For me the quickest and most effective way to demonstrate the rampant gender bigotry in our society is to do the old “gender flip” and substitute the word “woman” for “man.” Others choose to insert a religious group or race in order to ram home the prejudice that is so prevalent yet astonishingly almost invisible to most people. For some it is an eye opener or equivalent to having a bucket of icy water hurled in their face. Sadly, some will give no ground and remain convinced that men are deserving of any hate/prejudice/ bigotry which is hurled in their direction.
What prompted me to write about this oft used and effective formula?
We are all aware of the horrendous acts of terrorism carried out by radical Islamists. These violent actions seem to be growing in their frequency and there seems no solution or end in sight.
Here in Australia, whenever another terrorist act is carried out in the name of Allah there is an immediate reaction. Surprisingly for some, it is not simply condemnation of the atrocity. There is a demand that no-one should blame the Muslim community for the actions of this minority of fanatics who do not represent the real Islamic faith. I agree with these sentiments although the frenzied efforts by some to leap to the defence of our fellow Muslims often override their empathy for the victims of the crimes.
Aside from the distasteful inference that my fellow Australians are about to become a mob of vengeful vigilantes and require a lecture on how to contain their supposed naturally racist and violent tendencies, it is the way in which the very same people who lead the charge in expressing outrage that anyone could hold a whole community responsible for the actions of a few, happily do just that when it comes to another group in our society.
Imagine, if you will, the political fallout any politician would experience if he or she declared:
All Muslims should step up and take responsibility for violence their fellow Muslims are perpetrating. We ask them to take an oath that they will never commit an act of terrorism in our country and that they will speak out and intervene whenever they see another Muslim acting in an extreme or threatening manner to members of the public. We further ask that those who take this oath shall wear a purple ribbon as a sign of their shared responsibility for these crimes and their willingness to prevent further acts of terror.
The outrage does not bear thinking about. There would be mass protests in the street as people expressed their solidarity with their Muslim brothers and sisters. There would be condemnation of this evil, bigoted notion of collective responsibility.
Hang on, one moment!
Recently our Chief Police Commissioner, Ken Lay resigned for family related reasons His departure was widely mourned and he was praised for being one of our great police chiefs, in particular for his stance on domestic violence.
Ken’s approach to this complex issue was very simple. The problem of domestic violence was a male problem according to him. He went further; Ken believed every male in Australia bore responsibility for creating a culture that condoned and excused male on female violence. He initiated, appeared in and supported many campaigns which rammed this message home repeatedly.
Ken believed it was up to every man to speak out whenever he saw inappropriate behaviour or acts of violence. He encouraged all men to wear a white ribbon and take an oath, swearing not to harm women and to prevent harm to women which may be carried out by another male.
He never once commented on female violence-–particularly toward children.
What has been the response to his relentless drive to protect women and children and from male violence? Ken Lay is almost universally admired, praised and even adored by some.
This very same man would have led the attack on any person who dared to imply that the terrorist problem was a Muslim issue rather than the work of a tiny group of radicals. Yet associating the endless acts of terrorism with the religion of Islam is far more understandable than linking the behaviour of people who happen to share a gender.
When a man commits a crime it is a rare thing to hear him proclaim he committed his violent action in the name of the male gender and all “true” males.
Yet time and again the Islamic extremists wave the ISIS flag, call out the name of Allah even as they butcher their victims, quote the Koran and tell the world they are true Muslims living out their faith as it was meant to be lived.
Surely if you belong to a group which these people claim to represent there is a strong argument to suggest moderate Muslims need to condemn such behaviour (as many do) without accepting responsibility for their crimes.
In a comment piece for the Wall Street Journal, Somali-born Muslim-turned-atheist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali said more acknowledgement needed to made of the political ideology driving Islamists.
“…An ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam,” she said.
“We can no longer pretend that it is possible to divorce actions from the ideals that inspire them.”
Just as English football clubs took responsibility for the actions of their more violent fans who performed their acts of hooliganism whilst wearing the colours of their team and supporting their team at their football ground, one can see parallels with the Muslim world and their more extreme elements.
But when a crime is committed by someone who just happens to be male, there can be no such expectation for other males to feel responsible or in any way connected to such behaviour other than to feel revulsion for the perpetrators.
I wonder how our female population would feel if a new campaign suggested they carry the responsibility for the recent series of horrific murders of children carried out by women here in Australia. Perhaps we could hold them accountable for helping to create a culture which promotes the idea that babies and children are the property of their mothers and therefore as disposable as the nappies they wear.
Our Prime Minister attended the funeral of the eight children who were butchered by a woman a few weeks ago. She was the mother of seven of these children and the other child was her niece. What did our Prime Minister, Tony Abbot have to say about the massacre of these children after he left the funeral service?
“We know that sometimes people break. We also know there are difficult circumstances people deal with. This is a social issue as well as a law enforcement issue, but I’ll be there in solidarity with them.”
Can you imagine Tony referring to the savage knifing murders of eight children by their father as A social issue as well as a law enforcement issue?
Can you imagine Tony saying in response to the murder of a woman by her partner:
We know that sometimes people break.
And if he was insane enough to say this after a violent crime committed by a man, can you imagine the lynch mobs that would be waiting for him, with, I suggest, Ken Lay holding the noose?
As if to prove my point, Rupert Murdoch tweeted the following comment on the recent terrorist tragedy in France:
Maybe most Muslims peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.
His comments have been savaged (perhaps rightly so) and headlines tell us there has been a “massive backlash on social media.”
Yet we continue to openly praise and reward the many men and women who apply the exact same thinking to “male violence” rather than violence committed by those who happen to be male.
This very day, in the Sunday Herald Sun, Darren Chester, the Federal member for Gippsland and a White Ribbon Day Ambassador wrote:
When it comes to stopping violence and harassment against women, Australian men must understand that now is our time.
Both men (he refers to Ken Lay and an army Chief, David Morrison) understand that violence against women is not a women’s issue. It’s about men changing their attitudes and behaviour.
Let’s try the old flip around and see how it reads.
When it comes to stopping acts of terrorism against innocent citizens, Muslims must understand that now is their time.
Ending violence against children is not a children’s issue. It is about women changing their attitudes and behaviours.
Rather disturbing isn’t it?