It’s Not News

It’s not news that men have poison in them.

It’s not news that women suffer for it.  They have for centuries at least.  They suffer now.  It is there written in the future.  Many other things are unclear about the future, but that a man’s poison will hurt a woman is already painted in for us to walk towards.

It’s not original to say that the poison in men hurts them too.  That it deforms them.  Limits them.  Stops them being who they could be, and stops others from being who they could be.  That the culture we inherit creates the vocabulary of our minds about work, play, gender, love, sexuality.  It tells us what power looks like.  It defines what is weak.  Masculine.  Feminine.  It inhabits the minds of the giant popular culture machines spewing out the endless representations of dead, fearful, silent and victimised women, and the living, heroic, outspoken and dominating men.  It shrugs at the video games, and TV shows, and films.

It’s not news that the latest murder victim is a woman killed by a man.  It happens every day.  Many times every day.  Hundreds upon hundreds of time a week.  Around the world.  Deaths.  Men killing women.  Hitting women.  Raising their fist.  Raising their voice.  Denying women choices.  Eliminating possibilities.  Death is only the most final, most extreme oppression; the ultimate silencing that in a terrible way ends the power of one man over one woman, but spreads the fear of it – of what man is capable off – into the hearts and minds of another generation.  That says to women:

Be careful who you talk to.  Where you go.  What you say.  Think about how you will get there.  How you will get home.  What you wear.  How you act.  React.  How risky it is to snap back and assert yourself.  Read the room.  Read the street.  Read the rock concert crowd.  The public toilets.  The night.

It’s not news that women are not free and that men are.  True to say that men have not had the same thoughts.  Heading out.  Coming home.  Clothes.  Actions.  Reactions.  Rooms.  Streets.  Rock concerts.  They are have no other message.  Through them is no thread of danger.  The street is what I walk down with my mates.  The rock concert is where I check out the chicks in tank tops.  The night is exciting.

A truth well-known that women work.  Women cook.  Clean.  Organise the family birthdays.  Hang out the laundry.  Kiss the child’s knee.  Do the work of crying.  Hugging.  Talking about love, and the loss of love.  The daily work of saying “no” to raise children who appreciate a “yes”.  Buying clothes.  Packing bags for trips so no one forgets their toothbrush.  Who remind men to do things, and who phrases that the right way so they don’t get called a nag.

It’s not news.

That the problem is men.  The culture of man.  And that men don’t show up.  That they celebrate their culture of man directly or ironically.  Some of them knowing the harm.  That they let women do the work of home and love  because women are “better at it”.  Because why wouldn’t they?  Because they’re lazy.  That they sometimes lift a finger and expect praise.  That they think boys will be boys.  Girls will be girls.  Everyone in their role.  A little violence every now and then.  It goes around.

So ingrained that even many women see the world in the way many men want them to.  So complicated because all women are different, and not all men.

But so simple in its theme.

The police are seeking information about another woman, and holding another man in relation to their inquiry.

Go tell it to Women’s Refugee.  Not all men.

Go tell it to Rape Crisis.

To young women everywhere.

Not all men but always a man.

And when you ask for consent education to be made compulsory in all schools in New Zealand the Ministry of Education compliments your female students on their leadership, says it’s a sensitive issue, refers people to their parents.  Where are all the boys schools in this debate?  Where are all the men in law?  In entertainment?

I’m tired of attending sessions to talk about what women can do.  Tired of hearing the statistics.  Tired of reading the news.  Hurt by the grief of another family.  When will you get here men?  When will you come and sit at the feet of the victims and listen?

Come.  Listen.

Then we can start the work.  Then we can have some news.

This Time Around

This time around has it gone so grey that my faith can’t hold out?
Haven’t you heard there’s a somber wind gets my head away now
I don’t wanna try no longer your songbird singing the darkest hour of the night
I don’t wanna find that I’ve been marching under the crueler side of the fight
It makes me want to cry
The Time Around, Jessica Pratt
There’s something about a windy, spring day.  It’s unsettling.  The way it whips snatches of sound from far across the neighbourhood right to your ear, or makes it hard to hear conversation just a metre away.  A windy, spring day has the same scattered, frustrating feel as sweeping leaves in a gust.  Your thoughts and ideas will not form and instead side with the constantly resisting wind.
I notice who is at the edge of the scene when I walk to work.  The edge of the scene in Newtown, or down Courtney Place.  The centre is held by the cars.  The noisy, assertive cars are taking people to work and school in the morning; bringing them home in the evening.  On the footpaths people walk to school or to the bus stop to go to work.
But the centre cannot hold.  Peripheral to the road and the footpath is the man who sits in the doorway of the derelict shop in dirty clothes with thick, grimy hair.  I think he’s 30.  About 30.  He looks angry, and sometimes gets up and walks to the corner where a set of traffic lights rotate, halt and release the streams of traffic.  If I walked another way I would pass two people who sleep in the doorway of another derelict building, a few doors down from the office of the local MP.  They string up a rope and hang a blanket between them and the footpath and we –  the ones in the centre of the scene of life – can all pretend that they aren’t there behind the blanket.  On either side of the road in front of the Newtown Mall there are usually beggars.  They ask for money, and being ashamed I try not to walk past them.
Not that all the people I see begging are Māori, but most are.
I see them.  I see you.  I know what you mean.  I know how you make me feel.  I know what history looks like when it wears a human form: it sits in a car and drives to work;  it sleeps in a doorway and begs.
I’m sure a society based on injustices cannot be just.  I’m sure that an ideology that separates people from nature can never halt climate change.
I remember the man with no hands at an intersection in Delhi; a bucket over one stump beating on car windows while the passengers looked stiffly ahead.  I remember the girl, who must be a woman now, begging for food outside the bookshop in Hanoi.  I remember eating fish and drinking wine at a Michelin star restaurant in Paris.  I remember buying a Paul Smith tie in Osaka and enjoying the compliments I receive every time I wear it.  I’m reminded of the end of the world every time I roll the recycling bin to the curb.
A door slams somewhere and a dog barks.  There are leaves skittering across the concrete path.  A song goes around and around on the speaker,
I don’t wanna try no longer your songbird singing the darkest hour of the night
This time around.