Dancing with Speeches #2 Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst’s famous speech in the USA explaining how the UK movement for suffrage had gone beyond advocacy and was now inciting a civil war and revolution. It was a call for freedom or death.

This very week women have been called “f**ing witch” by elected officials and the distance between Lysistrata, Emmeline and our day is very short one! This is not a call to arms, or a call to violence, it is a call out.

We need to call out all the examples of inequity between women and men around the globe – the vote, equal pay, right to participate in all parts of the economy and society. And we need to call out where there is sexism – it is still alive and well.

Soft porn in every newspaper and magazine is a constant reminder – why even as I sat in a doctor’s waiting room yesterday I was shocked to see celebrity magazines images blazing from every page of women selling products designed to continue inequities and copy of exploitation. I fail to see how this is good for anyone’s health.

The war on women is alive and well and close at hand. The young woman refugee who sought to come to mainland Australia for an abortion post rape was refused by the same Minister who described a journalist as a witch this week.   A Prime Minister dismisses a minister for his poor performance representing Australia overseas but not one with poor performance at home. This is the issue at the heart of the war – the old domestic versus public issue. There was a time when hitting your wife at home did not attract the same penalties for hitting a bloke in a front bar… that has not completely changed as women still need to leave their homes to be noticed. No more a striking tale of this than the experience of 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who for years medical, community, police and justice systems failed leading to the inevitable murder of her son by his father in a public place. Mental health is surely to blame but lets not forget murder is murder, and this week another father murdered his two children and then suicided in the most dramatic ways in public place that will bring the entire community to know that place for these crimes. The media started sharing this horrific tale, as if was a ritualized hara-kiri, the good bloke of the community tormented to the point where his spirit needed to be released, more than once, failing to fully amplify that two little children seemed to be required for the action to be complete. However unwell, the roots of this story will have found nourishment where violence against women is the meta-narrative .

We are living in fantasy land, if we think that the gender wars are over. The number of deaths each year, sadly each week in Australia when men are murdering their children and the women they once loved and even themselves are testimony to this. Just because we don’t see sexism happening in public doesn’t mean it is not happening … and then when we do see it writ large on television screens by a sporting hero to a journalist doing her job it is visible and decried … no doubt the same hero has done it a thousand times in bars and away from cameras and not been rebuked by a fellow patron. What happens in private has a different legitimacy … it was just a joke, it was cultural, it was an isolated incident … the excuses don’t excuse. It is time for a revolution to wake up from this fantasy and recognize we are all connected and as Parker Palmer says :

that a few of us can live secure private lives while ignoring our complicity in conditions that put many others at mortal risk.

Our well-being is caught up with the well-being of everyone of us – men and women, boys and girls. We have to care for one another and while one side of the equation is not fully liberated, all of us our drowning in the ocean, have guns to our heads and going insane. Where is the sanity of our members of parliament who think it is good enough to have laws where children are locked up on remote locations have fled war and terror, when a women sexually abused is refused health services, where protecting reputations of peers behaving badly is met with derision by the analysts and reporters? How is this sane?

We are all complicit in the conditions that put others in mortal risk – and sexism isn’t the only thing! Mrs Pankhurst made suffrage her crusade and it is indeed still a noble one to have and needed in our world and I whole-hardheartedly support. The actions, those of us with plenty, take everyday, contribute to choking the planet for future generations. When we take more than our fair share,  leave the place worse than we found it, we are complicit with creating a future where inequity creates revolutions of all kinds, and terrorism becomes viable option for those who feel they have no where else to go. All the time we watched and saw the signs, while those at home valiantly soldiered on, calling for our help and the help of our systems and somewhere along the line, the response was too late, not often enough or completely absent.

The line between the public and private is very thin indeed. The personal is political and getting to deeply understand and translating this into our everyday practice, embedded institutionally, and enshrined in laws, leads to liberation.

If we resort to violence we are missing the point.This is a call to undertake this quest nonviolently, so sisters and brothers, put out your brooms, call on your inner witch, sweep away sexism, call out the soft porn, name the policy madness and join in a nonviolent revolution to end this war.

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