International Women’s Day has been a part of my consciousness since my Mum started working for a women’s organisation in 2001 and was in charge of organising an event every year. But this was the first year that I heard International Women’s Day being talked about in the mainstream. It was on the news, Triple J played only female artists all day, Youtube had a trending series called #pizzarollsnotgenderrolls (my favourite), and then there was that story going around Facebook of Tony Abbott hosting an International Women’s Day event at a men’s club. This is following a trend I saw in 2014 where issues of gender equality are actually being talked about. A lot of it is being talked about in what might be considered the wrong way, but I’m still counting it as a win because at least the conversation is happening.
The Lawyer asked me why there is an International Women’s Day, and not an International Men’s Day, and I replied that the answer to that is similar to the question of why there is a Black History Month in the US and not a white history month. All months are white history months. All days are men’s days. It’s like how at Melbourne Uni there is a women’s room (not a toilet room, a dedicated space for only women to hang out in). Why isn’t there a men’s room? Because all spaces are men’s spaces.
This year for International Women’s Day I am talking about a new initiative that apparently is being brought out in NSW. I heard about it on The Project but I can’t find any information about it online. From what I understood, the idea is that if a woman is concerned about her partner, and she fits the minimum of requirements, as in he is exhibiting controlling behaviour and she can prove that to the police, then she can check to see if he is on the domestic violence offenders’ registry.
I think this is a ridiculous idea, because as the Lawyer said, there is a first time for everything. Also, a lot of domestic violence doesn’t get reported. Finding out your partner hasn’t hit a woman before shouldn’t be a relief, like whew, nothing to worry about! It’s like when a woman says “I know he would never physically hurt me, but...” Once you get to saying things like that, you have cause for concern.
I would subvert the whole DV registry part of the equation. If a woman comes to the police saying she is concerned because her partner is controlling/threatening, instead of giving her his report card, maybe they should be helping and educating her at that point on how to deal with this situation, including giving her the support and resources to leave if that’s what she decides to do.
They could give her information like, it’s not likely to get better. This kind of behaviour betrays a deep sense of entitlement that she isn’t able to fix. As the commitment gets deeper – engagement, marriage, pregnancy – the situation is statistically likely to get more dangerous rather than better.
Leaving a relationship is always hard. Leaving a bad or even abusive relationship can actually be dangerous, because the abusive person is likely to go to more extreme measures when they see control slipping away. The best thing a woman in a bad situation can do is listen to her instincts, seek support, and get educated on the statistics. The best thing that someone supporting this person can do is listen, be respectful of her decisions no matter what, and make it clear that there are resources available to her.
For more information, read Why Does He Do That, by Lundy Bancroft.