OPINION

A sea of voices, and Scott Morrison still didn't want to listen

Brittany Higgins at Monday's March 4 Justice rally outside Parliament House. Picture: Karleen Minney
Brittany Higgins at Monday's March 4 Justice rally outside Parliament House. Picture: Karleen Minney

Here we go again. That's what the prime minister might have thought as he eyed the gathering crowds outside Parliament House on Monday.

Another political crisis. Another storm to weather. Another blip on the trajectory of what is otherwise just smooth, smooth sailing.

Ironically, a great many of the thousands of people who marched at dozens of rallies around the country on Monday were also thinking: "Here we go again."

But there was no weathering of a storm in this case. No bunkering down and sitting tight until it was over.

Instead, the crowds were riding a cresting, foaming, furious wave of frustration. A wave made up of thousands of different stories and different reasons to be there. Together, they made an ocean.

It was Brittany Higgins herself who put it best yesterday.

The woman who, this time around at least, kicked the switch that would set the next few weeks alight, climbed up to the podium, bit her lip, and launched into an extraordinarily brave speech.

"No one wants to be here," she said. It's not a fun day out, this whole marching thing. It's actually a drag - a boring, psychologically draining pain in the arse - to have to do it at all.

But, as Higgins said, the system is broken, and here we are, "still having to fight this same stale, tired fight".

Every woman marching - and some of the men - has a story to tell, of their own experience, or someone close to them, experiencing an act of violence perpetrated by a man.

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And it's not just Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and Saxon Mullins or any of those many women who have transcended their own continuing, private horror to tell their stories out loud and in public.

It's all kinds of women in all kinds of settings.

And this massive convalescence of people on Monday was an antidote, if only for a day, against the awful, painful loneliness that often accompanies the aftermath - immediate or long-term - of a violation, be it a small workplace infraction that leaves one quietly humiliated, or a devastating physical attack, or any of the millions of examples that lie somewhere in between. It's lonely even as it is near-universal for women today.

The prime minister probably thought he was being magnanimous by inviting three protesters into his office to discuss the march behind closed doors instead of facing the crowds himself.

He probably thought he was making a jolly good point that at least his government, and by extension, our country, was the kind of place where you could march outside Parliament House and not get shot at.

Mate, read the room. There's a reason people use megaphones at protests, and they're using them now.

It's because you can't seem to stop being so tone deaf.

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This story A sea of voices, and Scott Morrison still didn't want to listen first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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