'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.PT2M3S 620 349
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.