Yesterday I participated in my first major protest, March in May, against the Abbott government’s unjust policies against Australia’s working class, students, women, Indigenous people, asylum seekers, non-human animals, the environment and more. It was an absolutely inspiring and enriching experience to hear so many passionate speakers, and even more so to march and shout with 5,000 or so ordinary Australians like myself. I felt every ounce of their anger and determination. We made noise. We caught the media’s attention. March in March was ignored, but this time we had exposure. We are being heard. Ordinary people.
Of course, with so many voices coming together at once, there would inevitably be backlash. Conservative journalist Andrew Bolt wrote and published an article titled Barbarians march in March, condemning participants in the March Australia protests for not being civil enough in their outrage, stating that their “political discourse is conducted in the language of hatred and vilification”, calling them “savages” and “vicious”, implying that they should show more “decency”. All he criticized were the protesters’ attitudes and representation – not a mention of the actual views they represented at all.
This is a common method of silencing dissent – characterizing activists as “barbarians”, uncivil, ill-mannered. You shouldn’t be so ruuuude. You should be more ~polite~ and res-pekt-full or no one would take you seriously and your views are always gonna be dismissed etc. etc. This is also commonly said to feminists and womanists by men, to people of colour by white people – that if their attitude towards their oppressors isn’t so menacing and “hateful”, “misandrist”/”reverse racist” blah blah blah, THEN they would listen. Don’t be so goddamn hostile. Be more sensible. Be niiiiice.
And you know what? That’s exactly what the enemy wants. They WANT you to be polite and civil and sensible so that they don’t feel challenged in their positions of power. Would they listen to us if we tone ourselves down and DO learn to be polite and civil and sensibull and niceee to them? Would they give up their oppression of us which is set to benefit themselves, if only we lose our righteous anger? Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world, and chances are that they would care LESS for what we have to say. Would Bolt have written his article if March in March protesters weren’t being such “barbarians”? Backlashes like Bolt’s article exist because we ARE being recognised, because they are threatened by us. Backlash is PROOF that fighting back is working.
Lyndon Morley addressed this in Tony Abbott, Andrew Bolt and ‘RESIGN, DICKHEAD’. In his article, he writes that “I never personally chastised anyone for the ‘Ditch the Witch’ fiasco or any of the rampant misogyny or ignorant vilification meted out to Julia Gillard — as asinine as it all seemed. Just as I have and just as you do, all Australians are welcome to express their political views in whatever stupid way they want.” I disagree with that, as such a stance is overtly liberal and individualistic, and completely disregards fundamental power dynamics between privileged and oppressed groups. Yes, Julia Gillard is upper class and white and held significant power, but she is still a woman, and as such, would always have the potential to be a victim of sexism. You can vilify her for the person she is and her policies all you want, but if your insult is rooted in misogyny, it is an insult to all women. Tony Abbott on the other hand is a rich, powerful, heterosexual white man, harbouring all the privileges in the world, and any figurative attack on him is highly unlikely to negatively affect disenfranchised groups in the real world. When we march yelling slogans and holding up signs that malign him and his government, we are attacking those who have much more power than we do ourselves, and no matter what Big Bad Mean Words we use, it isn’t going to actually hurt them, but it might just threaten the power they have. Is being ~nice~ then going to give us anything good? Will we be freed from being kind, tolerant, well-mannered towards our oppressors at all times?
I don’t want my resistance to be “respectable”. I want my resistance to be fire.
Equinox Until Solstice: A young Asian Australian feminist sharing her artwork and writing. Sometimes I blog about philosophy and politics.