Male violence against women. Call it what it is.

20 Nov

This piece in Daily Life yesterday by Jane Gilmore raises some important questions about how we talk about male violence against women.

One of the most startling revelations is the difficulty and the expense of discovering, in Victoria at least, the gender of the majority of perpetrators of violence. While information about the victims of such violence is publicly released, information about the offenders is not, and Gilmore had to pay $700 and wait nine weeks to obtain this information. What Gilmore eventually discovered about the Victorian statistics is this:

In 2013/14

* 87% of homicides were committed by men.
* 98% of sexual assaults were committed by men.
* 83% of non-sexual assaults were committed by men.
* 90% of robberies were committed by men.
* 92% of abductions were committed by men.

I strongly recommend you read the article for a more comprehensive view of these figures.

I don’t want to start a gender war. But these statistics are irrefutable. I can understand that many men, especially those who are not violent towards women and don’t engage in criminal acts, might feel unfairly attacked and defensive when women raise our voices in protest against male violence. However, I would urge you not to waste your energy feeling unfairly attacked (you aren’t nearly as unfairly attacked as we are) and defensive. Most women don’t think all men are violent. But there’s no escaping the reality that most of the violence in our society that comes to the attention of the authorities is perpetrated by men.

If you can get outraged by the king hit and rush in laws overnight to increase penalties for the very few instances of that particular type of male violence, how do you explain the ongoing refusal to be equally and more outraged by the fact that sixty-eight women have been killed in Australia this year, by men? (from Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women project.)

We have a Minister for Women, though you’d never know it. He’s about as useful as the non-existent Science Minister. His name is Tony Abbott. Tell him you want to hear what he intends to do about all the women dead this year and those yet to die, at the hands of violent men.

DV1

Pyne. Turnbull. Hubris.

20 Nov

christopher-pyne-1200-vertical

When the goddess of language came up with the word hubris meaning overconfident pride or arrogance that incurs the wrath of the gods who then punish the offender, mightily humiliating him, she had Christopher Pyne in mind. Look:

Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Yes, that could apply to most of the government. Sad, isn’t it?

Pyne’s latest caper is setting up an online petition to protest ABC production cuts  leading to the loss of jobs in his own electorate, as a consequence of budget restrictions imposed by his own government. His move has been described as hypocritical, but I think of it more as calculatedly provocative, designed to arouse precisely the reaction it has. Pyne loves above all things to cause outrage. It makes him feel powerful. He needs it like he needs the air he breathes. This is not a good characteristic for a politician in government.

Pyne’s move is also an example of conservatives adopting left-wing methods of protest in a “look, we can do this too” attempt to undermine those methods with ridicule, and it is a co-option that is intended to render them puny and ineffective.  However, as the tactic is blatant, hypocritical and just plain stupid, all it succeeds in achieving is a few laughs for the in-group and in this case, Pyne momentarily in the spotlight where he most loves to be.

Like his leader and many of his colleagues, Pyne has all the substance of a stick of fairy floss, or cotton candy as our friends in the US like to call it. I am struggling to find any sign of vision, or genuine concern for anything other than their own power in the government, no matter at what cost to the country and its citizens. This consuming self-interest  is destroying them, individually and collectively, as consuming self-interest always will eventually. Hubris.

Malcolm Turnbull for example used to have some authority in the world, a short term in the Abbott government has transformed him into the most hollow of hollow men, as if the virus of ambition has worked on him like psychic Ebola, leaching out of him all his vital fluids and leaving him dry as a bone in the Western Desert. The man is pathetic and utterly dismissible. He was not always thus.

A good leader inspires and embiggens her or his followers. Abbott is slowly but surely destroying every decent thing there might once have been in the members of his government. The man is satanic in his talent for destruction. In opposition he was very noisy about it. As Prime Minister he is far more stealthy, and even more lethal.

