Why Kate is a worthy Woman of the Year

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'Kate' wins Daily Life's woman of the year

ADFA's faceless Skype scandal victim known only as 'Kate' wins Daily Life's woman of the year.

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When I think back on the last 15 months, I’m astonished at how far we’ve come in terms of the national conversation around misogyny. While there’s no doubt the former Prime Minister may have provided one of the sparks to light a fire, there are other women to whom we must give credit for continuing a vital dialogue around women’s rights, particularly how they are challenged in a rape culture.

And so it was with a giant fist pump that I received the news that a young woman responsible for taking on one of Australia’s most powerful, masculine dominated codes has been voted Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.  

Known only as ‘Kate’, she proved a formidable force against the entrenched Boys Club of our Australian Defence Force Academy, highlighting the still-hostile environment women who want to be trained to defend their country are still forced to work and study in.

By now, you’ll all be familiar with the story. In 2011, the then 19 year old Kate began a relationship with fellow cadet Daniel McDonald. McDonald colluded with his friend Dylan Deblaquiere to secretly film himself having sex with an unsuspecting Kate, and broadcast it to a group of Kate’s jeering male peers.

In an act that neatly displays just how uncomfortable some people continue to be with female sexuality, Kate was afterwards harassed by men who, on the surface, she had every right to expect would treat her like an equal.

Instead, she found herself on the receiving end of misogynist abuse and bullying, like so many women who brush up against those men emboldened by institutions to believe in the superiority of their own existence.  

It is no longer shocking to me that some men behave this way towards women; what is shocking is how easily they find and enable each other, their mutual enthusiasm for the act justifying their invidual desires to participate in such ritualised misogyny. 

Social change can be long and arduous, and challenging sexism in a comfortably sexist society has never been easy. To paraphrase an old saying, the greatest trick the patriarchy ever pulled was pretending it didn’t exist.

But Kate’s refusal to back down firstly over how she was treated and then secondly how ADFA attempted to cover it up has been utterly inspirational. She has sent a message to women everywhere that they are not answerable for ‘their part’ in their abuse; that instead of recriminations, they deserve justice and support.

More importantly, Kate’s actions have demonstrated that even the smallest, most seemingly powerless person can take on one of the biggest institutions in the country and fight for what is right. The punishment handed down to McDonald and Deblaquiere might have been pathetic at best, but the fact that Kate pursued it is immeasurably powerful.

And this courage has not gone unnoticed. Kate’s refusal to accept the status quo of male entitlement inspired all the voters this year, with readers saying, “Kate epitomises a woman tackling ‘rape culture’ head-on.

One reader wrote, “She accepted dreadful damage to her career, dignity and reputation in order to repudiate the cultural assumption that men have a right to abuse women simply because a woman has agreed to have sex with them. I think her extraordinary courage and determination make her an exceptional role model for other women subjected to the combined forces of sexual and institutional abuse.”

Meanwhile, our judges took the view that “despite bullying and intimidation, Kate was not silenced. She is an inspiration to victims of sexual abuse by showing that sexual aggressors should and can be held accountable for their actions. She’s also set a powerful example that the victim-blaming mentality is no longer acceptable in our society.”

We have a long way to go before we can look back and say we have overcome the worst and most insidious parts of rape culture - but we are getting there. And it takes the courage of women like Kate to demonstrate to wider society that such behaviour will not be tolerated; that women do not exist to make sport for men who refuse to see them as anything more than sex toys to be passed around and abused in order to maintain their own fragile sense of power.

Kate’s bravery has put her front and centre in a vital national conversation about how women continue to be sexually subjugated in this country, and more and more people are beginning to realise that our society is fractured in a very serious way.

She has helped to inspire women everywhere to understand that they aren’t powerless and they don’t need to neatly fold in the face of overwhelming prejudice and power. While fighting the system hasn’t suddenly become simple, the actions of women like Kate prove to other victims that it doesn’t have to be impossible - because even though the system has always won, it doesn’t have to mean that it always will.

69 comments

  • +1 to this article and to "Kate"

    Nobody deserves the treatment that she was afforded by her colleagues and she has conducted herself admirably and been a shining beacon for all women, and anyone else who has been bullied or sexually harassed.

    It's a shame, obviously, that such an awful situation had to come to pass for this recognition to come but still - its well deserved. Many others would have suffered in silence.

    Commenter
    Adrian
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    December 16, 2013, 9:21AM
    • Also agree Adrian

      Clem, you should take note of what you have written, as opposed to some recent articles that failed to hit the mark.

      Commenter
      $keptic
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      December 16, 2013, 11:43AM
  • I'm very pleased to see that Kate was chosen. There is no doubt that she is a deserving winner and has made a fantastic contribution.

    Commenter
    Nick
    Date and time
    December 16, 2013, 9:34AM
    • What happened to this young woman is appalling, and the perpetrators have since been justly punished. However, as a parent of a child in their second year at ADFA, I am aware that the activity that Kate freely chose to engage herself in with another cadet is strictly banned at the academy. This and other regulations at the academy are in place for very good reason, given these cadets will one day be expected to lead others in what could be some of the most stressful life and death situations that could be encountered. Perhaps, if Kate as an aspiring leader on the ADF had made better decisions in this regard instead of deliberately flouting academy rules what subsequently followed may not have occurred at all?

      Commenter
      Alpal62
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      December 16, 2013, 9:46AM
      • It takes two to tango and who knows if these knuckleheads wouldn't have done the same thing to another woman outside of the academy? Why should women be some kind of regulator on good and bad behaviour? Don't go all Andrew Bolt on us now.

        She was damn brave for reporting what happened because she would have known that by reporting she was admitting to breaking one of the rules and the subsequent scrutiny on her behaviour.

        Commenter
        Ripley
        Location
        Hunting Aliens
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 10:30AM
      • Quite right, there are non-frat regs and they were not complied with.

        However, I am reasonably sure that the punishment specified under those regulations for the breach of same would not, in any conceivable world, have included "be videoed and broadcast to others in the couse of the prohibited conduct and be abjectly humiliated and demeaned int he eyes of the world and the defence community."

        This is the point which everyone seems to forget.

        Commenter
        WKCIA
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 10:54AM
      • There are rules in place in the defense forces for legitimate reasons, yes, but when you focus only on this you are missing the point completely as to what happened to her.

        Should not all of the men involved also been making "better decisions" too?

        It's partly attitudes like yours that make it so hard for people to put their hands up and say there was a greater wrong committed.

        Commenter
        AmyG
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 10:56AM
      • If Daniel McDonald had made better decisions in this regard instead of deliberately flouting academy rules (having sex with a woman on campus) AND filming it AND circulating the film, what subsequently followed would not have occurred at all.

        Commenter
        Cam
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 11:01AM
      • No word on Kate's partner...who not only 'flouted the rules' but then posted it for all to see?

        Or is it Kate - and Kate alone - who deserves to deal with the fall-out?

        Commenter
        Donna Joy
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 11:12AM
      • I'm sorry but are you saying because a rule was broken this woman deserved to be humiliated and vilified? Would you care to point out exactly where it is stated this is the punishment for rule breaking?

        Commenter
        Erikah
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        December 16, 2013, 11:21AM

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