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Q&A Transcript Nov 3, 2009

FRAN KELLY

Hello and welcome to Q&A. I’m Fran Kelly, and tonight, we’re in Melbourne collaborating with the Wheeler Centre’s Broadside festival. On our panel, anti-ageism author Ashton Applewhite, Egyptian-American feminist Mona Eltahawy, businesswoman and social change agent Hana Assafiri, Indigenous screenwriter and activist Nayuka Gorrie, and Jess Hill, whose latest work is challenging old assumptions about male violence. Please welcome our panel.

And Q&A is coming to you live across eastern Australia on ABC TV, and across the nation on iview and NewsRadio. And our first question tonight comes from Nisha Khot.

NISHA KHOT

The interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care has damned Australia’s system as inhumane, abusive and unjustified, yet there seems to be very little attention paid to these findings. Do we, as a nation, care more about parties, hats and frocks than we do about our elderly?

FRAN KELLY

Thank you very much. And I think that was a reference to what’s going on at the moment with the Melbourne Cup tomorrow, so let’s bring in an Australian on this one. Hana, what do you think? Do we care more about parties and frocks at the Melbourne Cup than we do about our older Australians?

HANA ASSAFIRI, SOCIAL CHANGE AGENT

Well, I think… I mean, the findings are horrific and they weren’t any surprise, given when they first came to light with the ABC report – and they ARE horrific – but I think they are symptomatic of our attitudes towards minorities. So, it’s not just attitudes towards the elderly.

I think, as a country, we have positioned minorities in competition with a whole host of other issues. So, I think aged care and the abuses of aged care have become a consequence of how we view minorities, how, at best, we are indifferent to them and, at worst, we are hostile to minorities – all minorities, including women, disabled groups, queer community, Muslims. And, for me, this is part of that conversation that we need to have, although, specifically, we need to look at what’s happening in aged care.

FRAN KELLY

Yeah. Ashton, ageism is a big part of your work, really, and your thought. Do you think it is separate to the other -isms, in a way?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE, ANTI-AGEISM ADVOCATE

Well, it’s paradoxical, in that ageing, you know, is the one universal human experience, and older people, you know, are a minority of the population. Ageism, I should say, is any judgement on the basis of age. So, young people, children, experience a lot of it too, and a society that doesn’t look after children is also ageist. I think that we have… that it is indeed… I think Hana’s right – that it does represent how we treat people at the margins of society.

I would say capitalism is probably the biggest driver, in that we don’t respect people who don’t contribute in conventional economic terms, which means children and retired people, even though they contribute in many ways that are harder to measure, and often enable other people to contribute in conventional ways.

FRAN KELLY

OK, what about…? Let’s stick with the Australians for a minute ‘cause the reference was sort of a reference to the Melbourne Cup, but we’ve also had this royal commission into aged care just handed down last week, and one of the findings from the royal commissioners was that the shocking state of our aged-care sector – and it was described as sad and shocking and cruel and harmful – was it represented an ageist mindset. Jess, do you think we’ve got an ageist mindset in our society?

JESS HILL, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST

Yeah, and I think some of it is just that a lot of us are terrified of getting old, right? And so there’s probably a bit of a sense, when our own relatives get old, some of us are upstanding children and we remain in their lives and we look after them, and others run for the hills. And I think, sometimes, we don’t want to look because a lot of us feel complicit that we didn’t look after our grandparents. Or I know, personally, I feel guilt about not necessarily being there for my own nonna when she started to go senile. It was… It was something that I just couldn’t accept, and I probably needed to turn a blind eye to it.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

But if there was adequate state support, you wouldn’t feel you had to go it alone.

