In Monday night’s Q&A episode, no men asked a question of the all-female panel, no man-buns popped out of the seated crowd, and Tony Jones appeared to possess the most testosterone in the room.
A fascinating discussion about ‘revenge porn’ ensued, making me wonder why legislation does not exist to combat what is, in a way, ‘social vigilantism’. Men who ensure sure that women get their comeuppance, usually in the wake of *gasp* rejection, or a breakup, by distributing naked images, is an unimaginably cruel form of social retribution, in both a woman’s personal and professional life. But why is this so? When naked women are a ubiquitous feature of commercialisation, where #FreeTheNipple is a rapidly growing movement, and where more men than ever watch porn daily, why should pictures of naked women occasion such dishonour and scandal in our over-sexualised society? The real scandal is the fact that these acts of distribution are non-consensual.
As rape activist Thordis Elva pointed out, the retort that “the woman should not have taken the photo in the first place” is just another symptom of a society that blames the victim, and allows men to evade the consequences of their actions, which should be actionable in the courts. The post-coital betrayal of trust is analogous, in the humble opinion of a 20-year-old law student, to the breach of a most private and intimate contract, never mind the fact that supposed ‘consent’ implied by the picture-taking is contingent on certain factors (like expectations of privacy), and should certainly be vitiated by the changing circumstances of a relationship. Women should not feel shame in the wake of leaked pictures, because to feel shame is to give power to the misogynist who would do such a thing, and to give power to a patriarchal society that still deems the ‘acceptability’ of female sexuality.
So why are men not part of this discussion? The unfortunate truth is that the majority are in denial about their collective culpability in the perpetration of ‘women’s issues’. If it is not politically correct to recognise that men are intrinsically part of the problem – like why women earn less, why females feel undermined in professional contexts, why women make up less of the authority figures in our communities – then how can women ever make further progress towards true equality?
Whilst the fourth wave of feminism is still ongoing and is faced by both conflicting definitions and perspectives, much of the battleground is far more existential than tangible; markedly different from the early 20th century. However, that does not make female marginalisation any less real and yet, as the lights went down on Q&A’s episode, the discernable silence of an echo chamber was the only thing I could hear.