Opinion: a monster didn’t kill Eurydice, our culture did
The death of Eurydice Dixon has sparked national debate around violence against women and the culture that allows gendered violence to grow. Eurydice’s body was found at Princess Park, North Carlton during the early hours of Wednesday June 13th, 2018. Jaymes Todd, aged nineteen, was arrested that Wednesday evening for the rape and murder of Eurydice. Just a few hundred metres from her home, Eurydicesent a message stating “I’m almost home safe, HBU [how about you]?”
Eurydice’s death has shaken the nation and public reaction has reflected this. In Melbourne on Monday, thousands attended a candlelight vigil in memory of the young comedian. Vigils were replicated throughout the country on Monday evening, erupting in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Hobart and Canberra.
Public reaction to Eurydice’s death has been in solidarity with the young comedian, with trending posts empathising with the fear that she would have experienced upon facing her death. Women nation-wide have deeply felt this death, as it reflects both the reality of some of our worst terrors and the culture that enables, without consequence, violence against women. Our culture, encouraged by microaggressions and jokes that diminish the stance of women in our society, allows for violence against women to grow. Every year, over 300,000 women experience sexual or physical violence by someone other than a partner.
We are told to never walk home alone because the consequence far outweighs the risks, and the death of Eurydice validated that claim. We are told to dress up, but also to dress down as to not bring the wrong type of attention. We are told to never catch public transport or walk alone, but also that taking a cab on our own is far too dangerous. We are told to call our family or friends when walking alone. Still, in the case of Eurydice, contacting people she trusted even when she was mere metres from her home did not prevent her from death. Modifying our behaviour simply does not work, because the root of the issue is not the conduct of women, but the conduct of men.
A universal experience for women is that public spaces are not safe — particularly in the evening. Sexual, verbal and physical harassment is commonplace for women as they go about their lives. Eurydice’s death has touched so many as it emphasised that men can consume us in any way they want, and discard us in any way they see fit.
The impact that this culture has had on our society was confirmed in police reports following Eurydice’s death. Victorian Superintendent David Clayton warned women to “make sure you have situational awareness, that you’re aware of your surroundings… if you’ve got a mobile phone, carry it”. Understandably causing outrage, the people of Australia noted that not only was Eurydice carrying a phone and updating her partner that she was almost home, but that it didn’t work. She is still dead.
There is no doubt that this death started a dialogue. However, this dialogue showed the country exactly where we are going wrong in dealing with male violence. Police warnings about “situational awareness” speak as if gendered violence is limited to the public world. What is fundamentally wrong with this assumption is that for many women, they aren’t safe anywhere. The distinction between the “public” and the “private” allows for scapegoating male violence to the “monster in the bushes”. It holds no accountability for the one woman per week who is killed by a current or former partner. In Australia in 2013, one in three women had experienced physical or sexual assault by someone who knew them. The divide between the public and private sector can be easily distinguished in a scenario of violent, public sexual assault and preempted murder. We paint the aggressor as an evil monster, but by doing this, we remove the conversation from the cultural and systemic constraints that place women below men. We remove the murderer from the everyday man, despite murder happening within the home so often.
The narrative of the evil murderer is easy to consume. It is even easier to claim that this is not an issue for all men, but an issue for the limited violent ones. This raises the typical defensive response of #NotAllMen. A singular male may not rape and murder women in parks, but the issue of public gendered violence involves a wider discussion regarding consent and the role of aggressive male culture in relation to domestic violence. When 93% of sexual assault perpetrators are men, and people respond by stating that “men commit these crimes”, it does not mean that all men do. What it does mean, is that the majority of the time that these crimes are committed, it is at the hands of a man. To scapegoat this fact and endorse “innocent” attitudes enables violence and results in limited accountability.
So, here’s what I propose — women, don’t change a thing. We already have “situational awareness” — in fact, we are hyper aware of our current situation. Hannah Gadsby’s monologue in her recently televised comedy segment “Nanette” summarised the unified feeling of anger and powerlessness many of us feel. She emphasised that to be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity nor make you weak; your resilience is your humanity. Those who are weak and without humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another being powerless.
To our men, actively speak out and invalidate this culture that keeps all of us prisoner. Refuse to validate jokes that diminish women. Abandon the belief that they are purely comical and understand the impact that they have. Actively shun stories of sexual conquests from your peers that objectify women and trivialise boundaries of consent. Help protest for legislative revision regarding gendered issues such as domestic violence and rape. Reject entitled versions of masculinity. We need men to stand with us and support us; our culture enables violence against women to be a present factor in our society. Help us stop that.