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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: That Old Trigger

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Just another old ugly woman making men violent.

‘What is it about women that makes some men so violent?’ This was the question posed by a letter to the editor in The Echo last week.

The letter appeared the very same week as White Ribbon Day – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – and instead of acknowledging a fatal flaw in male culture, and asking how can men can unite to address the devastating impact of toxic masculinity, the question is asked of us women, or to be precise, what ‘some’ of us have done to make men hurt us.

It suggests that the onus of behavioural responsibility lies not with the perpetrator of violence but with the victim. The writer asks, ‘What is it about women that triggers these men?’ This small twist of language makes the injured, sexually assaulted, or dead woman the perpetrator of the violence she suffers, and the violent abusing man the victim.

A poor man forced to resort to violence to restore his sense of power owing to his lack of control over a woman’s agency. I read this in the same sitting I read the story about sports star Jarryd Hayne allegedly biting a 26-year-old woman so hard on the vagina she was left with such profuse bleeding she required medical attention.

With this framework in play, one would have to ask what she did to trigger this behaviour. How did this woman spending a quiet night at home with her mother trigger a man suburbs away to allegedly drink for hours on end, get a taxi to her house, ask it to wait for 20 minutes, bite her viciously, and then take his taxi from Newcastle back to Sydney?

What did SHE do to make him do that? Did she not want to sleep with him? Did she break his heart? Did she make a joke about him being a terrible lover? At what point in the story could he lose his agency and find his teeth cutting through her softest most intimate parts?

Thanks to patriarchy men enjoy privilege that no woman has ever known. It’s a privilege of never fearing that your partner may one day kill you. That you can walk to your car in a dark carpark without fear of rape. Or being touched in your workplace. Of complaining and not being believed. Or being believed and no-one caring, because you probably did something to trigger it anyway.

Is losing privilege THE trigger for male violence? Is that why we are seeing such a spike in violence against women? The writer of the letter to the editor goes on to say that a possible reason for male violence is that ‘women lose their looks as they age. Men marry a beautiful girl; by and by her beauty disappears. It’s not surprising some men feel betrayed.’

According to this mindset our natural human biology is a justifiable trigger for a man to cause us harm. Our value, unlike men’s, is diminished over time and the loss of our youth is a betrayal? A betrayal of what?

Is our ageing HIS loss of property value? Does he lose the measure of masculinity by what he perceives as the diminishing value of the woman he ‘owns’? Does the ‘beauty’ of women belong to men? Is it a currency some men use to compete with other men? Do ugly women deserve to be harmed? Is this why botox has become such a growth industry? To stop men killing us for being ugly?

When did what a woman’s physical appearance become a reason for a man’s behaviour? If this same ‘trigger’ of the disappointment of your bloke becoming old, fat, and ugly was used to justify violence against men by women there’d barely be a bloke left over the age of 30.

There are no justifiable triggers for violence against women. However this letter did tempt me to stage a one-woman protest in the street of the writer. I was considering perhaps hiring a water cannon, and then when arrested and the police drag me from the scene I can shout, ‘It’s not my fault! He triggered me!’

Oh dear, they’ll say. Just another old ugly woman making men violent.

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  1. Thank you for such a considered response to the thoughts expressed in ‘that letter’.
    I am sure you will have echoed the sentiments of many women (and men) who were just too stunned to reply.

  2. Thankyou for writing and publishing this story. It is the perfect example of some men’s attitudes and complete ignorance regarding women. I have recently left a violent marriage. I would like to highlight, Domestic Abuse does not only result in a black eye. There are many ways the perpetrator inflicts abuse and to the outside world, he is seen as someone of good standing.
    The perpetrator can instill fear in the family, by controlling behaviours, abusing killing family pets,slamming doors, throwing missiles at childrens heads,knocking children off stools so they fracture there coccyx, breaking belongings,not allowing the partner any privacy,wanting to know where she has been, how much money she spent. Bashing and strangling the child with a disability until the child thought they would die!
    Following the partner, waking her every night swearing and slamming doors.Having there friends stalk the partner on there behalf, having there friends assault the partner….Once the police were involved I experienced a lot of males bullying myself and children.It was like I had opened Pandoras box.

    I have been accused as the trigger “What did you do” “You must have done something” Domestic Abuse can be insidious allowing perpetrators to get away with it. These attitudes will take a generation to change.

  3. I am a man and was in an abusove marriage. Punched, kicked, threatened daily, raped, put in hospital with a raptured kidney.

    Every day was a nightmare waiting for her to snap and because of family law in Australia I was trapped until the kids were oldenough to understand they could leave with me. Basically I was a prisoner because I wouldn’t leave my kids.

    I’ve been assaulted walking to my car and to public transport this is not an issue only for women.

    I’ve been inappropriately treated at work, unwanted physical contact and attention and when I declined the advances the shit really hit the fan. I had to have her sacked, I told the boss it’s her or me.

    To try say that only women experience violence and that men do not understand what women go through devalues my experiences and all male victims.

    Violence and sexual abuse is not a gendered issue and never has been.

    • I agree with most of Mandy’s response, Brett but you are very right to point out these things. Men are just under considerable pressure to pretend they don’t fear attack in dark and isolated places. Common sense would suggest brute force is not an antidote to surprise attack, a Weapon, being outmuscled or outnumbered. Women do themselves no service by painting men as invulnerable. I am sure the pages of history are frequented by a few homicidal female spouses and I’m sure not all their partners necessarily deserved it!

      I do however think violence and sexual abuse is a gendered issue as it happens so much more frequently to women with a long history of societal acceptance or inertia.

  4. Thank you Mandy. I have been stewing over this for a week, so shocked that I felt unable to respond.
    In my opinion, the main cause of male violence comes from within the psychology of the men who perpetrate that violence and is often aided by alcohol or substances that fuel their aggression. Social Psychologists would claim it to be anatomical, hormonal, behavioural and evolutionary, which does not excuse, but provides a framework to address, redirect, and dissipate it. To blame male violence on the victim when there is so much published on the epidemic of domestic and family violence just shows misogynistic blindness and lack of empathy. Permission for male aggression may be rooted in our paternalist ancestry, which I had thought was dead and buried and was shocked to read is alive and well and living somewhere in Byron Shire. Thanks for standing up to it.

  5. thanks for such a great response to ‘that letter’. I was left gobsmacked after reading it and composed many a letter back in my head, but unfortunately haven’t had the time to type it out!!!
    ‘that letter’ was victim blaming to the core!!! and the reasons given were unbelieveable!
    love your work Mandy

  6. That old truism again – woman good, men bad. Yes I remember the good old days when such simple certainties were clearly known to us all, like ‘cowboys and indian;s’. Thanks Mandy for bring back such clarity to us again. Top notch journalism.

    • Nah, that’s not what she’s saying by any stretch. Since when does a message largely saying ‘don’t blame the victims’ equate to ‘all men are bad’?

  7. What I can’t fathom is how your response to the outrage that you feel about the opinions of a letter writer about violence is to stage your own form of violent “protest” outside the private home of the letter writer! (These kinds of protests are nothing more than bullying and forced shaming, which is itself a form of violence). Such distorted thinking is not only unethical and unjustifiable – It also serves to reinforce that original view of women as unthinking beings inherent in the message from the original letter writer. Can we please try to act like fully formed adults when dealing with these issues! Just for once?

  8. I read the letter referred to above and my interpretation was that the author was being satirical and trying present a message (against those who justify their violence to women) through sarcasm. Did I misinterpret?


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