Minister’s 'lame excuse' for march no-show
Yesterday at the Women's March I wore a T-shirt I painted myself. I don't normally paint T-shirts, but I have been so enraged at our government's inaction on gendered violence that I picked up the fabric paints and gave it a go. Enough is Enough, my T-shirt read, and it was only a little bit smudged.
Sometimes, we need to do things we don't normally do.
Our Minister for Women, Marise Payne, didn't attend the march. Despite this being the largest women's march in generations, despite 90,000 of her constituents signing the petition being delivered to Parliament House, despite the overwhelming rage and despair felt by women around the country, she declined to make an appearance.
Her excuse? As she told Sky News on Tuesday, "I don't normally attend marches."
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Our Minister for Women doesn't normally attend marches, but these are not normal times. Women's rage has reached a tipping point. We are tired of not being heard; we are tired of being at risk; we are tired of our government not taking gendered violence seriously.
We are angry that our Prime Minister seems unwilling and unable to engage with these issues, failing to understand the experience of Brittany Higgins until his wife explained it to him and refusing calls from women around the country for an independent inquiry.
We women are tired of what 'normally' happens because what 'normally' happens is woefully inadequate.
Our government 'normally' doesn't ensure that victims of sexual assault are treated with respect and compassion. Brittany Higgins, for example, was forced to debrief about her assault in the very room in Parliament House in which she claims she was raped.
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Our Prime Minister declined to even read the allegations of historical rape against his Attorney-General Christian Porter, and has flatly denied the viability of an independent inquiry into these allegations. The Attorney-General has come forward to absolutely deny these claims.
Our government 'normally' lacks compassion for women who allege that they've been sexually assaulted (at least, not without coaching by Jenny Morrison). Even worse, members of our government 'normally' question the integrity and honesty of victims of alleged assault. Brittany Higgins was called a "lying cow" by our Minister of Defence (words which she has since retracted).
Our government 'normally' silences women, by discouraging them to take action after they have been harassed or assaulted. Higgins, for example, claims she was made to feel that filing a police report would end her political career.
Our government 'normally' does little to ensure that workplaces, homes, public spaces, institutions, and the parliament are safe spaces for women, as our country's devastating history of domestic violence, sexual violence and gendered violence proves.
Our government 'normally' fails to protect our most vulnerable and marginalised citizens - Indigenous women, elderly women, disabled women, trans women and non-binary people - from shocking rates of gendered violence and sexual assault.
Oh, and our leaders 'normally' fail to hold themselves accountable for violence against women, and to commit themselves to social reform and change.
So, when Marise Payne declined to join the women's march for justice because she 'normally' doesn't attend marches, she was entirely missing the point. What we normally do is not working anymore.
There is a serious, systemic problem of gendered violence in our country. One woman a week is being killed by her intimate partner. We women are routinely harassed in the workplace, in schools, and in online spaces. Women are assaulted in places where we should feel most safe - our homes, our institutions, our communities.
We women and our male allies marched yesterday to call for change, to call for a difference in the way things are 'normally' done.
I painted a T-shirt. I marched in the street with my 13-year-old daughter calling for change. Our Minister for Women needs to do things differently, too.
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Originally published as Minister's lame excuse for march no-show