My best friend once told me that I was a shit guy, but good for humanity – I have a big enough ego and a good enough dirty look that I had to agree with her. So, consider this column a space where I can air my grievances, confront cultural cringes and try to tackle issues – all at once. I want to instigate discussion and tear friendships apart. Well, maybe not… but you get the idea. Thanks for joining me.
I’ll never forget consoling a girlfriend, tears rolling down her usually stoic face as she spluttered, “I put so much of my identity into this position, and to have these men throw it back in my face is so hurtful.”
I was baffled. Baffled by how someone who I derive so much resolve from, could be broken by shit men who mocked her for wanting to make the lives of women better.
They sneered at her online, challenged her authority, and accused her of being omniscient. I’m honestly not sure if they were threatened by her, or if their feigning masculinity couldn’t handle a left wing, female activist, but their behavior isn’t unique; just ask Hilary, Gillard or the legions of other feminists who’ve come before her. Still, it didn’t make the treatment any less isolating.
They consider themselves bastions of free speech and champions of the ‘All Lives Matter’ movement, but these are the men who posted on the Sex and Consent Week page accusing ANUSA of promulgating debauchery – because who gives a shit about the experiences of sex workers anyway?
They mock those who take a stand, and scorn activists for being “trigger happy”, incessant and “radical”.
In my last column I condemned the victim blamers who accused Alex Lewis of over-reacting and seeking attention. Since then, I’ve had a number of men, all too often outside of Mooseheads, approach me, invade my space, mock me for my sexuality, and attack me for the things that I’ve said, and written, and believe. Afterwards, my Mum told me that I should never set foot in John’s again, fearing I’d be “gang bashed”.
Don’t these people realize that we need activists? That we need those who agitate for change?
I think they’re gutless, but their effect drips down. Activism is replaced with vanilla inoffensiveness, the fight is disbanded, and buzz-words reign supreme. All of this, because of them.
The recent ANUSA elections were a byproduct of this. They were a flaccid expression of political activism. What I think we saw were tickets succumbing to this culture of not wanting to be seen as activists, but rather, as people pleasers.
In my opinion, neither ticket expressed a desire to fight the warped and avaricious changes ANU are making.
Cuts to the schools of Asian Studies and Music, a failure to prioritise sexual assault survivors over the university’s reputation, or never consulting students properly to begin with. The university administration got off scot-free.
You cannot run a campaign based solely on being diverse and inclusive. Having people who are queer, of colour and from varying economic backgrounds on your ticket is not enough. Elections need to be rigorous, not online, and candidates need to be judged on how well they will advocate for students, not on how animated they look in a gif.
As for the joke tickets? Well, the joke is on them, and those who didn’t vote too, because ANUSA 2017 will still control 1.9 million dollars of their money.
We need more people involved, as only then will more voices be heard. We need to have passionate and intellectual debates, not shut them down, or mock those who instigate them. We need a campus where more than just a few engage in the conversation.
If we don’t, the damaging intolerance, policies rendering survivors voiceless, and culture submitting to vanilla living and easy listening will prevail – and all at the expense of the generation that will come after us.