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'Radical' Q&A should be heard not silenced

  • 12 November 2019


The Q&A episode made in association with the Wheeler Centre's Broadside feminist festival was an interesting and challenging episode, the way Q&A gets to be when there are no politicians involved. It also resulted in 200 complaints made to the ABC and 53 more to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The ABC has launched an investigation into the episode, presumably because of the number of times Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy swore (emphasising her point about the 'political importance of profanity'), and the accusation that some panellists were promoting violence.

When I heard Eltahawy wondering 'How long must we wait for men and boys to stop murdering us, to stop beating us and to stop raping us? How many rapists must we kill until they stop raping us?' I understood what she meant. On their own, the words are confronting, yet within the context of her argument, these questions were about flipping the balance of power on its head for a moment. It's not a call to action, but a thought exercise. What if men were as scared of violence from women, as women are taught to be of men? Eltahawy has confirmed this was her intent. 

What struck me was something she said a little later, which many women have said in different ways: 'How long do I have to wait to be safe?' We're still waiting. A woman on holiday. A disability advocate who was trolled online after posting photos. The never ending list of women who have died violently in Australia. 

One in five women are sexually assaulted since the age of 15. It's far more likely to be assaulted by someone you know. If you are disabled, queer, Indigenous or a person of colour, the likelihood increases significantly. What is rhetorical for some is the reality for too many. Which was in fact, the point.

Eltahawy went on to argue for the role of social media, in giving a platform to those who might otherwise remain voiceless: 'There are so many voices that have found their platform on social media, finally. After the gatekeepers refused to let us in for such a long time.' Jess Hill, author of See What You Made Me Do, said that while there are definitely negative elements to social media, she had those 'voices in [her] head and their voices on [her] shoulder and it made [her] write a better book'.

This is part of the power of