JESS HILL

That’s also true and… You know, obviously. I guess that, when we feel complicit in perhaps our own negligence – and, you know, you see this with the lack of men in the violence against women sector – you know, sometimes, that means that we want to look away. And, you know, when we think about things like animals, I mean, how many of us have buried a racehorse? Not many, you know? We don’t feel complicit in that. We can point a finger quite purely and say, “What a disgusting practice that is, and we don’t want to be any part of it.” But this disgusting practice of putting our old people in aged care homes and leaving them there to literally rot, in some cases, is something that a lot of us are complicit in.

FRAN KELLY

Yeah, and there is a shocking statistic that came out in that aged care inquiry, which is that 40% of people within our aged care system don’t get any visitors. Nayuka, how does this…? How did that strike you, and the way we treat older people in our community, and…as you compare that to people with… you know, Indigenous Australians, for instance?

NAYUKA GORRIE, ESSAYIST AND SCREENWRITER

Yeah, well, I think… If I’m really honest, I think I… In Australia anyway, I think we’re saying ‘Australians’, but I think, if we’re looking at who we’re actually talking about, I don’t really see that in my community. I don’t… I think that we value older people in a very different way. Elders have… Yeah, elders have a high standing in our community.

And while I’m talking, I should also acknowledge the country that we’re all on and the country that we’re all listening and watching on. Yeah, I think we treat older people in a more respectful way. I think, yeah, what we’re seeing is also white culture. Yeah, I think different cultures have different ways.

FRAN KELLY

OK.

NAYUKA GORRIE

I don’t know.

FRAN KELLY

Mona?

MONA ELTAHAWY, THE SEVEN NECESSARY SINS FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS

Yeah, I totally agree. I think that, too often, the white experience – the white male experience, generally, but the white experience overall – is taken as the default. And I think that the rest of us – those of us who are not white, those of us who are not able-bodied, those of us who are not men, those of us who are not those defaults – end up having to explain that this is not our experience.

And I think, you know, when I look at my family in Egypt, when I look at… You know, it’s very similar to what you’re saying – that it’s very rare, although it’s…some families, because they split by migration and work abroad and stuff, it’s still very rare, but I think it’s really important for white people to acknowledge this as their problem and to begin learning from us.

FRAN KELLY

OK.

NAYUKA GORRIE

It’s also… We do also have a culture of just locking things away that we don’t want to look at, so we do it with homelessness, we do it with people who are incarcerated, people with disabilities. If we’re… If it’s too inconvenient, we’ll just shut people away, and I think, yeah, this is one of those things.

FRAN KELLY

And I think that’s exactly what the commission has found. OK, our next question is from Catherine Beven.

CATHERINE BEVEN

Hi. I’m a 62-year-old woman who works full-time and I’m very fortunate to have a fabulous job. The covert ageism I experienced during some interviews before securing my current role was stressful just to say the least. One person conducted a phone interview with me and had almost guaranteed me the job until I saw that he’d looked up my LinkedIn profile photo and I never heard from him again. How do we convince employers that people who are older are great workers with so much to contribute?

FRAN KELLY

Ashton, I think we’ll file that one straight to you.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

You know, on the aged care point, I just want to point out that only 5% of the population is in aged care homes. Our fears are out of proportion. This issue of discrimination in the workforce is widespread. The evidence is everywhere that not a single negative stereotype about older workers is true – less creative, less dependable. None of that is true.

So, of course, what we want is our employers to judge employees not by what they look like, no matter what or who they sleep with, for that matter, or where they come from, but on the basis of their individual capacity. We… Age discrimination is illegal. It’s important for people to call it out. That doesn’t make it any easier for you to get your foot in the door, which is why I do what I do, which is to help develop a grassroots social movement, like the women’s movement, which changed the way we look at women in the world. Not enough, but it started to do it.

We need to do that around the position of older people in society because addressing ageism at its broadest level, which is between our own ears, and then how it plays out in the workforce, in our healthcare systems and everywhere. You know, that is where it has to begin so that people can look at workers for, you know, the capacity – the individual capacities – we bring to the job.

