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iStock 000002054679 SmallI just read an article about how women teach themselves from a very young age to de-escalate, minimize and quietly acquiesce whenever we are in a situation where a man has made an inappropriate comment or action, whenever we have been dis-respected, whenever those situations occur which make us uncomfortable. This is the article here.


The situations described were so familiar to me, and yet I found myself going for my usual response, telling myself that doesn’t happen to me, well at least not on that scale, no, it hasn’t changed as I’ve gotten older, maybe it’s something that’s worse in the States, maybe it happens to women who work outside the home more, maybe it’s a corporate thing, maybe it’s only applicable to women who go out to bars and pubs more than I do, and so on.


Then things started coming back to me. From when I was child. From when I was at work, as long as 35 years ago right through to more recent encounters. From social situations. From Facebook. All the things I’d dismissed, taken no notice of, let slide, because I’m sensible, because I’m easy to get along with, because I can see past ignorance and see the good in people. I’m blessed with a loving family, a caring and very respectful partner, and associate with mostly very decent people. So yes, maybe I don’t experience much of it at the moment, and maybe that’s because of my particular circumstances, location etc, but it sure as hell does happen, has happened, to me and to every woman.

 

Yesterday was White Ribbon day, or it’s less sanitised name of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I watched the ABC programme Hitting Home, made by Sarah Ferguson and the QandA programme which followed. I read articles online yesterday about the topic.


Before I go on, I’ll address the “what about men” thing.


One of the responses to the current push towards creating changes to reduce the incidence of violence against women in Australia, is to say “what about the men, there is violence against men too”. I’ve brought that issue up myself, because of personal knowledge and experience with the issue of men being physically and emotionally abused by women. It’s a real issue, it does happen, and it’s true that it is under-reported. An examination of the statistics confirms, however, that it is rare compared with violence against women by men, and that very different results can be obtained depending on how one chooses to compile the available information. We do not have a situation where 78 men to date this year in Australia have been murdered by their partners. The one in three statistic being presented is a dangerous fiction. The measurement tool used has been criticised as not asking whether the incident was part of a pattern of abuse, whether it was in self-defence, and does not measure sexual abuse, stalking and intimate homicide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2012, 87% of domestic violence victims were women. Male victims are far less likely to be living in fear or to be murdered. Most cases of women killing their partners follow a history of domestic violence against the woman.

 

So let’s not kid ourselves about whether this is a gender specific issue. For men, yes some would benefit from access to assistance to leave violent or abusive situations, that assistance should be available to everyone, but for women who are victims of domestic violence, who often have to leave with nothing, with kids in tow, with nowhere to go, and with a sharp increase to the danger they are in after they have left, refuges and safe places are crucial, and it’s ridiculous to deny that women in this situation are the vast majority.

Filling in FormsHaving told you in great detail about my hyphenated surname, you should know that I get all uppity about titles as well, so let’s get that off my chest.

My preferred title, by the way, is Ms.  Preferred as in chosen.  You don’t get to call me whatever you like, or what you guess I must prefer just because of my age or the fact that I have children.

And by title, I mean honorific, according to Wikipedia.  But my Collins Concise English Dictionary published in 1982 still recognizes the word title as “5. a formal designation such as Mr.”  and the word honorific is an adjective which means showing respect.  Anyway, title is what it says in front of the box every time I am required to fill in a form.

Blank name tagWhy the funny surname?  I have a weird sounding surname.  Actually, it's two weird sounding surnames joined with a hyphen: Langmaid-Buttery.  They're both English surnames, slightly unusual ones, but that's another story.  This is about why I've chosen a hyphenated name (for now at least).

Hyphenated names have had ups and downs in popularity, but have always been a little 'out there' and ostentatious.  This is unfortunate for most of us who choose hyphenated names, as the choice is not usually motivated by any desire to be conspicuous.  My reasons for having a hyphenated name are much more practical, and based on idealistic notions of equality and stuff like that.

It's common in (I assume) most cultures for people to have a surname, last name or family name.  A couple of exceptions that come to mind are Cher and Madonna.  Oh, and the artist now known again as Prince.  Of course I don't know what their accountants put on their tax returns.  There are cultures where the family name comes first rather than last, (like my brother's Chinese name) and other cultures where the names are chosen differently or not used at all.

Surnames or family names are not something people tend to be concerned, worried about or obsessed with, unless like me, they happen to be obsessed with details and things being "right".  Mine's been an issue to me for a long time, and the whole idea of surnames and system of surnames is an issue for me, and something I am obsessed with, and certainly interested in.  I'll tell you why.

It's because I'm a woman (and possibly a bit of a drama queen).

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