Our safety is not your choice
We often walk home in the very early hours of the morning as a pair. On one particular walk home we were being yelled at by two adult men. They had gotten off the train like we had and were both much larger than the two of us. They were jeering and commenting on our appearances, and how exciting it was that we are identical twins. Of course we couldn’t ignore them, but we couldn’t ask them to stop because if angered, there’s a good chance we would have experienced the wrath of these neanderthals.
There was absolutely no one else in sight as the train was now just a memory, so we were stuck. We continued walking faster as they called for us to slow down because we were “not going to be able to run” from them. Looking at each other we both felt dizzy and hazed with terror; these so-called men cackled and continued to shout even though they would have seen how uncomfortable we had quickly become.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw the familiar car of our stepdad parked at the end of the street. We don’t know why he had picked us up that night, it was just sheer luck. If we had walked home like we always do after a night out, we honestly don’t know what would have happened.
That makes us sick.
Safety should not be seen as only a possibility. Fear should not incorporate itself into every night out or walk home. All people should have the right to feel safe.
This is just one of the many experiences we have had. We are beyond lucky this has been the extent for us; unfortunately this cannot be said for a lot of other females, such as Eurydice Dixon, a 22-year-old female and comedian who was raped and murdered while walking home at night in Melbourne.
We were absolutely heart broken to discover research conducted by Destroy the Joint and Counting Dead Women Australia that Eurydice, who had so much ahead of her, was only one of 31 female/femme identities who have been murdered through gender specific violence in Australia this year. Just let that sink in — in seven months, we have lost 31 females to gender-related violence.
This can stop.
It all starts at seemingly low level taunts or jeers — locker room banter, as many call it. This is where these harmful attitudes and views of women start. It’s a real problem because to many this isn’t even seen as an issue, let alone an important one. By putting a stop to this behaviour at the beginning of its cycle, we can attempt to eliminate this very dangerous “boys will be boys” mindset, which more often than not acts as a justification for harmful behaviours.
We aren’t here writing this with the expectation that things will change tomorrow, with headlines that read: ‘Two happy-go-lucky twins from the Mountains stop gender related remarks/sexism/violence/rape/murder with a snappy feature article.’
We just can’t sit quietly knowing that this is still an issue that continues to plague our society. We want to say and do something. We need to show that this is not something we can keep quiet about or brush away in the hope that the issue will just simply stop. And yes, we are aware it isn’t all men.
We spoke with some females in the music/creative industry in an attempt to gain some insight on how to create safer spaces in these areas. We are very thankful to get such wonderful responses from some very empowering individuals.
The question we asked was:
“What steps can we as a collective take towards creating a safer space for females/femme identities?”
Here are their responses.
“We need to start stamping out the ingrained assumptions we make about women in creative and music spheres. For example, I spoke to Melbourne artist Eilish Gilligan about sexism and misogyny in the Australian industry and she said her male band mates are always approached first by sound engineers and audience members because there’s the assumption that a female musician couldn’t produce music or know anything on the technical side.
“I think that the culture within the music and creative industry seems to be genuinely changing, with incredible acts like Stella Donnelly, Miss Blanks, Camp Cope and many more actively pushing for safer spaces and better representation for all women. Going forward, more male acts need to come forward and show their support for those movements — Smith Street Band made a really great status not too long ago — and also seeing more women onstage, but also as sound engineers, booking agents, event organisers, lighting technicians and other offstage positions will push the change for safer spaces even more!”
Abby is the creator of the online community and popular podcast, Sisterhood of Soul.
“I think that as a collective, the entire music industry is set up for boys and predominantly has been a boys club for centuries. In particular the music I am interested in — punk and garage — is full of masculinity. I have been in so many situations at gigs here [where] I have felt unsafe although, not because I think I might be sexually assaulted, but because I might be physically injured.
“The ball is in the boys’ court, as it always has been unfortunately. We can rise together, support each other, grow together, to become more powerful, but it’s men who need to take a stand.
“They don’t need to come out with their pitchforks and protest for woman’s rights; they need to stop that locker room banter and make choices to maybe not, talk about ‘this chick’s big tits’ they saw on the tram or wolf whistle or let their mates talk or act in this manner.
“I am aware Eurydice [Dixon] was at least somehow involved in the music scene that I am, and it wasn’t someone within this scene that killed her. I’m not suggesting that this scene is free from misogyny. It was a very young man who, I don’t doubt was in some way isolated and disconnected, and not apart of a community like we are.
“This issue is deep in so many levels and really at this point in time, knowing exactly what had caused this young man to act in this way, we need to [band] together as humans and [create] creative safe spaces and awareness. We shouldn’t be scared. We need to remember that domestic violence kills on average one woman every week and affects one-in-three Australian women.
“Education is also such an important prevention tool. Let’s push for more awareness in schools.”
Asia Taylor is one half of the Melbourne-based music media duo, Roommates.
“I think a big part of it is definitely learning and educating people on how to treat others with respect. As musicians with platforms, it’s up to us to make sure that we are doing our best to make our shows a space where females, femme identities or anybody can come and feel safe and comfortable. We should be setting an example of how to treat other people with respect and making everyone feel included.”
Eliza Klatt is the lead singer and guitarist for Eliza and the Delusionals.
“I guess one way we can make it a safe place is by calling out your mates on their shit behaviour, and not just people who have a platform.”
Ruby Boland is a Sydney-based music photographer.
“I think to create a safer space for everyone, we need to call out people on their shitty behaviour. If you see someone sexually harassing or threatening a female-identifying person, speak up! Get security, a venue staff member or try to get the attention of those on stage. By not doing anything you’re complicit.
“It’s up to all of us to change this, not just female identities. Most of the time these guys creep on or harass because they think no one will do or say anything. Let’s change that.”
Sare is the lead vocalist and bass player of Whispering Jackie.
So there it is — stand up for what is right, especially when in a position of influence; let’s stop these behaviours where they start through early education and later by calling out your mates; and, perhaps most importantly, lets work together to create spaces of inclusion where everyone can feel safe, whether it be in our various industries or as a broader society.
To finish this piece, we want to share an excerpt from the poem “The World I Want to Live In” written by Cheyne Howard of punk band, SOOK. We feel as though in this extract, a wonderful message is conveyed.
“In the world I want to live in I am not an object of lust, but my own sexual being, where consent is a must.” – Cheyne Howard, SOOK.