‘This was no reckoning’: A post-mortem on the Women’s March for Justice
‘All I can think about is the things we should have done’
Trigger warning: Rape, sexual assault, femicide
It’s been almost over a month since the March for Justice, an event that Abbey Kendall, director of the Working Women’s Centre described as a ‘reckoning’. But I have to ask: What changes have been made since the march? And I have to answer — nothing.
Since February, story after story has come out. Brittany, Kate, and all these names that I’ll have to carry with me for the rest of my days. But as story after story comes out, I have to admit to myself that I am so sick of stories. I’m sick of hearing them, I’m sick of telling them, and I am sick of people being shocked by them.
Academic Eleanor Glendinning argues that ‘stories of sexual violence against women serve as foundational myths of western culture’. And in the aftermath of the March, I have to wonder if these women, these victims, have become just another part of that myth. Just another story we tell ourselves about who we are.
Lucretia is one of the oldest stories about a woman raped. She was a Roman noblewoman and a devout wife. When she denied a soldier’s advances, he pressed a dagger to her throat, and told her that if she did not sleep with him, he would kill her and a male slave and pose their bodies as if they had been caught in the act. With her honour destroyed either way — she submitted.
After the rape, she went to her husband and her father and told them what had happened. And then she killed herself. Rather than mourn her, they instead paraded her corpse through the streets, to demonstrate her virtue in death.
I can’t help wondering if who we are in this story is not Lucretia, not the woman hurt, but her husband and father. If we are not marching another woman’s body through the street, not for her but for us. To prove our own victimhood, our own innocence.
Because when I watched the women marching through the city, holding meaningless signs like ‘I’m a slut for feminism’ and ‘This is my resisting bitch face’, standing side by side with other women’s abusers, I did not feel solidarity, nor sisterhood. I did not feel their anger, nor their grief. When I saw MPs, smiling for photo ops, celebrated for their attendance just days after voting against the decriminalisation of abortion, I only felt betrayed.
This was no reckoning.
And all I can think about is the things we should have done. We should have painted the steps of parliament red. We should have slashed their tires, and occupied their offices. We should have burnt the cum-stained desks to the ground.
We should have asked the female staffers who proclaim they ‘will no longer be keeping secrets’ why the hell they were keeping them in the first place. We should have spit their ‘accepted partially, or in principle’ back in their faces.
We should ask Michaela Cash how it feels to sit where he sat — if it makes her mother proud. The man who raped Kate should never feel safe in the city where she took her first steps ever again.
But instead we settled for marching. Standing still in the square. And it’s all just so hopeless because historically marching has won us nothing. It is the white-washed story given to us, wrapped up in a pretty pink bow.
It is to make us forget and it is to make us forsake the women who have fought, who have starved themselves, who have burned down buildings and who have actually resisted. It is the story given to us to make us swallow our anger and focus on licking wounds instead. It’s the only story I hear when they say, ‘Enough is enough’. Because ‘enough is enough’ means absolutely nothing when the damage has already been done. Enough is enough doesn’t mean a thing to the raped girl nor to the dead girl. Anger means something.
You need anger for a reckoning.
Originally published in Issue 4 of the magazine, out now on campus.