Betrayal

18 Nov

There was a message for her when she arrived home from her swim. The sea that day was Caribbean blue with indigo blooms. It reminded her of Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Before she met him she was a woman who travelled alone to Mexico even though her oncologist advised against it, a woman who took the ferry to Isla Mujeres without having booked accommodation in advance, a woman who when she arrived at the island of women strolled through the hot midday streets looking for a place she might stay and found one, as she knew she would, an apartment above a shop that sold beaten tin images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and postcards of women who fought with the Zapatistas. She had a life before him. A big, rich beautiful life, full of the love of her family and its babies, and her husband before he was stricken with illness.

Hey, lovely lady.
Hey, my love. I’ve been swimming in the sea.
Have you showered?
Not yet.
Good. I want to lick the salt from all your secret places. I want to taste your salty juices. I want my tongue in you. I want you to come on my lips… 

 

Early in their relationship he said, we mustn’t make comparisons. He surprised her. She didn’t want to know anything about his sexual life before her, and had no intention of sharing hers. It would be odious, she agreed, to compare.

But then he wanted them to have their list of “firsts.” And it didn’t occur to her immediately that anything either of them claimed as a first revealed some of their history. When she realised this, she felt guilty. Her ill husband would never again be her lover but still she felt guilty, that she was betraying him, that she was perhaps indicating he had not been satisfactory, which was far from the truth. She wrote to her lover, saying that she had not meant to imply that her sexual life with her husband had been lacking or unsatisfactory because that would be dishonest, and he replied that he understood.

Likewise, when he told her he had not experienced this or that, she knew his history and wondered how he could reveal such things while still in his marriage, even if they no longer shared a bed and sexual intimacy. Her inside voice set up a minor clamour. Don’t trust him, it said, look how he is betraying his wife, don’t be so foolish as to think he wouldn’t betray you too. She knows he will. She has written to him, you will leave me if your wife finds out, won’t you, and he replies, you can’t know that. You can’t know that. His reply feels like both a rebuke, and an appeal that she not make assumptions about how he will behave.

Then he tells her he is working out how they can be together, he’s making a concrete plan he’s doing all the financials and she is startled, and says, you are thinking like this? I’m not thinking like this. I haven’t even considered this. She doesn’t know him, she hasn’t even spent a night with him, this isn’t like any other relationship she’s had when people have time to know one another, to fall asleep and wake up together, they haven’t done that and she’s not ready to leave her life for him and besides, her husband is still breathing and there is no way on this earth she will throw in her lot with another man as long as there’s breath in her husband’s body.

He is with his wife as he works out the financials and plans a new life with his lover, and his wife is with him, in complete ignorance of the future he envisages without her. How, she wonders, is it possible to plan a new life with another woman when you haven’t made any mention of it to your wife? What will he do? Walk out one day? Leave a note? She imagines doing the same thing when she lived with her husband, when he was well. She imagines an abyss separating them that never existed in reality, but would have to be there for her to secretly plan to leave him for somebody else.

Again and again it will come between the lovers, the difference between her knowledge of marriage and his. She thinks they would not do well together, that she would expect the intimacy that is marriage to her, and he would expect the distance that is apparently marriage to him. He tells her that he is not allowed to close his study door when he works because that hurts his wife’s feelings, and she marvels that he cannot close his study door but he can plan a new life with another woman, won’t that hurt his wife’s feelings? She asks him how he works if he can’t close out distraction and interruption. He says he’s learned to work around it. When she works she needs solitude it was the same for her husband, they always closed their doors. Would you object to me closing the door when I wanted to work, she asks him, and he laughs and tells her of course he wouldn’t, but she is unconvinced.

There’s a cause and effect, she thinks, between the distance in his marriage that allows him to plan a new life under his wife’s unsuspecting nose, and the fact that he can’t hurt her feelings by closing his study door. I have no privacy, he tells her, only in my thoughts. I will always have my secret thoughts, he says. She tries to imagine what it would be to live without privacy, and knows she would go mad.

