Flat White

Van Badham and the ugly facts of an ugly matter

15 July 2016

7:21 AM

15 July 2016

7:21 AM

This week’s episode of Q&A exposed what many of us have long suspected – the far-left are co-opting domestic violence as a weapon of cultural warfare.

If the media lynching of panellist Steve Price in the days that followed is any indication; the left are winning it convincingly.

Price’s interjections following Badham’s remark that he had ‘probably’ been in groups or made similar jokes to Eddie McGuire’s ill-conceived remarks about Caroline Wilson were entirely justified. Why should Price have sat silently while Badham singled him out in her claim that a culture of entrenched, society-wide sexism was to blame for scourge of domestic violence?

Not to be deterred, Badham insisted that Price’s comments ‘proved her point very excellently about the kinds of attitudes that create these problems.’

According to Badham, if you don’t share her view that domestic violence derives from cultural norms which promote gender inequality, then you are too are part of the problem.

This explains why commentators like Badham and her ilk fixated with such zeal on Eddie McGuire’s comments for weeks after they were made. The narrative is that domestic violence doesn’t just lie with the feckless men who hit their spouses but also with a culture that has normalised and even promotes these horrendous acts. This is why so many refused to accept Maguire’s apology at face value. The joke wasn’t just a poor choice of words from a man with a long and distinguished history of saying stupid things; it was an insight into the way that everyday male buffoonery teaches us that it’s okay to abuse women.

This is a convenient vision for those who attracted to the idea that society can be neatly divided into permanent classes of villains and long-suffering victims – particularly along gender lines. But when tested against the hard facts, it gives way to some uncomfortable truths.

Domestic violence is heavily concentrated in poorer regional and outer suburb areas where social dysfunction – alcoholism, drug abuse and you guessed it; violence in general– are already rife. Indeed, The Australian Bureau of Statistics expressly notes that socioeconomic status, social and geographical isolation and substance abuse are the three leading environmental factors linked to domestic violence. As Miranda Devine pointed out last year, the incidence of domestic violence in the New South Wales town of Bourke is more than 60 times higher than the northern suburbs of Sydney.

Also roundly ignored is the fact that domestic violence rates are often highest in remote Indigenous communities, where substance abuse and high unemployment have become a permanent feature of everyday life.

None of this is surprising. Low education attainment, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse beget a toxic cycle of poor self-esteem and mental illness. Yes, some degree of domestic violence can be found across all corners of the country. But if you crunch the numbers, it’s clear there are more potent forces at play than asinine jokes on television talk shows.

The pantomime continued the night after on The Project, where hosts Carrie Bickmore and Waleed Aly lectured Price about his choice of the word ‘hysterical’ to describe Badham’s diatribe. In one of his trademark displays of self-regarding righteousness, Waleed went on to criticize Price’s word choice because the semantic origins of hysterical meant women ‘were irrational or incapable of being rational because they had ovaries.’

This seems to be what Badham was getting at when she made her vulgar retort that her ‘ovaries made her do it.’ The obvious point here is that ordinary people like Price’s listeners aren’t in the habit of discerning someone’s intention by recourse to a word’s Greek or Latin origins. But it also reflects the eagerness of identity politics devotees like Waleed to view the world along gendered lines. Any possible example – not matter how far flung – is seized on evidence to further the narrative that women remain a downtrodden underclass.

Instead of baying for Eddie Maguire’s blood, the domestic violence banner-carriers should spend some time visiting Cape York, Aurukun, taking the drive from the ABC studios in Ultimo out to Sydney’s welfare-centred urban fringes. This would at least show them firsthand that the cultural problems that go hand in hand with domestic violence are far more tangible than dim-witted asides on The Footy Show and ABC.

John Slater is the Executive Director of the HR Nicholls Society

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