Men in politics must stop feigning shock. Sexual misconduct is nothing new

Men in politics must stop feigning shock. Sexual misconduct allegations are nothing new

Like most women I know, I’ve been deeply upset and angered by what the events of the last few weeks have exposed. 

But, also like most women I know, I’ve always known this existed. 

The exposure of rape culture, the violence, the harassment – it’s been an unrelenting presence in our schools, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces and our politics. 

So what’s with the “shock” expressed by so many commentators and politicians? 

Women have always known this mistreatment existed. We constantly discuss it. We mobilise against it. We campaign and we rally.

So how is it that we still hear shock expressed when these acts of horrific misogynist violence appear on front pages?

Shock when a woman is violently murdered by a current or former intimate partner.

Shock when a man in a senior position is involved in allegations of harassment, rape, or violence against women in their lives and workplaces.

The answer of course is that it’s not actual shock – that’s just a cover.

Simulating shock, as if each predictable incident is an aberration, allows male leaders to shake their heads, do a quick doorstop press conference to reflect on the girls in their lives, and then move on to continue the systemic practices that provide cover for the men who harm and disrespect women.

Women are not shocked. It’s why we must keep organising against the system that reliably spawns the horror. 

A system that saw Christian Porter give control of our national sexual assault and family violence counselling service, 1800 RESPECT, to a private insurance company to run for profit. 

A system that allowed him to silence feminist voices from advocating for systemic change through their feminist services by putting gag clauses in funding contracts.

A system that endorsed him attacking feminists who campaigned against that decision as “disgusting” and “dangerous”. On International Women’s Day no less.

And a system that allows apologists and spinners to characterise the dispute as a matter of “efficiency” or “innovation” when it was and continues to be an intentional effort to silence feminist advocates. 

As Industrial Relations Minister, Porter refused to take action on family violence by rejecting a push to legislate paid family violence leave for all workers. 

Instead he chose to legislate for bosses to take away the rights of casual workers – disproportionately women. 

But Porter is not some unique monster. 

He is part of a culture that rejects the notion that when you go to parliament you take on the responsibility to make our community fair and just. 

A culture that rejects the idea that standing up for women to live our lives safely and with respect – at school, at work, at home, and in the community – is a simple matter of justice. 

So, let’s stop the fabricated shock. I call on every politician who wants to actually be part of the solution to pull your finger out and do something constructive. 

Here are some places to start, today:

  • Legislate paid family violence leave
  • Properly fund feminist services to support women
  • Fund feminist organisations for advocacy
  • Stop Medibank Private from running 1800 RESPECT and generating profit from rape
  • Believe women 

To all my sisters, keep heart. But stay angry – we have good reason to be. 

And fellas, please don’t “not all men” me. The point is “too many men”. Too many men who perpetrate and too many men who protect and enable them. Check your privilege and make the decision to be an ally.

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