She talks to her friend about her marriage. You know it was very unusual, don’t you, her friend tells her. No. How could I know that? You two, the way you loved each other was extraordinary. Don’t ever expect to find anything like that again. And anyway, lots of couples live without privacy, you know.

Ugh, she says, I never want to know everything about anybody. How boring. And she remembers how she loved the ultimate unknowableness of her husband, of any human being but especially him, the impossibility of possessing him, his otherness, his alterity, the absolute not-me-ness of him. The delight when he emerged from his study or she emerged from hers, and he took her in his arms as if they’d been behind closed doors for days. Oh, you, he’d say. You.

I don’t understand him, she thinks of her lover, I don’t understand what he means by love. She struggles to grasp how he does what he does, her, his wife, the secret life, the power of his desire, if she felt like he does about someone else she could no more be in the same house as her husband than fly to the moon. She couldn’t hurt her husband like that, even when, especially when, he didn’t know the damage that was being done to him, the denial of him, of the life they’d had together. Her lover seems to be of the “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” school, but she’s never believed that, people know stuff, even if they don’t know they know, and it wreaks damage and havoc and they can’t understand why.

 

Bluff Beach

 

Every day while the weather held, she swam in the warm sea, usually naked unless strangers wandered onto her deserted beach. She was golden brown all over.

Send me photos of your golden breasts.
Aaaaah, he writes when she does. When I look at you the juice from my cock flows down my thigh, like it does when I hear your voice, or read what you’ve written. When you come for me, strong and long, I feel such joy that I have touched you so deeply. I want to suckle from your salty nipples, let me lick up your juices then kiss you so you taste them like the sea on my tongue. Oh Lordy, yes, I love you. You know I do.

 

When she was alone on Isla Mujeres she was happy, and occasionally lonely. She’d left her husband behind, much to his annoyance, but she knew it was essential for her to do this without him. He’d cried at the airport and she almost gave in, but her family in Mexico were expecting her so she boarded her flight and forgot about him almost immediately. She did this again when she went alone to Stockholm, and he was savage about her intending to fuck some Lars or Sven. That’s projection, she told him. You’re imposing on me what you are likely to do. I hate it when you talk psycho babble, he’d told her, and walked off. She wonders what he would think of her lover and the relationship she has with him. Apart from being insanely jealous that she had a lover at all. Fuck him if you must, he’d say, but don’t love him. I never loved anyone but you. Don’t you love anyone but me. Anyway, he’d conclude, he’ll never know you like I do. Then he’d sing something, like, I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about her.

 

The island of women is where Caribbean pirates kept their mistresses, imprisoned by the turquoise sea, unable to leave. The pirates took whichever woman they fancied at any particular time, but the women had no say in who they would lie with. When the pirates left for work, away for weeks, months at a time, the women were free to be with themselves, each other, and their children. She lay on the white sand of Isla Mujeres, her feet in the shallows where tiny striped fish nibbled her toes, and thought about the pirate women, and about love and because she has a cancer that will only ever be in remission, death. When she returned to her apartment above the shop she wrote to her husband. I’ll be home soon, she told him. Keep a candle in the window.

 

Her lover writes to her, several times a day for months and months and months. All the while his wife is there and he may not close his study door. When his wife goes out, they speak on the phone. His thigh is wet from the juice of his cock that leaks as soon as he hears her voice. They are perfectly matched and they should have met decades ago, he tells her from the house, the rooms, the home he shares with his wife.

There is one thing, and one thing she knows for certain about him. That he is capable of the most awful betrayal. Not only will he desire her, he will love her and want her in his life forever, and tell her, you are my second wife. And in spite of that love he will leave her, in the most cruel of ways, without a goodbye.

He was living a life that was unknown to his wife. Why is she shocked when he does this thing to her?

