger.

And yet, when women talk about the dangers we face - from countless daily microaggressions to the more pressing risks of physical and sexual violence - more often than not we're ridiculed by men or told we're overreacting. Men, you see, are never overreacting or behaving emotionally when they rail against women's open discussion of violence. Men's feelings on the matter must be respected and deferred to, while women's feelings are painted as imaginary, the workings of a paranoid mind driven by irrational hatred for men and the kind of mental instability which forces people to see things that aren't there - like danger, risk and the reality of one's own life.

When it comes to harassment and violence, our lives and experiences only appear to become real and acceptable when men talk about them. We are told by men what kind of attention we should welcome and what kind we should be afraid of. We are told by men when we are allowed to feel angry about sexism and when we aren't. We are told by men which parts of the world are dangerous for us and which parts are safe. We are chastised for inviting risk when we fight back and we are admonished for courting danger when we don't. When men do bad things to us, other men ask why we engaged with them in the first place, why we spoke to them, why we danced with them, why we had a drink with them, why we went home with them. But when we don't do these things, when we avoid men's gazes, when we ignore their uninvited conversation, when we turn down their offers to 'party' or to 'hang out' and when we then complain of feeling harangued or harassed, we're told off for being mean. Why didn't you just talk to him? Why didn't you just smile back? Why didn't you just shake his hand? He was probably just trying to be nice. Can't men be nice anymore? Why do you f--king women all hate men so much, what did we ever do to you?!

Violence exists on a continuum. Men's violence against women is about entitlement. It's an entitlement which persistently instructs men to objectify women and which, when taken to its logical end point, encourages a proportion of those men to exact punishment when women fight back. This is what happened to Tugce Albayrak when she intervened to defend a 13 year old and a 15 year old girl from being harassed by three men in an enclosed space. She challenged their entitlement to behave towards women exactly as they please, and one of them brutally assaulted her for it.

Now she is dead. And unless we really look at the reasons why - unless we are prepared to truly challenge society to be different, to be braver, to be better, no matter how uncomfortable some of the resulting conversations might make us or how much they might derail the order of things - then her death will be meaningless. The world will go on as it always has. And nothing will change except the faces in the death notices, and the names to whom people offer their silent prayers.

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10 comments

  • I rage against this sort of violence. And I bear the guilt of my gender. But kindly don't lump all men together.

    Commenter
    Brendan
    Date and time
    December 02, 2014, 12:50PM
    • The problem with your rage is that you keep going on about a man's sense of entitlement over women. This is only part of the psychology behind domestic violence and, in fact, isn't even present in all perpetrators. You are actually obfuscating the issue.

      One factor that is more prevalent is that the perpetrators feel no responsibility for their actions. They blame the woman for misbehaving or provoking them. This is a trait that carries over into other aspects of their lives, even though the violence may not. This is, by far, a more effective point to focus on as getting men to take responsibility for EVERYTHING they do has other positive, flow on effects.

      Two more major factors are a tendency towards obsessiveness and possessiveness. Both show warning signs that MAY lead to violence, however both are treatable with therapy before they become a physical problem.

      Yes, entitlement is there, but, really, it's a subset of possessiveness. Touting entitlement as the cause is just plain wrong and will achieve nothing.

      Commenter
      DC
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 02, 2014, 1:07PM
      • Thank you, Clementine. This double standard that you have expressed so eloquently is what I constantly rage against. If I choose to no longer walk home at night, I'm being paranoid. If I walk home in the dark and encounter harassment or violence, I should have known better.
        Love your work.

        Commenter
        MadameBossy
        Date and time
        December 02, 2014, 1:14PM
        • Bravo, well said once again.

          We see the same on virtually every topic.

          Nobody paid much attention to the women who alleged they were raped by Bill Cosby... until a male comedian called him out as a rapist.

          Feminists have argued for decades that it's harmful to socialise little girls to place so much emphasis on their appearance and sexuality. Generally ignored by the mainstream media... until Steve Biddulph says it, and suddenly it's everywhere.

          DL posts two articles praising Janet Yellin's accomplishments, but Sam de Brito gets away with writing a factually incorrect article lambasting DL for not acknowledging Yellin... then he is nominated for an award!

