Driving back from Brisbane on Saturday, something wonderful happened. And no, it didn’t involve Pokemon Go.
“Can I play that song again?” Master11 asked me. “I really like it. I think it’s one of my favourite songs. Top ten anyway.”
The song was Across The Lines by Tracy Chapman. I was singing along in my head as we drove without even thinking about the lyrics. In fact, I hadn’t even picked the song. My iPhone was plugged into the charger of Master24’s car, which I’d borrowed, and which apparently has some fancy swancy system which finds the songs and plays them. I felt very modern and hip and pleased with the world when it started to annoy my twelve year old daughter in the backstreet.
But not quite as happy as when Master11 said he likes one of my eighties songs from one of my favourite eighties albums.
This time through I listened to what I was singing.
On the back streets of America they kill the dream of America.
It occurred to me that line, the whole song in fact, is as valid today as it was nearly thirty years ago when she released her solo album.
When Master11 threatened to play the song again for the sixth time, and Miss12 in the back threatened to throw herself out of the car if we didn’t change the song, I played another favourite from the album – Why. Almost immediately I was struck by the same thought: thirty years and we’re still mulling over the same problems.
Why is a woman still not safe when she’s in her home?
Nothing seems to have changed, and it’s no wonder. As recently as last week there was a ‘discussion’ on Q&A which went south quickly and showed how even the people who agree there’s a problem are fighting amongst themselves.
Since then I’ve seen calls for Price’s resignation and read some shockingly aggressive comments directed at Van Badham, which honestly just serve to prove her point. Firstly, I am not one of those people calling for Price to lose his job. He does fine, I think, at what he does. I rarely agree with him, but he often makes eloquent points which I enjoy finding holes in. Or watching others poke holes in.
But he really stuffed up this time. I know what I think he was trying to say, but he did come across as a bit of a dick in defending something which wasn’t the main part of the question. And then doing it again. And again. Ending with the ‘hysterical’ comment.
I didn’t even get what everyone was upset about at first.
But like the word nigger for black Americans, or retards for the family of special needs people (I’ve come up against that recently and I didn’t even use the whole word, just last four letters), some language has the power to hurt and dredge up ill feelings when it’s used in the wrong way or by the wrong people.
But does the word hysterical fit into this?
Sure, it does have history of very being used to suppress and control women (I used the Google), but I never even slightly think of that when I hear or read it. So surely if we don’t use to refer to the debunked medical condition hysteria these days, it’s silly to get worked up about it, right?
Only then I thought, when have I ever heard it used to describe a man? Never. Only women. Only negatively. Only as a way of dismissing their opinion. It’s hardly a compliment. It’s really only got negative overtones.
And why did he say it? To dismiss what she was saying and shut her up.
Price wasn’t at the top of his game, that’s for sure.
But, and this is important, he’s inadvertently got the discussion well and truly rolling across screens and iPhones on domestic violence against women in a way which wouldn’t have happened if he’d simply agreed with what was being said. Or said nothing. So that’s something.
We can all agree domestic violence is bad in all it’s many forms – regardless of whether it’s physical or mental, regardless of whether it’s against a man, woman or child. Something needs doing.
One thing which has been recognised we can do with respects to violence against women is being mindful of our language, so let’s do that. It’s a step in the right direction, and that’s what’s needed.
There’s this thing happening which I’ve seen time and time again when the topic of violence against women comes up, and every time it threatens to derail an important discussion before it gains traction by doing exactly what happened on QandA with Price and Badham – turning people who agree on something into combatants.
This thing I’m talking about is people becoming affronted we’re only talking about domestic violence against women. As though by doing this society is somehow okay about domestic violence against men.
I think the confusion is this argument of domestic violence is not a one bullet point topic. In the same way talk about child abuse and domestic violence against children has to be discussed separately, so does domestic violence against women and men. While there is much which is across the board for each of these, there are some very specific and nuanced points which need to be discussed in each area. We need these specific-to-violence-against-women chats, and we need them to be free to focus on the issue, and not having to apologise for bringing the topic up and worried about upsetting the flag bearers of other victims.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about domestic violence against men. Of course we bloody well should. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about all domestic violence together as one big, horrible, social issue – but that’s a slightly different discussion to this one. These are equally important talks which don’t need to drown this one out to gain a sympathetic ear.
So let’s please all stop arguing amongst ourselves because surely, on the topic of domestic violence more than any other, we can agree that fighting doesn’t help anyone.
And because, as Tracy Chapman sang a couple of songs later in the car with Master11 and Miss12, If Not Now…Then When?
If you’ve missed it all….
“Raising a family on little more than laughs”
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Have you read this? Powerful.
Great column Bruce. My Mr 12 loves that album too – and I only remembered to dust it off and play it to him when that abomination of Fast Car was released! Glad to say he too prefers the original version!
And if you haven’t read Condon’s book, you should. Everyone should.
I think we need to use the term “domestic abuse” instead of “domestic violence”. It makes out that there must be physical attacks when there is so much more that happens to dominate and subdue women. Such as these verbal attacks.
Side note to start with – I love Chapman’s albums, even though they make me so incredibly sad. Especially “Fast Car”, which sums up so much in one song.
That final shot from Facebook covers it for me. The violence expressed is symptomatic of our underlying social issue. I am still disappointed The Project didn’t give Badham time with Price.
My husband was very mentally abusive and one of his favorite tactics was to talk over me continuously during any disagreement. Eventually I would either stop talking, at which point he would tell me how childish I was for “refusing” to discuss something or I would get louder and more insistently try to make myself heard, and then he would dismissively tell me I was too hysterical to deal with. Watching the video gave me chills because the contemptuous attitude of Price was all too familiar. I think far too many men have the attitude that if they can shut a woman up with insults or aggression, then they win. I hope we are raising our boys better.