Article by Gabriela Falzon
Graphic by Holly Jones
I regularly hear from men that their mothers are sacred. That they respect mothers and therefore respect women. That they would do anything to protect their mothers.
But women are victims of a kind of violence that happens regardless of their motherhood status, or anything else. This violence occurs because they are women – and because we have a big problem in this country with gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence is violence directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience gender-based violence but the majority of victims are women and girls.
This violence has entered into all parts of society and affects women in ways that are impossible for many men to imagine, with women living with the continued threat of gender-based violence everywhere, including in their homes. While this violence continues to occur and women continue to be murdered, society often frames discussions about respect for women in a way that reinstates men’s devotion to their mothers, or their wives (because they are the mother to their children). 69 women were murdered in 2018 due to gender-based violence. Already this year, 15 women have been murdered. In Australia, 1 in 3 women experience violence of some kind, in any one year of their life, by someone known to them
Obviously, not all women are mothers, or partners to men and obviously, any discussion about gender-based violence cannot revolve solely around motherhood and family. However, if anything, this just further highlights the absurdity of making Mother’s Day into a marker of men’s respect for women.
I would like to make a claim that this Mother’s day, a day which we enshrine with sacredness and ‘respect’ for the greatness of mothers, we should start a discussion about why women are degraded by violence in our society and why men feel that the best they can do to express their admiration for women is to reinstate the status of motherhood as a role of sacrifice to husbands and children.
If we want to talk about respect for women, and respect for mothers, then why don’t we also turn our attention to why so many women are so overtly disrespected everywhere we look? And why so many women are so unsafe even in their own homes?
What better day to discuss the degradation of women than on Mother’s day?
Gabriela Falzon is completing an Honours Thesis at ANU about women union members.