This was Caitlin Roper's speech at Reclaim the Night Perth in 2016. It was originally published on Huffington Post.
"It is everyday terrorism against women, but it is not recognised as such because the targets are women, and the perpetrators are the very people who claim to love us. While many of us have been directly harmed by male violence, the threat alone is enough to keep women as a class in a state of fear, controlled, pliable. Yet when reporting on male violence, mainstream media neglects to call it what it is, with headlines often stating the sex of the victim while downplaying the sex of the perpetrator, if even mentioning him at all... I am tired of being polite. I am sick of trying to convince men of women's basic humanity. I am tired of asking men nicely to stop raping and killing us."
A woman is found shot to death in her home. A 21-year-old woman is stabbed dozens of times after breaking up with her boyfriend. A father douses his three young children in petrol and sets them alight. A five-year-old girl is sexually abused by an older family friend. A man walks into a school, movie theatre, or a crowded street, and starts shooting, or running people down with his car.
What do all of these seemingly isolated incidents have in common?
They are all examples of male violence.
Of course we rarely identify them as such. We use more neutral, watered down terms such as 'domestic violence', 'family violence', 'violence against women', 'intimate partner violence' or 'gender-based violence' - all of which fail to recognize and name the perpetrators, without which these crimes would not exist.
Male violence can take many forms. It may be manifested in battering, rape, sexual abuse, stalking, psychological abuse, threats and murder. It can be the exploitation of women in the sex trade. It can be violence against women, children or other men, and it is at epidemic levels.
It is everyday terrorism against women, but it is not recognised as such because the targets are women, and the perpetrators are the very people who claim to love us. While many of us have been directly harmed by male violence, the threat alone is enough to keep women as a class in a state of fear, controlled, pliable.
Yet when reporting on male violence, mainstream media neglects to call it what it is, with headlines often stating the sex of the victim while downplaying the sex of the perpetrator, if even mentioning him at all. A few examples illustrate this:
In Australia, a man stabbed his pregnant female partner to death after she left him. The newspaper reported, "Woman stabbed to death in Sunshine".
A man beat his female partner to death with a brick. The headline read, "Woman killed after brutal brick attack".
A man attempted to rape a woman in her home, where her four-year-old child was present. He then beat her to death. The headline read, "Guilty plea to murder on parole".
A young man in the US stabbed a young woman in the face, neck and chest at their school after she declined his invitation to the prom. The newspaper said "Connecticut high school girl killed in apparent prom dispute".
Note how the focus is entirely on the victim and the actions of the victim - much like the discourse on physical and sexual violence on a wider level. The perpetrator tends to be an afterthought in these articles, a few paragraphs in with maybe a sentence or two about a man who was arrested or charged, and often no mention of any relationship between the perpetrator and the woman he murdered.
When men are identified as perpetrators of violence, there are great lengths to justify and explain these acts. He was really a good guy, we hear- a loving father. He snapped. He'd been through a bitter divorce. He was mentally ill. It was an accident. He thought she was a burglar.
Karen Ingala Smith, of Counting Dead Women, said: "It is self-evident that each woman killed by a man is a unique individual, as is each man that makes the choice to kill her. The circumstances around each killing are never identical. But that doesn't make them isolated incidents... What sort of a message would it send, if, when a man killed a woman, police didn't refer to it as an isolated incident but yet another example of femicide?"
In a world that expects silent compliance from women, speaking openly about male violence can be a revolutionary act, one that is met with hostility from men.
A few years ago, as punishment for my anti-rape activism, a man copied my Twitter profile and used it to pimp me out and offer sexual services. I compiled screenshots of the incident and tweeted them with the words: "This is how far some men will go to silence women".
One guess for how the men of Twitter felt about that statement.
In the dialogue that followed, I was reminded of course, 'not all men', how I was making unfair generalisations, that it wasn't about gender. It became apparent to me that these men were less concerned about what had been done to me, the rape threats, the police involvement and the psychological toll, and more concerned about their own hurt feelings. The issue was no longer about male violence, but women making men uncomfortable. They want us to be more polite as we speak about men abusing and battering women.
What I found the most telling through this experience was not the rape threats, or being pimped out against my will, but the way that men responded to my speaking about it.
I am tired of being polite. I am sick of trying to convince men of women's basic humanity. I am tired of asking men nicely to stop raping and killing us.
Andrea Dworkin summed it up perfectly:
We have been asked by many people to accept that women are making progress, because one sees our presence in these places where we weren't before. And those of us who are berated for being radicals have been saying.
That is not the way we measure progress. We count the number of rapes. We count the women who are being battered. We keep track of the children who are being raped by their fathers. We count the dead. And when those numbers start to change in a way that is meaningful, we will then talk to you about whether or not we can measure progress.
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