When former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave her now famous misogyny and sexism speech, the Canberra Press Gallery barely noticed, within 24 hours it had gone viral around the world. This week journalist Van Badham gave us another course in how to address sexism. Lessons from the frontline, a flamenco to inspire us to action.
Thank you to all the women and men who have gone before and who have drawn attention to the inequalities and inequities that find their roots in sexism and misogyny. Throughout the generations, women have been subjected to abuse and violence that has its genesis in a casual remark, a throwaway line, that over time gathers more and more abuse and before long is more than a pebble in a shoe – it is a stone weighing us all down and drowning us in a well of violence. We follow the rules, even following direction of police and laws and what good does that do? Women and children are murdered and dying every week in what starts as a slap of a phrase of disrespect. A text message, a tweet, a facebook update with enough repugnancy to launch a campaign of terror. The fear of turning on your feed, matched by the fear of walking down the street alone, the fear of gang taunts, fear of rape, fear of death. Women are being hysterical we hear from our TV screens in prime time public broadcasting viewing. Will the next call be for mass hysterectomies – a surgical response? Some days I think this is just an idea away … there are plenty of examples throughout history (herstory) where surgical, clinical, cut it out and throw it away responses have been used to solve problems (don’t forget the witch hunts).
Every time we hear a sexist remark, laugh at a joke that demeans women, see women as incomplete without a man, we must call it out – name it, make it visible, not collude with it – find a way to bring it out into the open explain why you are offended and ask for an apology for not just yourself, but for all women and men.
Become vigilant and keep your ears and eyes open, because some of these comments and images, phrases and insinuations sneakily find their way through cracks accidentally created in times of less vigilance. Sing through the pain and find your voice. Click through the trolls and press report, delete and bring them out from under their rocks. Play your guitars and cross the rivers of oppression with tambourines like Miriam. Tap on the wood and hear the hollow bring a death knell to the words of abuse being tapped on other instruments of communication. Hold onto the edge of your skirts, jackets and vests with the kind of precision that tells everyone around you – you have arrived and ‘ain’t goin’ anywhere soon. Look to the floor to make sure you are not treading on others as you make your way, and to the sky for inspiration and to give you cover when you need it.
There is a woman in Downing Street and in Edinburgh, another one making her way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and many more to come, however women in leadership is not enough. Sexism leaving us, is for the girls who want to go to school in Pakistan, for the girl who needs health care when she has been raped, for the girl who is lost at sea when fleeing from violence, for the girl who is lonely and afraid of her father in her own home, for the girl who is saving to go to university by working as cheap labour in a fast food chain.
This is a flamenco and a fury of singing, guitar playing, dancing, vocalisations, hand clapping and finger snapping – nothing less – we need it all – where the dance calls us to attention. The tune and the lyrics born from sadness to rise in a flurry of stomps and clicks and bring a new way of dancing together. This is not a time to dance alone.