“The end is in the beginning, and yet you go on.” *

 

Isla Mujeres One

 

 

*Samuel Beckett

The pointlessness of Tony Abbott

18 Nov

tony-abbott-1

 

Tony Abbott’s most outstanding feature is, for me, his pointlessness. I look at him and I think, why? Why?

He reminds me of nothing as much as an unreconstructed Catholic priest. Old-fashioned paternalism. Meaningless clichés and stultifying slogans that won’t withstand a moment of even the mildest interrogation. Delivered with a most eerie absence of affect, indicating that even he doesn’t believe what he’s parroting. Speech designed to repress thought, smother questioning with a patronising blanket of faux fatherly authority that in truth means, don’t you question, we know best for no reason other than we are in possession of the power.

All designed to sap the public political life force, to grind it into submission the better to impose the kind of authoritative, unquestioned governance that is every conservative’s wet dream.

And what of his own life force? Think of him in opposition. Daily fired with destructive energy, unstoppable in his attacks, alive in every cell, thriving on abuse, insult, deceit, manipulation and spin. As the country’s leader he is a mere shade of his opposition self, far from what any country needs in today’s dangerous world, unremarkable except for his staggeringly stupid public utterances, thought of in  Europe as “the blunder from down under,” our very own suppository of wisdom, though whatever is in that suppository is very far from wise.

That he is dangerous in his pointlessness is incontestable. Abbott believes he is wise. He believes he is a statesman. He believes he has a god-given authority that imbues all his decisions with rightness and righteousness. He believes himself to be appointed and guided by his god. He is, to the very core of him, a devoutly religious man, and from that central belief system, all things Abbott flow. For Abbott, the point of him is him, and god endorses that point.

You can take the man out of the priesthood. But you can’t take the priesthood out of the man.

 

CardinalwithhisAbbottWin

 

 

 

Desire, and good men

17 Nov

wings-of-desire-title

 

My lover writes to me: So, we discover another everyday thing that we charge with sexuality. I would love to soap you all over in the shower. Your back, your legs, your arse, your cunt, your belly, and linger long over your breasts…

There is an erotic book by Cameron S. Redfern titled “Landscape with Animals,” that tells of her affair with a married man. Redfern is the pseudonym of Sonya Hartnett, author of novels classified quite wrongly in my opinion as young adult fiction.

The affair is initiated by the single woman who is described as unashamedly predatory, and utterly determined to have him. This is both a subversion of the heterosexual dance of infidelity in which the woman is pursued by the married man, and a repetition of the myth of woman as sexual temptress who, like Eve in the garden, brings the man to ruin by offering him knowledge neither of them, according to the rules of the culture in which they live, ought to have.

The married lover in the book is portrayed as a good, gentle, honourable man, who loves his wife and children. He succumbs, but not before he announces to his mistress and to himself, “I am doomed.”

When I read those words I remembered how my married lover (who pursued me, then accused me of the crime of “irresistibility” thereby having it both ways) told me, “I am ruined,” referring to the effects of our affair. And yet, torn, he writes:

Being with you gives me pleasure, gratitude, happiness, amazement, delight, wonder, excitement. It gives me succour and strength and a new lease on life. I need to see you. I need to be in bed with you on a Sunday morning…

The doom and ruin are offset by the extraordinary knowledge found in the discovery and exploration of sexuality and sensuality that at the same time seriously threaten the established order of marriage and family life. Freud was onto this in his “Civilisation and its Discontents” in which he explores the conflict between what he calls the pleasure principle and the reality principle. It is necessary, he argues, for the desire for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, to be repressed in order for civilisation as we have constructed it to survive. Desire realised for anyone other than the partner will cause destruction to varying degrees, threatening the foundations of monogamous relationship on which our culture rests.

Is it morally wrong for an individual to desire the expression of sexual and sensual aspects of him or herself that have been repressed and unrealised?