FRAN KELLY

It’s proving very difficult to shift. I mean, I’ve seen government after government decide that they’re going to try and do everything they can to get more older people employed, and they have subsidies, and it just doesn’t seem to shift. Hana, you employ people. Do you employ older people?

HANA ASSAFIRI

I absolutely do, and I think it’s also important to look at the gendered nature of aged care…

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Absolutely.

HANA ASSAFIRI

..and when it comes to women and women who have had their careers interrupted and then find themselves needing to re-enter the workforce. So, I’m somebody who speaks to responding, to circuit-breaking the cycle of disadvantage for women, whether they be escaping situations of violence or whether they be experiencing societal discrimination and/or finding themselves in their third age needing to come back into the workforce. And, coincidentally, the highest group of homelessness in this country are…?

FRAN KELLY

Older women.

HANA ASSAFIRI

Women over 50.

JESS HILL

And growing.

HANA ASSAFIRI

So, yes, I employ them as a matter of course, but I think what we need to do is look at why that is and why women’s work is not recognised, and how do we train women up so that they do and can be re-engaged inside work?

FRAN KELLY

Our next question – it’s a video from Belinda Day from Echuca in Victoria.

BELINDA DAY

Our mum, Tanya Day, died in custody because Victoria Police targeted her for being drunk in public. They then failed to properly care for her after they locked her up in a police cell. In all Australian legal history, no police officer has ever been held criminally responsible for an Aboriginal person’s death in custody, despite hundreds of Aboriginal people dying in their care. As Aboriginal people, we know that racism was the cause of our mum’s death and is the cause of so much pain and harm in this country. How do we get institutions to acknowledge racism, and how should people be held to account?

FRAN KELLY

Nayuka, it’s a big and it’s a key question, isn’t it?

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah, absolutely. It’s really difficult, I think. When we’re talking about institutions like police, I think it’s really tempting to think about how… Well, how can we make the police nicer? Should we hire more black people? Should we have more women? But what we need to remember is that the police started – like, its very formation – was to serve the interests of white sovereignty in this country. So, I don’t know…

If we’re talking about accountability, I don’t know how far we can go in keeping an organisation like the police to account because it is there to be violent, it is patriarchal, and it is overwhelmingly white. So, why…? Yeah, how do we…? I think it shouldn’t exist, but… Um… I think… Yeah, I think… Yeah.

FRAN KELLY

But how do we do it? Let’s talk about that.

NAYUKA GORRIE

But…

FRAN KELLY

Because we’ve had… Nearly 30 years since we’ve had a royal commission into black deaths in custody.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah.

FRAN KELLY

One of the key things they found was that public drunkenness should no longer be a criminal offence, and it hasn’t changed. So, if… Royal commissions aren’t doing it, so how do we make this change? And are things changing? Because this is the first inquest – this one into Tanya Day’s death – to formally consider systemic racism…

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah.

FRAN KELLY

..as a contributing factor. Is that a sign of improvement?

NAYUKA GORRIE

I… It’s like, how incremental..?

FRAN KELLY

Mm.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Like, what… I’m wary of talking about Auntie Tanya Day’s family. I think they ultimately decide what justice is for their mum. They decide… Like, in all of these discussions, we should be centring the family and what they want. But as an observer in the community, and being on the outside but also being a blackfella, I think having police investigate themselves is not a way… I can’t see how accountability can come from that. And that still…that still happens, and that’s always happened. So, I… Yeah. I don’t know.

FRAN KELLY

Mona, how do we get institutions to, you know, acknowledge racism and do something about it? How do we hold people to account?

MONA ELTAHAWY

Well, you’re asking the person here who travels the world to say fuck the patriarchy, so I think that what we have to do is start seriously talking about dismantling patriarchy. And when I talk about patriarchy, I’m talking about a white-supremacist, capitalist, imperialist patriarchy, to quote black American feminist bell hooks, because what I’m hearing here is very similar to what’s happening in the United States.

