Thursday, November 24, 2011


So today, it would seem, is White Ribbon Day. Which I think is probably a good thing to get behind. But doesn't it seem strange?

This is the White Ribbon oath that we're asked to swear:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence to women.

And I do. My life is filled with marvellous, beautiful women - my wife, my sisters, my friends, and the tiny women-in-waiting who I helped to create - and it makes me sick, brings me to tears, to think of hurting them.

So I swear. But it feels so weird, to think that it is even necessary. Just saying those words in my head, it feels surreal. Because if we have to actually affirm that in an oath, it means that there are people out there who wouldn't swear it. There are people out there who are quite happy to commit, excuse and remain silent about violence to women.

Isn't that weird?

Of course I know it's true - there are hundreds, thousands, millions, of men - and women - who think violence against women is fine - you know, under the right circumstances. When she's really asking for it. When it's well-deserved. Everyone knows that this horror is really rather common.

But still, isn't it weird? Isn't it weird that people do this? Isn't it weird that people condone it? Isn't it weird, especially, that it's not just a matter of people losing their heads and lashing out, that there are actual human beings out there who do this systematically, who can justify it to themselves and consider a normal part of life?

Isn't it weird that White Ribbon Day needed to be created?

Let's not look on women as a protected species here, as delicate flowers that need defending by the big strong men. Let's not split our species in two, positioning the male half as the burly warriors nobly striving to keep the women folk safe, and the female half as fragile doe-eyed innocents, helpless if not for the efforts of their guardians. Let's not throw around silly lines like "Imagine if it was your mother, or your sister".

Let's look on men and women as people, sharing their world, sharing their lives. Let's look on the experience of being human as a duty for us all, to look out for each other, for men and women collectively to be each other's protectors. Let's imagine not that it was a woman you know - let's imagine it was you. Or even better, let's imagine it was a complete stranger suffering, and you stood up anyway, because that's what people do for other people.

I know we all get angry, and frustrated, and we want to strike out sometimes at the people who frustrate us, even when those people are smaller or weaker or less able to defend themselves. Even when those people are women. It's pretty human to want to punch someone in the face.

But we don't. Why don't we? Because we don't want to be that sort of person.

I am a bad person to lecture others on morality. I have done bad things in my life. I have treated other people, even people I love, poorly. I have failed so often to live up to my own standards. But no, I don't hit women. Because I don't want to look in the mirror and see a bully staring back at me. I don't want to lie in bed at night, gazing into the dark, and have to keep company with my own cowardice and cruelty. I don't want my beautiful children to have to look up to a brute, and be set to follow the example of a man who let violence overwhelm his humanity. I don't want the legacy I leave the world to be fear and hatred. I don't want to join the ranks of those who have so abandoned compassion, who have so detached themselves from empathy, who have been so hollowed out by anger and crushed by frustration, and who have found themselves so devoid of hope and imagination, that they can only deal with their own demons by inflicting pain on another human being.

I don't want to be that person. Nobody has to be that person. I hope that I, and you, and all of us, can make the effort to be better. I hope that violence against women can become as bizarre and alien a concept as it deserves to be. Let's all join this human race, shall we?


paul.robert.mcelwee said...

Great post.
I have done bad things in my life.
We all have Ben but the characteristics that count are to be aware of our actions, to own our flaws and to change. The fact that you think about these things and that you write about them (and write really well) is fighting the good fight. Plus, you're a funny bugger. Onya.

clawsout said...

The marketing folks behind White Ribbon Day are cynical masterminds.

By asking everyone to swear not to commit violence against women they are not only trying to stop a bad practice, but providing the alternative at the same time.

Next time your wife annoys you, leave the Yellow Pages and baseball bat collecting cobwebs under the couch, and simply swear at her. It's amazing how satisfying a really good swear can be (Tip: try to include "taint-licker" where you can).

You'll be delighted to find verbal abuse can be just as effective at curbing the bitches aberrant behaviour. So, you can get back to watching Friday Night Footy and slamming back VB longnecks sooner, and with less damage to the Housing Commission flat.