JAY HANNA: The one small word fuelling male violence on women

Headshot of Jay Hanna
Jay Hanna
The Nightly
3 Min Read
It’s just one word but it has so much power to strip, reduce and demean.
It’s just one word but it has so much power to strip, reduce and demean. Credit: The Nightly

THAT.

It’s just a word. And it’s not like I haven’t been called other things over the years, both good and bad. But THAT is different.

THAT is where the problem lies.

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THAT is where the objectification comes in.

THAT is why some men feel they have the right to control, dominate, rape and murder women. Because they don’t see us as the same as them, they see us as THAT.

I was in a hurry, as usual. Dashing from work to the shops for something I’d forgotten to get the day before.

I was wearing a dress and heels. But it doesn’t matter what I was wearing or what I was doing because as far as two middle-aged men in a shopping centre carpark were concerned, I was just THAT.

Anyone who doesn’t think we are in the grips of a nationwide crisis of male violence, is frankly, part of the problem.

I heard it as clear as day, just as I clocked them out of the corner of my eye. They were wearing high vis and cradling their bottle shop purchases in their arms.

“Whoa, would ya get a look at THAT,” one said to the other, nudging his companion’s shoulder with his own and cocking his head in my direction.

My stomach clenched.

I did what I always do, what all women do in these situations, I kept my head down, kept looking forward, pretending I hadn’t even noticed.

But my senses went into overdrive, watching for any sign they might be moving towards me. I blocked out all the other sounds in the carpark except their voices.

“Yep, I’d do THAT,” said the second man and they laughed.

My heart started to beat faster. I kept my face neutral. I got in my car and locked the doors.

All I could think about was that word, “THAT”.

It’s just one small word but it has so much power to strip, reduce and demean.

And that’s all it takes, to let the misogyny fester and breed.

Staff profile - Jay Hanna
Jay Hanna. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

One small word to dehumanise, to open a crack and let the violence seep out.

Those two men didn’t see me as a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend or an equal. I was just THAT.

And if I am just THAT to them, then what rights do I have in their eyes?

If I’m just THAT, I’m not blood and flesh that can break, bruise and bleed.

I’m not a woman with thoughts, feelings and concerns. I’m just THAT.

They didn’t even care that I heard every word. They probably felt power in THAT and drove home smirking because I said nothing. Did nothing. Silenced by one word.

And to them, it would reinforce the fact that if THAT is all I am, all any woman is, then what does it matter if, in a fit of rage, or the fury of being rejected they decide to hurt, rape or kill one of us.

And THAT is a big problem.

This week alone we’ve heard Justice Michael Lee tell the country that on the balance of probabilities Bruce Lehrmann did rape his colleague Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019.

We watched on in horror as news broke that five women and one man were killed at a shopping centre in Bondi, with police later revealing that killer Joel Cauchi was likely targeting women in his murderous rampage.

And we saw more than a thousand people gather in Ballarat to rally against male violence following this year’s alleged murders of three local women.

Anyone who doesn’t think we are in the grips of a nationwide crisis of male violence, is frankly, part of the problem.

This year, in just 15 short weeks, 24 women have died at the hands of male violence.

That’s tracking even higher than last year’s grim total of 63 women in 54 weeks.

Many more are being sexually assaulted, abused or harassed, every single day.

We need action now because the problem isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse.

And the women of Australia deserve so much better than THAT.

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