Drawing a line between gender and violence

Executive Director Women’s Health Victoria Rita Butera writes: Re. “Barbie dolls don’t cause domestic violence” (yesterday). The consensus is clear that violence against women is driven by gender inequality. The World Health Organisation, Our Watch (Australia’s national body for prevention of violence against women) and the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence all agree. The current Senate Inquiry provides an opportunity to investigate how the media, entertainment, education and yes, toys, contribute to gender inequality.

No-one is suggesting that playing with trucks will turn a boy into an abuser or that playing with dolls will turn a girl into a victim of domestic violence. But toys, children’s books and films that show boys as leaders, stars and adventurers, and girls as carers, mothers and objects of male desire reinforce gender stereotypes that contribute to a broader culture of sexism and inequality.

It has taken decades, if not centuries, for the issue of domestic violence to be taken seriously in Australia. 18 women have been murdered already in 2016. We should be leaving no stone unturned, not mocking efforts to better understand and respond to this complicated issue.

On corporate crime

John Richardson writes: Re. “We need a banking royal commission and we need it now” (yesterday). If I had been a member of the audience expected to listen to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Westpac’s birthday bash this week, I would have wondered why he thinks he can lecture me or anyone else about ethical and moral behaviour. How is it that our politicians think that they can shamelessly lie, deceive and cheat the entire nation on a daily basis and sanction the most heinous behaviour against the most defenceless and helpless in our society while they shamelessly gorge themselves on the public purse and still expect that anyone will listen to, let alone respond to their hypocritical, self-righteous lectures? Or could it just be that they have succeeded in damaging our faith in them and our political institutions so badly, that they are really speaking to an empty room?

Peter Fray

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