But I also urge everyone to connect it to what so often in the news is portrayed as a problem in my country of birth, Egypt, where police brutality is connected to a fascist state or a militarist state. And so it’s very easy for people to say, “Oh, look. Well, you know, the police beat Mona up in Egypt, because, you know, Egypt is a dictatorship.” And you rarely make that connection between the dictatorship and here in Australia where you’re ostensibly a democracy.

But what you’re talking about is the overwhelming power of the state, and that state is driven by a white supremacist patriarchy. When I look at your prime minister, when I look at Donald Trump, when I look at Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, when I look at Bolsonaro, all of these men are patriarchal authoritarians. At the heart of the way that they rule is violence, and that violence depends… The violence is meted out to you depending on where in the hierarchy you belong. And so if you’re a woman, if you’re queer, if you’re of colour, if you’re disabled, etc, etc.

So, for me, I say patriarchy is like an octopus. The head of the octopus is misogyny, but the eight tentacles are these things that we’re talking about. So, it would be capitalism, it would be police brutality, it would be homophobia. All of these systems of oppression that privilege male dominance. Because we’re talking about a very specifically male kind of violence, and, again, according to the tentacles of the patriarchy. So, for me, we have to have a serious discussion. We have to dismantle patriarchy. Does that sound like a pipedream? It has to be a reality, ‘cause it’s the year 2019 – for those of us who use that calendar – and we’re still talking about people being beaten to death by the police. It’s unconscionable.

NAYUKA GORRIE

I think also, if I can just jump in, I think, like, yes, let’s talk about patriarchy, but if we’re talking about a settler colonial state like Australia, we need to question where that patriarchy comes from. And colonialism is the answer…

MONA ELTAHAWY

White supremacy.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah, well, but particularly also, like, it’s not just racism and white supremacy. It is also wanting to disappear Indigenous people, and, you know, not… our sovereignty not be upheld. I think the danger – and I think Queensland Police is a really good example – where we…when we kind of zone in on one particular police officer, say, Chris Hurley up in Queensland, we have this… I think we’ve got a bit of a culture of being able to, you know… We want to pin it on one person and just say, “Oh, you know, it’s one bad guy, or it’s a couple of bad apples.”

But if we’re thinking about the police, or we’re thinking about institutions, we have to understand that it’s a cultural issue. It is a systemic issue. And beyond the police… It’s not just the police. We also have, say, institutions like the healthcare system. I’m thinking of Naomi Williams up in New South Wales, where she died of something that should have been preventable. She went to the doctors 18 times. And, like, racism absolutely played a role in that.

FRAN KELLY

And entrenched racism is, you know, unquestionable, and if the question from Belinda was, how do we get them to acknowledge racism, institutions… Jess, you’ve looked a lot at institutions in the work you’re looking at. The police are, you know, a key institution in dealing with domestic violence. Police, what, address a domestic violence incident in this country once every two minutes? How do we get them to acknowledge and to change?

JESS HILL

Um…

FRAN KELLY

And is “smash the patriarchy” the only answer?

JESS HILL

Yeah, well, there’s that. There is smashing the patriarchy. There’s, you know… I think the culture of the police is so deeply entrenched, and Nayuka is totally right to talk about the history of colonisation and what’s happened particularly in Australia, and it’s shared in many, many countries across the world. But what we’ve done here in Australia is we’ve brought…we brought over a culture, you know, in 1788, when we first started coming here, that was absolutely torn apart by domestic violence and child abuse. We brought that culture here. We brought it to a nation of Indigenous Australians who had lived here for 65,000 plus years who had survived and thrived for that long because they knew what was required to keep intimacy and emotional relationships intact.

What we did is we came here, we raped and abducted their women and girls. We instilled a system of patriarchy and racism. We then… When we raped and abducted their girls, when they had white babies, we abducted them, and then we legislated for about 180 years to destroy their culture, or to try to destroy their culture, because we thought that they were already doomed and we were almost doing them a favour. So, what I think we’ve come to now is, you know, we imported the violence.

