I would like to write you a letter as an Australian constituent. I would particularly like to write you a letter as a woman. Under normal circumstances I’d not principally define myself as my gender. There is so much more to me than that. But these are not normal circumstances. As an Australian woman I find myself living in a time where my circumstances feel extraordinary. In this instance my gender is central to what I would like to say.
I have never been a person invested in politics. I was one of those citizens who voted, left the polling booth and got on with my day. In fact, voting was something of an imposition. An obligatory task undertaken to not receive a fine. A day every few years where there was a sausage sizzle and a bunch of persistent people championing their parties by shoving ‘how to vote’ flyers in my face. I’d check off my identity at the front desk, take my sheets of paper and fill in the minimum obligatory boxes with the pencil provided. I didn’t give it much thought. Folded tightly, I’d post my contribution to the fate of the nation in the boxes at the exit door and be on my way.
Mr. Morrison that has all changed.
Because of you.
When you won the last election I took little notice. My life was trundling on and I was still ignoring politics. After all… what real difference did it make to my day to day who resided at Kirribilli? Politicians come and go. You were not exactly inspiring but I never really listened to you. You were just ‘ScoMo’. ‘Scotty from Marketing’. An underwhelming, average, middle aged white man chairing my country. I’d seen a parade of those like you in my half a century.
Now I see you are in fact extraordinary. I have a keenly awakened interest in politics borne of hearing you speak. In the last few months I’ve listened to your words very carefully because they matter. They matter particularly because I am a woman.
You see Mr. Morrison, I am one of the women at the heart of the Women’s Safety Summit you just addressed. That summit was about my past life and my future. I am one of the faceless, depressing statistics of family and sexual violence.
My years of walking past the sausage sizzle and putting pencilled numbers at the top of a ballot form have now ceased. I don’t enter polling booths any more because I am a silent voter. I don’t have a registered address on the roll. Women like me don’t wish to be easily located. We keep our heads down and we create a new life with as much distance between ourselves and a perpetrator as possible. We may refuse to be afraid and we may fully embrace the freedoms we have achieved escaping a past life. Yet, we don’t really have all of our freedoms do we? As I absorb your rhetoric as my Prime Minister it would appear that as a woman I am solely charged with the task of keeping myself safe.
I think the first time I really sat up and took notice of your qualities was when Brittany Higgins came forward with her allegation of being raped at Parliament House. Such a bright, brave young woman. Such a difficult thing for her to do knowing her story and her life would be dissected under a microscope. I can see she took that step both for herself and for all the faceless female statistics who are not heard. After all, if this could happen at Parliament House what does it say about the plight of an ‘ordinary’ Australian? Surely this would be addressed in a definitive way. A swift denouncement that this could ever happen within the seat of our government. Suddenly politics was less remote to me as a disinterested observer. This was relevant on a level I had never experienced. I waited to see what you would do. What you would bring to such a heinous circumstance. Your response provided enormous clarity.
You did nothing. Placed under a pressure you clearly resented you gave the whole mess some lip service. Empty words whilst desperately trying to deflect what this crime (it remains a crime) meant in real terms. You did what every corrupt entitled male I have ever known has done when confronted with an inconvenient woman. You buried her truthful narrative as hard as you could go and waited for her to fade. Waited until yet another victim, exhausted from screaming into an abyss, might just run out of fight. After all this crime was just a problem to you. Not the life of a young, bright, ambitious and intelligent woman. Not her health and her future torn apart. Her bravery belittled and mocked by your mindless arrogance.
Women marched on your seat of power to stand behind Ms. Higgins. Women like me. The faceless statistics. You did not come out to meet them. I realised at that moment exactly who you are. Everything that gesture encompasses.
Mr. Morrison, since that moment I have watched you with a very keen interest. You have not disappointed me. A myriad of circumstances have arisen affording you the chance to win back a modicum of respect from women such as myself. The Christian Porter episode was one that gave extra clarity to who is at the steering wheel of my nation. Someone only interested in their own power. Their own ego. The Boys Club. Someone who should not be.
Someone I placed there through my own apathy as an Australian voter.
As we enter what I hope may be a pivotal time in the journey of Australian women I take hope from power houses such as Grace Tame. Articulate, strong, determined women who will not be cowed by the gaslighting tactics of a man such as yourself. Grace Tame. The only victim survivor placed at the table of the Women’s Safety Summit. A summit to which Brittany Higgins was not officially invited but added as a last minute afterthought. Well of course. Who wants an extra problem at a table merely seen as an obligatory exercise to appease persistently vocal females? Women who are dissatisfied with how they are perceived as the victims of abusers. Women wanting to address what is blatantly lacking in our system to protect and support them. The gender who need to learn more efficient ways to keep themselves safe.
Mr. Morrison. Next time I fill out a ballot form from the tenuous safety of my unlisted address you and the LNP will not be on it. I finally had my political awareness raised by your extraordinary performance as the leader of my country.
To anyone who was once also apathetic – I would ask that you join me. Find your political awareness and your voice. We owe it to Katherine Thornton, Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and every faceless woman victim survivor. Like me.
A Female Australian Voter