Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / August 3, 2016 , Wed / feminism

Recently, there was a question and answer show on TV in Australia. The subject of domestic violence was brought up, and a member of the audience shared his personal story involving the death of his sister at the hands of her partner. The audience member also mentioned an incident that occurred recently involving several male journalists laughing and joking about drowning a female journalist.

A male panel member answered the audience member, and then a female panel member spoke. When she became understandably passionate and emotional about the subject, in response to what the male panellist had said about the incident, he called her “hysterical”.

The next night I watched a program where they interviewed the male panellist about his use of the word, and the show’s commentator explained the historical significance of the word, especially in regards to women. The panellist said he would use that word again if he was in the same situation.

Afterwards, I was talking with my mum about the whole thing. That the subsequent program had invited the male panellist to speak about what had happened. That the whole conversation was not about domestic violence, or the fact that the sister of an audience member of the original q and a show had been murdered, but rather about the use of the word “hysterical”.

I said to her something along the lines of: I know how important it is to change the way society speaks about women, but I am more concerned that there is, on average, one woman killed per week as a result of domestic violence. I have to pick my battles, and murder is the battle I’m picking right now.

As soon as I said it – “I have to pick my battles”, I knew that it was wrong. Not that I was wrong for saying it. But that society has led me to believe that I have to pick my battles. That we have to work on the big stuff – murder and violence and rape – and make our way down to the smaller stuff – the disgusting jokes and the language and the dismissal. That I should have to pick a battle when it comes to my gender. I shouldn’t have to accept the fact that people are going to talk down to me, and talk about me in a negative manner. I shouldn’t have to accept that I’ll get to that part one day, but for now I have to work on reducing the number of deaths occurring in my country as a result of violence against women.

The program shouldn’t have invited the male panellist to talk about what had happened. He used the word “hysterical”, and he had already said his two cents. Why was the female panellist not invited, so that she could share the importance of not using that specific word, and the importance of language and the way we speak about women in general, and bring the discussion back to domestic violence?

WHY was the man who dismissed the horror of a group of male journalists laughing about killing a female journalist as just a joke among blokes invited instead? WHY was the man who dismissed the words of the female panellist with his sentiments on her emotion invited instead? WHY was he invited?

These are all pretty rhetoric questions, and I’m almost certain that anyone reading this knows exactly WHY he was the one invited. Because, once again, the person who was given power was a male. The person given permission to speak, nationwide, was a male. The person given the opportunity to explain his feelings was male.

In terms of domestic violence against women, I see so many services and initiatives focussed on the aftermath. On noticing the signs in a male partner. On helping women and children get out of the situation. On helping them move on. But what I don’t see is preventative measures. Services and initiatives that work to teach society that violence is not acceptable in any manner – verbal or physical or any other type. That work on saying: no. You do not result to violence. That is not the way.

Why is it this way?

Maybe it’s because we’re forced to pick our battles.


10 Responses to picking battles

  1. Omg you’re so right, I had never even thought about this. I often find myself thinking that we should focus on the bigger things, and feel guilty when I get angry and want to take care of the smaller stuff, but like you said we shouldn’t pick our battles. All of this needs to be fought against. Because the way women are talked about and to, comes from the same mindset that thinks it’s okay to use violence against them. Anyway, great post! I agree with everything you said

    • Chiara says:

      I’m so glad that this post had you thinking, Michelle! It is really important to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t have to pick our battles, and that violence against women comprises of so many of them (because violence is never just one thing). Thank you so much!

  2. This is such an important post. I think it’s really difficult to balance the perhaps more ‘small’ issues like the ones that I personally face every day with murder, rape, and domestic violence. (Or at least for me.) Because we shouldn’t have to pick our battles, but it feels like we do. It really frustrates me if a guy tells me I’m focusing on something trivial when women are dying and it’s like…I don’t see you doing anything about it?
    I want to talk about everything. And changing people’s attitudes can also change their actions.

    • Chiara says:

      I am so very glad you think so, Eve, and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I hate that we do feel like we can only focus on one battle at a time – especially since these battles are so slowly won (or never won at all). I do not appreciate people who try to quiet my passion or feelings on an issue, so I am so sorry that this happens to you.

      I think that so many things need to be talked about, and their importance reiterated because how else are things going to move forward without the discussion being started?

  3. Beth W says:

    My understanding of the phrase “pick your battles” is that it does NOT mean “you only get to care about one thing”. It means “you can only fight one thing fully at a time”. Don’t dismiss something you’re passionate about, at all. But also recognize that you only have so much energy, time, and ability, and focusing that gives you a greater chance of making a difference.

