I've had a couple of emails over the past few months from a bloke who uses the name Denis. He is always whining about something in particular.
He's got a major problem with feminists. Guilty as charged, your honour. The things which upset this man are so inconsequential, he's lucky he wasn't born a woman. Imagine a giant sook like that trying to squeeze out a giant baby.
Inevitably, Denis finishes up with a quote from former a mafia entertainer. "As Frank Sinatra said, 'female journalists are lower than a buck-fifty hooker.' True." Denis wouldn't know an accurate quote if it bit him on the bum. This is Denis' idea of wit.
I am entirely unsure why he wants to belittle either sex workers or journalists, but that's his jam. It is at least much less threatening than the fool who left a terrifying voice message for me on my work phone but didn't recognise it was then possible to retrieve his number.
I get loads of emails, truckloads of social media messages. Some are stupid. Many are offensive. A few are threatening. Mostly I block and/or delete and I take the same attitude on social media. It is not necessary to read every utterance of every unhappy creature.
But it is a weird vibe that perfect strangers, such as Denis, think it is perfectly acceptable to abuse people they don't know. Perhaps they also think it's OK to abuse people they know. It's now endemic in our culture.
I am not sure when all this started to happen. Was it the advent of social media? Nah, I remember handwritten letters filled with hate and handcut headlines. I'm assuming it is a function of both massive self-importance, a deep, deep hatred of women and that social media makes the abuse cheap and handy, with targets very accessible. I often wonder if the people who share lives with these losers know what they do in their spare time.
Sometimes abuse is sponsored by an institution. Does management at The Australian, our only national broadsheet, think it is OK to attack outstanding ABC reporter, Louise Millgan, week after week.
I think I've got this right but by my calculation, it has published, on average, a story a week about the Walkley-winning reporter. I can only hope the new editor Michelle Gunn will no longer indulge such nonsense.
So as the war against women rages, I felt reassured, maybe comforted, when I heard the Minister for Women Katy Gallagher on ABC Radio National's breakfast program this week talking to Patricia Karvelas. At first the conversation was about the economy. It's nearly Christmas and I'm more drained than I can remember.
The conversation turned to the events of last week, the decision by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC to discontinue the case against Bruce Lehrmann, the alleged rapist of Brittany Higgins, because of fears for the life of the young woman, a former Liberal Party staffer. Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied any sexual contact with Ms Higgins in March 2019.
Drumgold said: "During the investigation and trial, as a sexual assault complainant, Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work. She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity, and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal."
I've seen a fraction of what she faces on social media and it is utterly disgusting. It's designed to keep Higgins in her place, it's a funnel for misogyny, designed to hurt. Designed to keep her quiet. So far, thank heavens, it's failed.
Gallagher refused to be drawn on any individual matters by Karvelas but was very clear on this. Women in all areas of public life get a disproportionate amount of attention, including online abuse. Women get a disproportionate amount of all kinds of attention.
"I think the abuse that women receive is unacceptable ... and I do think if you're prominent, or have a public profile, then you are - it almost comes with that," said Gallagher.
Karvelas has had her unfair share but didn't interrupt the minister who then said the following: "High profile men get it as well, but the nature of the abuse towards women is also quite different from that experienced by men. So it's more ... threats, sexualised threats, threats about what someone will do to you - those kinds of things, which, you know, challenge all of us and make us think about what we're doing and whether it's worth it at times.
"And I know from discussions with a lot of my female colleagues, it's almost part of the job now. If you are high profile or you're in the public arena, that this is part of what you have to put up with.
"And I fundamentally disagree with that, and we have to confront that very uncomfortable reality as well."
These comments came after a very important commitment by Gallagher - to look at the systems and processes which impact women who've experienced violence of all kinds because "we haven't got the right balance at the moment and we have to respond to that".
Then she added that the government will work with states and territories towards law reform but that the Commonwealth had to provide leadership. At least this Minister for Women and the previous shadow minister for women Tanya Plibersek recognise what needs to be done.
And while much of the work will be done by ministers for women and advocacy groups across the nation, there is something else we can do as ordinary citizens.
Women need to become citizen feminists. In the same way men police the behaviour of women, perhaps it is now time for women to police the behaviour of men. Most men are complete darlings but others clearly don't understand what it means to respect and honour women so let's not accord them respect and honour either.
Ditch the bad ones. They are not worthy of your time or attention as much as they desperately want it.
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