Not All Men?
As a child, I had the luxury of being isolated from reality and the weight of injustice for a while. I would often sit outside under the trees and build structures out of sticks and scrap metal I found. In spring, the sweet smell of the acacia wattles would sweep down to where I stood, wrapping around me gently. Sometimes I laid on the grass nearby, counting the clouds and squinting my eyes as the wind whistled between my ears.
All was well. But, when I began to understand that the world outside my backyard wasn’t as sweet, the injustice was deafening.
It manifested into wails from peers of boys pulling their piggy tails, as weeping women at netball practise mumbling about estranged, angry husbands and as authoritative, hushing tones muttering about my body. I was forced to understand that being a girl would push me into a different box of treatment, rules, and social mannerisms.
The disgusting reality of sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and gender bias affects all women, whether we decide to acknowledge it or not. Sexual harassment is not an oddball, once-in-a-while occurrence: it is a consistent, fiery, and shitty reality for a large portion of us. Domestic abuse, while often behind closed doors, is a common reality for many young girls.
For so many, sexism feels inescapable. It’s a weight that can’t be deafened by the innocent smell of sweet acacia wattles and whistling wind, because it’s too blaring and deafening.
As a 14-year-old, this injustice beckoned to me. It navigated itself through the streets of my neighbourhood and twisted under my door. I heard of the wrongdoings plaguing the world regarding women, it wounded me. Though it felt distant, I had sympathy, but there was an empathetic dissonance. While I understood closely that as a girl, there were different expectations of me, I still didn’t comprehend that men could touch me in a malicious light. Maybe it’s hard to understand the extent of hurt and trauma one can feel at the hands of abuse, if you haven’t endured it.
But soon I began to understand the severity of abuse. I saw it from afar, but it drew nearer.
Something woke me, injustice was sitting, staring…
At 14, I sent a boy an explicit picture of my body. He threatened to send it to a friend because later I didn’t feel the same way toward him. On the cusp of vulnerability (and child pornography), it wasn’t until five years later he said sorry. His continuous slurs traumatised me, chipping away at the self-esteem I was desperate to build. Our friends looked at him the same.
1 in 5 (1.7 million) women have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened since age 15. Before age 15, 1 in 6 women have experienced physical and sexual assault.
At 16, working at a café, I shook in panic from anxiety, nonsensical nervousness flowing through my body. Breathing was a pain, so my boss thought massaging my thighs would soothe me. He pressed his crotch against my back to show me how to wash dishes — frozen, desperate, panicked and anxious, I could not utter my discomfort. His position pathed way for ease of abuse. Facilitated by my teenage naivety, panic, fear, a monster wounded me, and yet he’ll never pay.
Not All Men.
It wasn’t all men either when at 19 my boyfriend lifted his hand. His shaking knuckles slamming into the wood beside me. His screams never soothed me like the intense, romantic relationships said they would on TV. Those long, pointy fingers still linger over my lifeless body, clenching at my sides, begging to resuscitate my braindead willingness to nod at every toxic command.
It’s easy to ignore abuse when you haven’t endured trauma…. it’s so easy to ignore abuse. It’s easy to ignore patterns, signs, words, cycles and the off-hand snowflakes that have the ability to snowball. Yet snowballs start small.
If I had stayed, would his hand had graduated from wood to my skin? His words could have tightened faster around me, power dripping from his mouth like spit. But power ignites greed. I couldn’t disagree, go against his word, don’t I trust him?
Now wattles smell bitter, clouds morph to evil faces and my inner child violently shakes.
Men sit in high places, watching us manoeuvre around their emotional trenches, wondering when we’ll fall in.
If 1 woman a week is killed by a current or former partner (in the 2 years from 2012–13 to 2013–14), would there be a reality where control wasn’t enough? Murder is uncommon already in our reality of continuous hardship.
52 women, dead in a year at the hands of an abuser who’s snowballing was ignored.
Almost 1 in 4 (23%) have experienced emotional abuse from a current or previous partner since the age of 15 (ABS 2017b).
Maybe Not All Men further illustrates the cycle of behaviour that assists the abuse it’s distracting from in the first place. Not All Men reminds us that, even on a micro level, abuse is facilitated by those who have yet to see the bigger picture.
It’s not all men. It’s some.
That’s the point.