Men: blaming the victims of sexual assault is bad for you, too

 

Gentlemen – victim blaming is an evil we need to stand against. This is not a war women should have to wage alone.

(Trigger warning: discussions about sexual assault and rape)

I read about the #Justice4Daisy case today. You should as well. Daisy herself has written an eye-opening, brutally honest article about the atrocity she had to endure. You owe it to the women in your life to read it, to know what half of the world’s population has to face every day.

This is a sensitive topic, and I want to try and navigate it carefully. This is my first attempt writing on the subject, so please forgive me if I frame anything in a way that is offensive.

It should be common sense that when someone is a victim of sexual assault or rape, they are not to blame. When a crime is committed against your body, when your life is changed forever by an act most abhorrent, culpability lies with the offender, not you as the victim.

I say it “should be common sense”, because as we have seen in the case of Daisy Coleman, many do not think and act this way. While I could rail against this way of thinking forever and a day, that is not exactly what I want to do here. What I want to do is suggest an argument that I haven’t yet heard in this debate.

Men: when someone blames a woman, a victim, for a sexual assault committed against them, it is not just an act that further hurts someone who is already hurting. We as men lose an element of our own agency. When someone tries to blame the victim for being sexually assaulted, to divert guilt away from a man who has committed a crime, one of the outcomes is that the autonomy of men everywhere is diminished.

Let me put it another way: to suggest that a victim somehow influenced her assailant enough to cause the attack, suggests that men intrinsically cannot control themselves. Whenever the ludicrous arguments are made that a sexual assault was caused in part by what a woman was wearing, or how she was acting, it not only demeans her, consigns judgement to her entire gender, but also suggests that such petty things as clothing can reduce men to criminals.

It should not be acceptable for any man that these attacks occur against the women in our lives. But it should also not be acceptable that, when apologies are made for someone who has committed a sexual assault, or when society blames a victim, that part of the narrative is that the man was not able to help their behaviour. That, no matter their age, there is an assumption that, given the right “circumstances” caused by a woman, men will break the law and assault women.

Stopping attacks against women needs to start with a conversation involving men. While the overwhelming majority of men are kind hearted, and not criminals, the overwhelming majority of these attacks against women are conducted by our gender.

We should all consider ourselves feminists. Men and women should be standing together to fight patriarchal norms. The pervasive, corrosive culture that blames victims for their own attack is so atrocious for the women around us. It is also bad for men. If we are told we cannot control our basic urges, how can we ever consider ourselves adults? How can we consider ourselves responsible for any of our actions?

We are empowered as individuals when we can control our future. Anyone who tries to take that control away from us, or from others, tries to take away our power. Society loses respect for us. Worse, when we do not think we control our own actions, we lose respect for ourselves.

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Taking Pride in Taxation

When he returned home to Pennsylvania following World War 2, one of the first things 101st Airborne veteran Major Dick Winters did was go to his local post office to pay his taxes on his officers commission.

The man from the IRS was stunned. He told him that they could waive the payment. Winters responded: “Sir, I want to pay my part of the bill. I am proud to be an American!”

Winters’ comments highlight the depth of his patriotism. After risking his life over the course of the war for the protection and betterment of his country, he wished to pay his taxes for the same end. For him, personal wealth came second to the collective good of the nation.

It is rare these days for taxation to be represented in such a positive light. Between scare campaigns suggesting that the more money the government has, the more it will waste, to the shameless narcissism of we the public, any form of taxation seems to be an affront to our liberty.

I would like to offer an alternate narrative.

Let me start by saying I am not advocating for a particular increase in taxes, nor am I suggesting that all taxation and government spending is efficient. Rather, what I would like to propose is that when we are asked to pay more tax for a well thought-through, important policy proposal, be it now or in the future, we should be willing  to do our part.

We all want to reap the fruits of our labour. The kind of tax increases realistically ever proposed by a government are no where near large enough to prevent us from doing so.

But when did we as a citizenry start putting our livelihoods above all else? When did we start wanting to make government smaller by giving it less money?

