The 'No' Campaign puts family violence prevention work at risk

The awful consequences of the same-sex marriage survey are pretty obvious
to most Australians, I hope. We did get to see that hilarious photo of Cory
Bernardi, recoiling in fear as he realized he’d wandered into a marriage
equality demonstration at Parliament House. But I think we can agree it hasn’t
been worth it.

It hasn’t been worth it because of the pain inflicted upon LGBTI Australians.
The pain is palpable. When I looked up at the blue sky in Melbourne the other
week and saw ‘Vote No’ scrawled across it, it made me sick to my stomach.
Six years ago when I was fourteen and scared senseless about feeling
butterflies when I saw pretty girls, unlike my friends who were majorly
crushing on Zac Efron, those words in the sky would’ve made me feel
completely worthless.

The huge waste of taxpayer’s money is another effect that has us up in arms
about this whole survey business. Just imagine the humungous GAY wedding
I could put on with $122 million. I could wear a dress made out of all the
diamond rings no longer used by the homophobes claiming they would
divorce if same-sex marriage were legalized. Chic.

And if not on one lady’s humongous GAY wedding, the government could
spend this money on public benefits like more nurses, more teachers, more
doctors, or more funding for prevention and response initiatives for family
violence. Family violence, which is a far more serious and catastrophic
epidemic in Australia than ‘the gays’.

Family violence takes the lives of up to two women per week in Australia. In
fact, 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence
from a current or former partner since the age of 15. 61% of these women had
children in their care at the time.

If you only looked on Facebook for a couple of seconds two weeks ago you
would have seen the simple words ‘Me Too’ permeating your newsfeed,
proving gendered and family violence are pervasive in Australia.

This is a preventable epidemic, if society would only address its drivers, as
outlined by an extensive evidence base. These drivers include constructions
of femininity and masculinity, rigid gender roles and stereotypes that support
the ability for men to exercise control over women.

One way we can prevent this? Teaching young people how to talk about
gender. We need to engage with primary and high school aged students so
that they can critically examine gender socialisation and understand the
effects of rigid gender roles, such as their relationship with gender inequality,
discrimination, oppression and violence. There are numerous bodies,
organisations and people committed to making this happen.

But across the last few months, it’s been a lot harder. It’s a lot harder because
the ‘No’ campaign has determinedly trashed gender related education with
fervent passion.

You’ve seen the ads. Worried mothers talking imploringly to their audience
about the evils present in Australian classrooms. Boys being made to wear
dresses, students made to act out same-sex relationships in class, the gender
binary critically examined (Oh My!). Despite the fact that this is evidently
untrue – it has created a stir that has not only made it near impossible for
schools to implement education about same sex attraction and gender
diversity, but has made it much harder for gender to be discussed at all.
And the evidence clearly shows, if we don’t, family violence will continue
taking lives. Gender inequality will continue seeing women underrepresented,
underpaid and undervalued.