I’ve long held a theory that the rule of monogamy, as with many other societal restrictions, is enacted in an effort to bypass difficult emotions, in this case jealousy and deep hurt. Morality is merely the sign language of the emotions, Nietzsche argued. That is, we construct our moral codes not from our rational mind but from our feelings, reactively. I do not like the way this makes me feel therefore it is morally wrong. Infidelity may bring pain, discord and even destruction, but why do we declare all of these uncomfortable experiences to be morally wrong?

He writes before we meet: I want to fuck you physically so badly it hurts…

The fear of doom and ruin expressed by both men is complex. Goodness, gentleness and honour are qualities both identify and value in themselves. The deceit and betrayal of an extra marital affair will make it difficult to maintain that self-image. “I was a good person,” my lover told me, “I want to go back to being that good person.” But of course it was much too late, and one can never go back to the person one was before significant events. The whole point of significant events, it could be argued, is to move one along and if one stays stuck, the universe has done its best.

Both men fear the doom and ruin of their marriages and their families, as well as of themselves, as if their personal ruin must terminally ruin the lives of those who are close to them. Yet none of this prevents them pursuing their goal, so powerful is their desire to experience themselves, to discover who they are in the bed of the other woman.

We are so deep in such complexities, he writes. I could (and do) desire you an infinite amount but still be mentally ravaged by guilt feelings about my wife and family. You are my second wife. That sums it up. I so loved hearing your voice. Don’t have any idea how to deal with this terrible tangle we are in…

Whenever my lover spoke to me of his distress at having ceased to be a good man as a consequence of his love for me, I would tell him that none of us is entirely good or bad, that we find a temporary point on a continuum, move further towards one end or the other, then back again, and again, and this is how we live out our lives on earth. I had no interest or belief in his self-described goodness. If we are indeed “good,” we will never deny the capacity for “badness” that resides within every one of us and may emerge at any time, given the right circumstances. To define myself as “good” limits my human potential. Inside me, there is the possibility of everything.

I would rather you were real than good, I told him.

Then I thought of Freud. Sexuality unconfined by monogamy is bad because it risks the destruction of civilisation. Reality, which demands repression and denial, is good and will enable civilisation as we have constructed it to continue. I don’t think Freud was necessarily in agreement with the way society is constructed, given how he laboured to uncover and defang repression, but I think his observations are accurate. Desire is the most powerful of all the transgressors. It will not be denied without inflicting terrible individual and collective suffering, and it may not be expressed in our monogamous culture without risking the infliction of terrible suffering. I was his second wife, he said, but there is no place for a second wife in a monogamous society.

Do you love me? I ask

Oh, Lordy, yes, I love you. You know I do. I told you.

DCF 1.0

 

 

Domestic violence is torture and the UN Convention must be changed

12 Nov

On Monday night, representatives from the Australian government appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) as part of a current review into Australia’s obligations under its treaty. In their submission, our government argued, “As a matter of international law, domestic violence does not fall within the scope of the Convention … as it is not conduct that is committed by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

In other words, violence against women does not constitute ‘torture’. Clementine Ford, Daily Life

Unfortunately, the Convention against Torture reads as follows:

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Domestic violence does not constitute torture according to the UN Convention, so the Australian government representatives are correct.

What is tragic is that the Australian government is not arguing for an amendment to the Convention that will include domestic violence in the definition of torture.

Given that the Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, has shown no interest at all in the horrific abuses against women in this country, I doubt there will be any initiatives from Australia along the lines of amending the Convention.

 

Asylum Seekers: what it costs Australian governments to persecute stateless persons

12 Nov

 Asylum Seeker Three

 

The foreigner is the political precondition of the nation state… Costas Douzinas.

Australia, while remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees, long since gave up any pretence of observance of international human rights in favour of a nationalistic observance of state sovereign rights. State sovereignty permits governments the right to exclude persons the state deems unworthy of inclusion.

The power of the state to exclude is perhaps the fundamental state power.

Ideological, racial, economic and political factors are the criteria for deciding who is and is not included in the nation-state. As Hannah Arendt noted, statelessness is not a problem of geographical space, but of political space.

