In recent times the safety of women has been brought to extreme focus. Every day in Australia a woman dies by murder, usually by a partner or ex-partner, sometimes by a stranger. This has led to an outbreak of many things: concern for women’s safety, outrage at the way in which women as a collective are seen and treated in this country and debates about where the causes for these murders lie.
In recent times in line with this crisis and public awareness of it, it’s very common to hear and see on social network sites, like Facebook, comments about “taking care” or “keep safe”. For parents of daughters, it’s harder than ever to settle at night while your daughter is out, doing what young people do, doing what they are entitled to do, simply having fun with their friends. It’s hard, too, to keep a balance on the worry. It won’t help to become so heavily focused on what can go wrong, on the unsafe part of the situation. That becomes not just frightening but also can lead us to becoming paralysed and disempowered, our lives very miserable indeed.
It doesn’t help, either, just to become angry about the way in which women’s lives are treated so cheaply. It’s hard to see old sexist attitudes still prevalent in what should be the most enlightened and progressive time of our lives. It’s hard to feel that women have a strong voice anywhere we look. Our parliament, our work places, our television programs. Women can be spoken over, sidelined, while men take up the privileged positions in our world. Attempts to increase women’s voices are useful but there needs to be an equal reduction in men’s voices to equalize the current power imbalance. And who would want to give up any power? And not all men's voices are heard either, of course.
So how can women reconcile the mixed messages they receive in our current society? How can we feel valued contributors and equal participants in our society? How can we keep each other safe? How can we balance women’s needs with those needs of others, men and women, who are also struggling to find a voice in our society: people with disabilities, people from refugee backgrounds, homosexual or transgender people, Aboriginal people? How can our young people’s voices be heard and how can they be supported to make sure that future generations overcome these issues in ways that build on the efforts of our generation, but are more successful?
We can band together. We can challenge every day the negative attitudes towards women we come across. We can make sure that boys and young men are taught to value everyone as equal. We can do this in every conversation we have. Every comment we like on Facebook. Every comment we make on social media. Every tweet we retweet. This will help us, as individuals, to feel like we do have a voice, a voice entitled to pass comment, quietly but confidently. This will help us, as a community, to keep the focus on the voice and safety of women and those other groups of people without a voice at the moment. With a groundswell of comment from those who can and using technology to support us we will be able to make a difference.