POST 2 Gender Based Violence: Where does it start?

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(UN WOMEN, UN Women ad series reveals widespread sexism, 2013) 

My initial investigation of research into gender-based violence in Australia analysed articles that provided statistical information as well as personal accounts from survivors. Each author had a clear motive to generate shock, empathy and action from the reader towards the issue whether it is through the extensive records of incidents, references to the stories of victims or passionate expressions from the authors themselves. My research into the scholarly sources about gender-based violence in Australia demonstrates a greater focus on the sexist ideologies that drive the issue and how they are deeply embedded into cultural/social behavior and institutional systems. The authors deconstruct these ideologies, and reveal how their most subtle and seemingly harmless manifestations become active agents to the crisis in Australia.

In particular, our most recent gender based violence campaign “violence against women: let’s stop it at the start” took reference to a research report that was commissioned by the Australian department of social services. The tone and motive of the issue was quite clear from the first page with the introduction – Australians express a strong desire for change. But do we recognise the heart of the issue? What was quite unique about this report is that it included survey results taken by regarding Australia’s thoughts about gender-based violence. The data revealed that there were sizeable proportions of our society that believe there are circumstances where gender based violence can be excused. Another significant aspect of my research findings into scholarly sources was that the language used to merely identify the issue has shifted to violence against women/women’s issues to gender based violence. And this is due to the fact that the issue is indeed rooted in gender – the conventionalized gender norms that reduce the humanity of both men and women, the constant exploitation and control of women’s bodies vs. masculinity’s pressures to prove sexual superiority.

This shift in the identification of the issue is not to ignore the fact that the victims are mostly female, but rather trigger an in depth discussion of the crisis as a human issue rather than a women’s issue. This transition also extends the accountability and the invite to conversation of the issue to everyone, as any form of progress towards gender based violence demands a universal effort and awareness. In turn this has revealed rather a significant change in the way we approach the topic as language, the way we talk about men and women has been an active agent in the issue of gender inequality and ultimately gender based violence. Now we are witnessing a transformation of language as a tool that we can use to deconstruct, challenge and resolve the issue.

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Violence against women and their children – formative research (Australian Government Department of Social Servuces, 2015)

Department of Social Services, 2015 Reducing violence against women and their children, Australian Government Department of Social Services, viewed 5th of August 2016 https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/11_2015/dss_violence_against_women_public_report.pdf

Katz, J. 2013, Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue TEDxTalks, viewed 5th August 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTvSfeCRxe8

Department of Social Services, 2015 Reducing violence against women and their children, Australian Government Department of Social Services, viewed 5th of August 2016 https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/11_2015/dss_violence_against_women_public_report.pdf

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Dubai, M. Ogilvy, M. 2013, UN Women ad series reveals widespread sexism, UN WOMEN, viewed 6th August 2016, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/women-should-ads

By Giselle Enriquez