I’m currently on the run from the Amazon Empire. The Empire recently used it’s planet sized money to
destroy devour my previous safehouse: Goodreads.
I read a lot. Have a bit of a tendency to review as well. So…this is mostly a book review site. Unless its not. But I’m not taking review requests.
Cause sometimes I’ll write about whatever I feel like, book or no.
Things I [currently] like:
So, I’ll talk about that stuff. Unless I don’t.
That “life” part in the site title is all about flexibility, lol.
I read this today and it really touched me.
While the vast majority of men abhor violence against women, those dissenting male voices are rarely heard in our public discourse outside of the "monster-rapist" narrative. Indeed, the agency of male perpetrators disappears from the discussion, discouraging male involvement and even knowledge of the prevalence and diversity of male violence against women. Even the term "violence against women" sounds like a standalone force of nature, with no subject, whereas "men’s violence against women" is used far less frequently.
One of the most dangerous things about the media saturation which followed this crime was that Bayley is in fact the archetypal monster. Bayley feeds into a commonly held social myth that most men who commit rape are like him – violent strangers who stalk their victims and strike at the opportune moment. It gives a disproportionate focus to the rarest of rapes, ignoring the catalogue of non-consensual sex happening on a daily basis everywhere on the planet. It validates a limitation of the freedom of women, by persisting with an obsession with a victim’s movements rather than the vile actions of the perpetrator, while simultaneously creating a "canary down the mine" scenario.
Men who may feel uncomfortable by a peer’s behaviour towards women may absolve themselves from interfering with male group norms, or breaking ranks with the boys, by normalising that conduct in relation to "the rapist". In other words, he can justify his friend’s behaviour by comparison – “he may be a ___, but he’s not Adrian Bayley.”
The monster myth allows us to see public infractions on women’s sovereignty as minor, because the man committing the infraction is not a monster like Bayley. We see instances of this occur in bars, when men become furious and verbally abusive when women decline their attention. We see it on the street as groups of men shout comments, grab, grope and intimidate women, with friends either ignoring or getting involved in the activity. We see it in male peer groups, where rape-jokes and disrespectful attitudes towards women go uncontested.
Where men’s violence against women is normalised in our society, we often we compartmentalise it to fit our view of the victim. If a prostitute is raped or beaten, we may consider it an awful occupational hazard "given her line of work." We rarely think "she didn’t get beaten – somebody (ie a man) beat her". Her line of work is dangerous, but mainly because there are men who want to hurt women. If a husband batters his wife, we often unthinkingly put it down to socio-economic factors or alcohol and drugs, rather than how men and boys are taught and socialised to be men and view women.
I wonder at what stage we will stop being shocked by how normal a rapist seemed. Many years ago, two female friends confided in me about past abuses that happened in their lives, both of which had been perpetrated by "normal guys". As I attempted to console them, I mentally comforted myself by reducing it to some as yet undetected mental illnesses in these men. The cognitive shift is easy to do when we are not knowingly surrounded by men who commit these crimes, but then we men rarely need to fear such an attack.
The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on "how not to get raped", which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naive because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, and cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing X or drinking Y, well then of course the monster is going to attack – didn’t she read the rules?
Many comments on Facebook pages and memorial sites set up in honour of Jill often expressed a wish for Bayley to be raped in prison, presumably at the arbitrary whim of other incarcerated men. Putting aside the fact that wishing rape on somebody is the perhaps last thing we do before exiting civilisation entirely, there is a point that these avengers may have missed – somebody has to do the raping. Vengeance by rape implies that rape is a suitable punishment for certain crimes. In other words, rape is fine as long as it’s used in the service of retributive justice. Indeed, we would be essentially cheering on the rapist who rapes Bayley, for ensuring that justice is done. Or, if we find this rapist just as abhorrent as Bayley, we’ll need another rapist to rape him, to avenge the rape he committed, and this would go on and on in an infinite loop. In essence, this "rape as retribution" argument invokes the need for far too many rapists.
For people like Bayley, rape is punishment – it’s how he exerts his dominance, and exhibits his deep misogyny through sexual humiliation. If we as a society then ask for Bayley to be raped as punishment, are we not cementing the validity of this mindset?
What would make this tragedy even more tragic would be if we were to separate what happened to Jill from cases of violence against women where the victim knew, had a sexual past with, talked to the perpetrator in a bar, or went home with him. It would be tragic if we did not recognise that Bayley’s previous crimes were against prostitutes, and that the social normalisation of violence against a woman of a certain profession and our inability to deal with or talk about these issues, socially and legally, resulted in untold horror for those victims, and led to the brutal murder of my wife.
Since Jill died, I wake up every day and read a quote by Maya Angelou – “history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” Male self-examination requires this courage, and we cannot end the pattern of men’s violence against women without consciously breaking our silence.