          Dylan Farrow publishes an open letter accusing Woody Allen of repeatedly sexually assaulting her in childhood, and which is partially corroborated by contemporary eyewitness evidence. There are repeated calls not to demonise Allen, and to respect that he is innocent until proven guilty.... then Lena Dunham writes an unfortunately-worded account of curiously looking at her baby sister's genitalia when she was aged only 7 years old, and is panned as a "child molester" by multiple sources.

          Affirmative consent is widely subject to scathing attacks, and the assertion that sex is becoming bureaucratised... until Shia LaBoeuf alleges he was raped while he remained completely passive during a performance art piece, and suddenly the internet erupts with support for affirmative consent.

          No wonder an edge of frustration is creeping increasingly into Clem's columns.

          Commenter
          Red Pony
          Date and time
          December 02, 2014, 1:33PM
          • Clementine, without context this article is completely nonsensical (and appalling). You say that women are "told by men what kind of attention we should welcome and what kind we should be afraid of" and then questioned why you don't smile back, or shake someone's hand when confronted with male violence.

            Are you suggesting that people are asking this of the victim of this horrendous crime? Surely not. No rational being (man or woman) would pursue that line of inquiry. No Clementine, your reference to "handshaking" is a reference to your own recent, personal experience set out in detail on your Facebook page: A man offered his hand to you on a train. You refused to shake it, and then you proceeded to have a completely irrational response to that interaction.

            I am completely appalled Clementine, that you would commandeer this horrible tragedy for your own (undisclosed) ends. Is there any reason you chose to leave that interaction undisclosed? Perhaps because you fear other women will see your response and reading of the situation as completely irrational? I don't know. What I am sure of is that men don't wonder why women "hate men so much." Rather, they know that you, and others of your ilk subscribing to your particular brand of feminism, certainly do.

            Commenter
            Paddy
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            December 02, 2014, 1:33PM
            • Despite the histrionics in this article the truth remains that the sizable majority of people attacked and assaulted in public are men. Many men have died defending women, and no-one, least of all Clementine Ford, seem to care. If this was really about equality, shouldn't there be some recognition of male victims of violence? The reality is this is nothing about equality or justice. Rather it has everything to do with fearmongering to sow hatred of men as violent thugs and to promote a Marxist feminist ideology. Don't be taken in by it.

              Commenter
              True_Equality
              Date and time
              December 02, 2014, 1:49PM
              • Thank you, Clem, for another great article and drawing attention to this issue. The news of Tugce's murder also physically sickened me.

                Unfortunately, I await the justification for, and obfuscation of, this issue by your usual commentators.

                RIP Tugce Albayrak. Your courage and spirit will be remembered. We will continue the fight.

                Commenter
                Donna Joy
                Date and time
                December 02, 2014, 2:28PM
                • It sounds like you are very confident that if Tugce had been a man then he would not have been attacked. She was very brave standing up for the girls being harassed but I'm not sure the outcome would have been much different if a "normal" guy had done the same thing (ie a guy who wasn't physically intimidating)

                  I feel like you see every attack on a female as an attack because they are female. I don't think that is the case - eg in Tugce's case.

                  Commenter
                  peter
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  December 02, 2014, 2:31PM
                  • If they we trying to mug the girls, rather than 'harassing' them, and she got killed, would it be because of male entitlement? If the crims were women, and she got killed, would it be due to male entitlement? If she was a man, did the same thing, and got killed, would that be due to male entitlement? If everyone involved was a man, would it even have made a single headline, let alone filled you with rage at all the male entitlement it involved?
                    And yeah, yeah, "not all men" and all that. The next time I catch up with my mates and one of them brings up that girl he recently murdered, I'll be sure to tell him that this kind of behavior is just not on. Because a lot of them just don't know that.

                    Commenter
                    Grey Man
                    Location
                    Melbourne
                    Date and time
                    December 02, 2014, 3:01PM
                    • Here here. Clem it must feel like you have to write the same story over & over again but I believe you are making the world of difference on this subject. Thank you for being a voice not afraid to stand up.

                      Commenter
                      kate
                      Date and time
                      December 02, 2014, 4:03PM
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