‘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.