    Also, maybe Australian TV is different than US TV, but programs are not about helping, solving, or fixing. They’re about getting ratings. And getting ratings for being sensational and having absolutely assholes on a program works. To revamp why the actual dialogue on the actual issue isn’t moving forward, you have to revamp the entire entertainment system. Or focus on the educational and outreach programs instead of the entertainment ones (like volunteer organizations, groups, events, etc.)

    • Chiara says:

      Oh, I know that it doesn’t mean that the topics and issues we care about are limited – but rather the fact that we can only present a full fight for one at a time. Society is so against change – in any way – that the battles are so very slow to be won, and the fact that we are forced to fight one at a time in no way helps this.

      The show that asked the male panelist to speak is a “news in a different way” kind of show, which is usually quite discussion based, rather than sensationalist. But the male panelist is one that has ties to the show, which is no doubt why he was invited to speak. Even so, it was incredibly disappointing to see.

  4. Romi says:

    This is wonderful, Chiara, and like I said: I can imagine you having this conversation, and that is wonderful. I’m glad you brought this discussion to your blog and shared your thoughts and I definitely felt engaged, not only from an interest point of view but from a consideration(al) one, especially when you say we’re led to believe we have to pick our own battles. That felt… it felt, I guess, like a revelation that I already knew. Once I saw it I felt “of course! Of course!” and yet I needed to see it to be thinking about it. We shouldn’t have to ignore behaviours that aren’t acceptable, we shouldn’t put aside one thing we care about just because there are other things to care about! Because I think there are always going to be things that take up our passion and our time and our fight, and some of them might seem (or might be) bigger than others, but we shouldn’t feel like we have to focus on one thing and one thing only. Because there’s absolutely no reason why we *should*. Why we can’t say “no, that’s not okay” and also be saying other things aren’t okay. This is what I was thinking whilst I read this, and it was just a really good experience and made my mind whirl and I want that from every discussion, whether it be online or in person, so thank you. *throws a heart your way*

    I can’t believe this is a situation that happened. The fact that the passion, emotion or words of a woman are cut down, laughed at or taken to be/mean/have less worth than those of a man, that isn’t okay. I get emotional about the things I care about, the things that are important to me or that I want to fix and am trying to work out how to, and even though not every person who speaks about a topic, even if they feel the same as I do, shows that same emotion, it doesn’t mean our words are worth a different amount. Genders and sexualities and identities, they shouldn’t ever determine how much our voice is worth, our words are worth, and the fact that that happens, that we are shown how we’re worth less than others, it hurts. And it’s stupid. And the fact this member of the audience opened up about such a tragedy and it went completely off topic like this-? I don’t understand it.

    Thank you for sharing this, Chiara. xx

    • Chiara says:

      I am so infinitely glad that you enjoyed this discussion, even though the topic is one that is not enjoyable at all. I don’t like to think that we have to pick our battles, but everything says that we have to. It seems like we have to focus on one issue at a time before we can even begin to unravel the multitude of others. And that’s just not the way. I know we all have finite time and passion, and that we can tire. But there are so many of us that want these battles one and fought, so why should we all be focussing on the one thing? Because society can only handle changes in increments, it seems.

      I couldn’t quite believe it either. Watching the original Q & A show was a little horrifying. And to see the discussion unravel because a male panelist took offense was incredibly disappointing. The fact that anyone’s voice is made out to be less worthy than another’s is disgraceful.

      It was my pleasure <3

  5. Topaz says:

    It saddens me that I have not heard this discussion before. Because, of course, you are so very right – there are endless things wrong with the way society treats women (and: people of colour, LGBT+ people, anyone who is, in essence, not a straight white cisgendered male). I hate that the question is whether murder or slurred language is the bigger issue – because it is beside the point, I think. They are not separate issues, but part of the same one. They are irrevocably intertwined in ways that we cannot possibly hope to pull apart. By targeting one, we are targeting the other.

    I believe that feminism is less about picking and choosing one’s battles and more about understanding how each battle we fight contributes to the larger war. Each battle won sends ripples of victory throughout all of the other battles being fought. It is not about pitting these battles against each other, but rather understanding the higher-level picture. Feminism is about winning the war. And we are not there yet. But each battle brings us closer, closer, closer. I have to believe that.

    • Chiara says:

      Violence comes in so many shapes and sizes, and the way that women are spoken about is a type of that violence. And so is murder. Violence is not only defined by fists and bruises. SO you are so right to say that they are not separate issues, even though society may try to make us believe that thy are.

      I hope that we win battles more and more. That we open eyes and we change minds and that violence against women won’t be in the news every day.

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