Violent language, violent deeds
It came as a disappointment, but not a surprise when ‘shock jock’ Alan Jones used his platform to verbally assault New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern. He wondered ‘whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.’ This was not the more benign ‘put a sock in it’, it was a metaphorical call to silence a woman in power using the language of violence. Jones, of course, has a track record of feeling threatened by powerful women and lashing out in the most inappropriate way. He has previously implied that ‘many people’ may like to see Lord Mayor Clover Moore ‘hang 58 metres over George Street’; he warned Gladys Berejeklian that her head was ‘in a noose’; and of course he suggested that then PM Julia Gillard should be ‘shoved’ in a ‘chaff bag’ and taken ‘far out to sea’.
These comments on their own are intended to push the named women out of the public sphere, to threaten their authority, and to demean them. But the consequences do not end there. They contribute to the environment that allows violence against women to remain pervasive in Australian society. We currently have an epidemic of violence, much of it hidden, but the source of untold fear and misery. 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. That’s right – a full third of Australian women. 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence. Australian women are almost four times as likely than men to be hospitalised after being assaulted by their spouse or partner. Almost 1 in 10 women have experienced violence by a stranger since the age of 15. The consequences of violence are not just physical either – victims experience psychological trauma, financial distress and sometimes homelessness. The effects are often witnessed and felt by their children. Women are not safe in their homes, and they are not safe on the streets.
What then contributes to this alarming state of affairs? White Ribbon states that men’s violence against women is the result of gender norms and inequality. Gender norms infer that men must be dominant and controlling, strong and powerful. Men who internalise these norms rail against women who appear to be more powerful than them, especially when they have contradictory views. Jones’ rant about Ardern typifies this kind of response, from a man who believes that his opinions should be dominant. Further contributors to violence against women include men controlling decision making, limits to women’s independence in the private and public spheres, and interactions between men that are aggressive and disrespectful towards women. Alan Jones tries to create camaraderie with another man, Scott Morrison in his comments about Ardern, before he delivers his grossly misogynistic line. He demeans her authority and right to lead by calling her ‘a clown’ and ‘a lightweight’. With his words, he captures all the attitudes which allow violence against women to persist.
To end men’s violence towards women we must stand up, speak out and act. Threats of violence directed towards women are not jokes, they are not ‘figures of speech’ and literal or not, they cause harm. When they come from media personalities, and men with prominent roles in society, they validate the feelings of violent men; and in words, condone actions.
Alan Jones doesn’t deserve a platform to continue to promote violence towards women. I hope that his sponsors and employer end their relationship with him. I also hope that Australians switch off his radio program. He’s had more than enough chances.
Sign the petition to stop Alan Jones using violent language against women and to take away his platform here: https://www.change.org/p/ala