The stateless person has as their only descriptor the fact that they are human. Ironically, this strips them of their right to human rights, rights which are only available to them if they are citizens of a state. It is not enough to be human. One must also belong to a state in order to claim human rights. Arendt suggest that the only fundamental human right is the right to have rights. Asylum seekers who have a legitimate right to arrive by boat in Australia are stripped of the right to have rights once their vessel is intercepted by Australian authorities.

 

Stateless Persons UNHCR

Persons seeking asylum from persecution who attempt to access Australia by boat are singled out for exclusion, and though their method of arrival is perfectly legitimate under the Convention, they are criminalised and detained in off-shore camps. Detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island are all that is offered to de facto stateless persons, that is, refugees unable to claim the human rights afforded by citizenship. Persons detained in these camps are exempted from “normal” laws. The methods of addressing their plight are containment and repatriation, or resettlement in another country, rather than granting asylum and legal integration into the Australian nation.

This action against asylum seekers is justified as being in the “national interest,” an abstract concept in which the mystical “nation”  is prioritised over the interests of singular human beings who are dispossessed non-nationals, and therefore considered rightless.  The state is committed to protecting only legitimate members of the nation, the rights of asylum being in conflict with the rights of the state. There is in Australia no concept of offering sanctuary and refuge to those fleeing persecution who arrive by sea. Their loss of place in the world, their loss of belonging, has the effect of reducing them to physical objects, bereft of human dignity, because without rights one is not a person, one is not an agent in the public realm.

In reaction to this deliberate and systematic dehumanisation, asylum seekers held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru behave as did those held in mainland camps such Woomera and Baxter. They sew up their lips in a symbolic protest against the silencing of their voices. They harm their own bodies. They suffer depression and anxiety, and hopelessness. Their suffer the abjection of those who have ceased to belong to any state.

Asylum Seekers Two SMH photo

 

Sovereignty, like religion, is a constructed knowledge imbued with faux mysticism. The Abbott government’s “Operation Sovereign Borders” appeals to this pseudo-mysticism, offering citizens the opportunity to come together in unity, led by a concerned, fatherly government to protect our nation against the breaching of its borders by the unwanted, stateless foreigner. As Douzinas points out, there can be no nation state without the foreigner; one must have someone to protect oneself from in order to maintain the perceived power of sovereignty.

The asylum seeker is equally imbued with mysticism, of the most negative kind as the assumption is peddled that merely due to the fact of her search for asylum she is morally corrupt and corrupting. Her crime is breaching sovereign borders. She is used as a scapegoat to unite citizens and strengthen boundaries, ultimately supporting the ideology of sovereignty.

What we are doing in this country is wrong. The idea that we must treat people horrifically in order to discourage others from attempting sea journeys is morally corrupt. Action the state is legitimised to take against one group can be and will be extrapolated to other groups, when the state deems it in the national interest. When the fate of human lives is secondary to the rights of the state, we are all at risk.

Is it really in the interests of the citizens of this country that so many billions of taxpayer dollars are eaten up in the pursuit and detention of a relatively few people who arrive here by boat, in the pursuit of the maintenance of our sovereign borders? No, it isn’t. It is, however, in the political interests of both major parties. The cost to the taxpayer of pursuing these political interests is obscene, and it is rising, as this graph from The Conversation shows:

 

The Conversation

 

The major parties continue to persecute stateless persons seeking asylum and refuge, solely because of their method of arrival. Australia moves further and further away from the undertakings we made when we signed and later ratified the Refugee Convention. Human beings suffer appallingly in concentration camps, out of sight and out of mind. The matter of the future of stateless persons is a massive global problem, and one that will continue to increase. Australian governments have long thought it is a problem that they can continue to outsource to countries far less capable than are we of providing the possibility of a decent life to those who by no fault of their own, are dispossessed of the lives they once had. This cannot go on. In all conscience, it cannot go on.

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