Is systemic Sexism and Misogyny on the Rise in Australia?
Suby Anthony | On 06, Jul 2018
In the past month, sexual violence, discrimination towards women in parliament and tasteless comments made by influential Australian personalities have both caused concern and sparked a heated debate nationwide. So, is Australia becoming more sexist by the day? Let’s explore myriad issues that have come to light within the past month.
At this time, many Australians are aware of the tragic rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in early June. A horrific event such as this, quite naturally, saddens the nation in a very deep and profound way. In saying this, for the women of our country, it also breeds feelings of fear and distrust. Quite shockingly, in the aftermath of the young comedian’s untimely death, members of the Victorian police force urged women to be more ‘aware of their surroundings’, ‘walk in well-lit’ areas and take ‘personal responsibility [in being aware of the] risk involved in walking around at night’. These comments were met with disgust by men and women alike, who felt that the police force was placing blame on the victims in lieu of creating a safer society for women. When a respected authority such as the police force reinforces an idea such as this, it has an immeasurable effect on societal values.
As disappointing as this response was, sexism demonstrated by authority figures has not been solely demonstrated by the police force in the past month. Sarah Hanson-Young, a notable senator for the Greens party, was told by Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm that she should ‘stop shagging men’. In Hanson-Young’s mind, and in the minds of many, this comment was unnecessarily personal and amounted to ‘slut shaming’. To put this into perspective, it would be quite hard to imagine a male politician insulting another man representing an opposing party of having too much sex. In response to Leyonhjelm’s comment, Hanson-Young has announced that she will be suing him for defamation.
Most recently, during Australia’s annual Logie awards ceremony held on the first of July, long-standing comedian Bert Newton and actor and comedian Julia Morris poked fun at the ‘#metoo’ campaign. The movement itself has received international attention. Initially sparked by notable female actors sharing their stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, it quickly involved millions of women from all walks of life who decided to share their own stories involving sexual harassment, discrimination and violence. The sheer number of women who have faced sexism demonstrated its prevalence within society. Although Newton and Morris might not have realised that their jokes would be viewed as insensitive by many, making light of such a serious issue is hugely detrimental to the issue at hand.
Whether it’s the police force, notable politicians or cherished icons, it is crucial that Australians who harbour influence need to recognise that their words and actions have far-reaching consequences. If we are to move forward as a fair and equal society in which women feel both safe and respected, we must continue to criticise those who blame women’s issues on women heavily, hold unfair double-standards or treat discrimination as a joke. In our technological age, where everybody has the opportunity to say their piece, we have more power than we know. If we want to incite change, we can’t be afraid to use the power that we have.