Interestingly, we technically haven’t. Per Capita, a think-tank, does some fantastic research into the perception of taxation and government services in Australia. What they have found is representative of the cognitive dissonance held within Australia: we support more government services, but want lower taxes at the same time.

We need to start properly discussing how the government collects and spends money. Let us engage with budgets, even if it is just at a basic level. Lets ask our politicians to explain the budget to us.

But let us also stop asking ourselves what our government can give to us, or not take from us. Let us instead consider what benefit all of society could gain from a minimal reduction in our own disposable income. Australia has a strong economy coupled with a comparatively low tax rate – we should not fear for our economic livelihoods.

The recent National Disability Insurance Scheme provides some hope. This incredibly important piece of legislation, supported by both parties, effectively had a tax increase to pay for it. There was no serious opposition to the bill, because there had been a previous focus on building public support. Awareness of the need, and effectiveness, of the legislation had been made, and thus the public did not consider additional payments to be a burden.

Let us build off this framework; let us avoid reflexively opposing tax increases. Rather, let us engage in a debate on the necessity  of the program or legislation, and the value for money.

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On Asylum Seekers: Re-thinking Australia

The conversation on asylum seekers in Australia has, for over a decade, been toxic. Terms like “boat people” and “queue jumpers” serve to demonise a group of people who want to escape oppression and systemic violence.

Those of us who find this narrative abhorrent need to raise our voices. It is not enough to want others to accept that we should take in asylum seekers; we must actively make the case for a fairer, kinder Australia. For those have been working to develop this new narrative, I both thank you, and hope to join you.

What I want to discuss is one specific aspect of this new story: how we as a citizenry see Australia. How we view our own country when we talk about asylum seekers.

For if you listen to those opposed to asylum seekers coming to Australia, arguments seem to flow that “we are full”, that Australia cannot handle the new intake of refugees.

This argument, at its core, demeans Australia. It ignores the fact that Australia might benefit from asylum seekers entering our community as our population ages. It ignores that anyone willing to risk their lives, and those of their family, on a derelict boat  might bring to our country an entrepreneurial spirit that would serve our economy well.

But it also cheapens us as a nation. We should hold dear the belief that we can overcome any challenge. We should not baulk at the onset of people fleeing conflict by travelling to our country, rather we should see it as another chance to prove how resilient and caring we are. We have done it before – around 170,000 people settled in Australia in the aftermath of WW2 – and we can do it again.

We are, or at least we should hope to be, a multi-cultural society. We should open our doors to asylum seekers of any race, religion, gender, or sexuality.

If you hear someone say “Australia cannot take these asylum seekers” ask them “why?”. Ask them why they think Australia is so weak that we cannot meet this challenge. Ask them why they think our country is so fragile that it can be broken simply by those fleeing persecution.

Fight  against the narrative that asylum seekers are a threat to our country. The bigger threat to Australia is a discourse that undermines our sense of worth, our feelings of security, and our resilience.

We are a young nation, but one that wants to assert its place on the world stage. How can we expect the international community to respect us, if we do not respect our own ability to deal with the impoverished and needy? How do we foster Australian legitimacy and authority in the eyes of other nations when we ourselves act like a petulant child, scared of the minority of asylum seekers travelling by boat?

We are a proud, wealthy, and well-developed nation, and asylum seekers will not change that. It is time we took back the narrative on our own country, to show that we are willing to roll up our sleeves and help people in their time of need.

In the immortal words of Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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Welcome, Dear Readers

Thank you for stumbling upon this blog.

To get straight to the point, this blog will discuss any issue that pops into my head, that I feel needs to be thrown out into the vast ether that is the Internet. This could range from international relations or domestic politics, to issues of gender and sexuality, or even discussions of movie and bad TV shows.

I was a tad hesistant about starting this blog. I know there are a vast number of people with opinions on the internet. Most of these people are wrong, about pretty much everything.

I don’t assume for a second that this blog will contain everything that is ‘right’. I just thought I would try to add something to intellectual discourse that was ‘less wrong’.

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