On this Friday morning, the last before many offices close for the break, the morning after a night out with friends, I was sitting here on my laptop — head foggy, bits of lash glue still stuck to my eyelids from the night before — when I was forced to read the term ‘neutralised’ in regards to Brittany Higgin‘s sexual assault. And now I’m awake and very pissed off.
In an article titled ‘The Daily Telegraph’s Canberra experts rate our federal politicians‘, the publication lists federal politicians and gives them a grade based on how it thinks they’ve done for the year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was the first on the list, and despite having a shit show of a year regarding his leadership, the publication granted him an ‘A’. Huh??
“It has been a rollercoaster year for the PM that saw a number of mid-year struggles (Brittany Higgins, vaccine rollout) neutralised or turned into net positives,” the article reads.
“Yet big wins — including the UK free-trade deal, world-leading vaccination rates, and a seemingly resilient economy — all go in his favour.
“Morrison ends the year on a high, but needs to re-establish his leadership after being dragged down by less able students in the national cabinet group project.”
I know, it’s the last Friday before Christmas week, our brains are slow, things are bit of a struggle — so go ahead and read over that one more time.
There are so many things wrong with those three sentences, but the most immediate one is the first line which describes Brittany Higgins, the woman who made headlines for challenging sexism in Parliament after being allegedly raped there, as a ‘struggle’ that was ‘neutralised’.
Maybe it’s obvious, but it needs pointing out: sexual assault survivors are not problems. They are not ‘struggles’. They do not need to be ‘neutralised’, which implies that they are a threat. The only thing they are threatening is the patriarchal, misogynistic status quo that seeks to brutalise and victimise them. And anyone aligned with that side of this fight is not fit to lead a country anyway.
The term ‘neutralised’ also implies the erasure of survivors’ plights, the dismantling of their movement, the silencing of their violence.
How the fuck is this framed as positive?
I’m a living breathing human being who had to fight tooth and nail to make it through the past 10 months.
In the wake of the findings of the Jenkins Review and the innumerable stories of abuse in Parliament House – to call this issue ‘neutralised’ is beyond insulting. https://t.co/8QLg4LwqAw
— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) December 17, 2021
Instead, sexual assault survivors should be heard, their perpetrators brought to justice, the rape culture that put them in this situation dismantled.
Rape survivors do not exist in opposition to a state or a leader if that state or leader cares about rape victims — and it seems ours does not.
The Daily Telegraph‘s article also implies that Brittany Higgins was a problem for speaking out about the abuse she allegedly faced, rather than Bruce Lehrmann, the man who allegedly raped her.
It’s amazing that even though this man is going to stand trial in June for allegedly raping a woman in Parliament, it is the woman in question who is being interrogated, punished and discredited by our leaders and the media.
Publications that frame survivors as problems, and congratulate leaders for discrediting and dismissing them, are part of the machine that keeps rape culture alive. They are complicit in the widespread misogyny that sees women everywhere belittled, targeted and discredited for their very real trauma.
Ironically all this just proves Higgins’ point, and the experiences of so many sexual assault survivors, on the rampant sexism and misogyny in Australia’s politics and media.