There may have been violence in Indigenous cultures before we got here, but they lived by a very strict moral code, and we have had that culture of violence that has been totally unresolved in this country for over 200 years, and we have not made peace with it, and there’s no way that you’re going to change police without changing the community. Police are just people. They’re people who live in Australia, and Australia has a very hard, long history of violence against Aboriginal women and girls and Aboriginal boys. And unless we resolve that and do some truth telling around that, there’s no chance that the police are going to be reformed.

FRAN KELLY

OK.

NAYUKA GORRIE

But do we want them to be reformed, though? I think that’s the question. What… What is it that we…? I think the problem is we lack the imagination to think outside of the police.

FRAN KELLY

Well, you’re saying you don’t want any police at all…

NAYUKA GORRIE

No.

FRAN KELLY

..but if we’re going to have police, don’t we want them to be reformed?

NAYUKA GORRIE

But…

FRAN KELLY

If that’s the…

NAYUKA GORRIE

But can they be? It’s two hundred and…

FRAN KELLY

Well, that’s the question.

JESS HILL

It’s a big question.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Two hundred and…

FRAN KELLY

How do you change an institution?

JESS HILL

It’s actually not a question that’s easy to answer.

NAYUKA GORRIE

I think it’s a waste of time to try and change something like the police. It’s truly a waste of time. We’ve been trying for years and years and years. It hasn’t worked. So, what are different ways of dealing with the things that we go to police for? So, if it’s… You know, if it is…

FRAN KELLY

Because we do go to police for help. We do go.

NAYUKA GORRIE

And they don’t help. Like, they… You know, Ms Dhu… Ms Dhu is a really good example. You know, she went for help and she ended up dying. You know, Auntie Tanya was… she was…she was drunk in public. But, you know, you would help someone normally. You know, there are going to be thousands…

FRAN KELLY

It should be a health response, not a police response.

MONA ELTAHAWY

Well, if you’re talking about…

NAYUKA GORRIE

..of people who are drunk tomorrow, and they’re going to be helped.

FRAN KELLY

Of course.

NAYUKA GORRIE

But why…? Why do we need to rely on them when we can build communities to do that work for ourselves?

FRAN KELLY

OK, Hana?

HANA ASSAFIRI

Look, I think what’s missing from this whole conversation is truth telling. Indigenous and First Nation issues are not sexy, and there’s no currency politically to take them on in a real and meaningful way. In order to… Because police behaviour is a reflection and expression of the…the values of this… of this country. And I agree with Jess that truth has never been told. And if we are genuinely about recognition, reconciliation, whatever the language we use that is relevant to First Nations people, and affording dignity and respect, we need to begin by telling the truth, and need to stop the double speak. On the one hand, we appoint a Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and then at the same time we afford them absolutely disrespect and disregard for events like Uluru closure.

FRAN KELLY

Mm.

HANA ASSAFIRI

So, this double speak about on the one hand we claim, yet those claims are hollow.

FRAN KELLY

OK, we have so much to get through tonight. I’m going to move us on. Remember, if you hear any doubtful claims on Q&A, let us know on Twitter. And keep an eye on the RMIT ABC Fact Check, The Conversation website for the results. The next question comes from Aliya Ahmad.

ALIYA AHMAD

Former US president Barack Obama recently said that people who are politically woke need to get over themselves because they’re just being judgemental online and not effecting any change. For many women and gender-diverse people of colour, online is one of the few safe spaces to actually speak out about injustices within our community and more broadly. What affect do you think that Mr Obama’s words have on these already marginalised voices, and what would you say in response?

FRAN KELLY

Mona?

MONA ELTAHAWY

I completely and utterly disagree with Barack Obama.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Me too.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I go online exactly to tell people to fuck off when they attack me, and I’m very well-known for it.

FRAN KELLY

And at this point, I will utter a language warning on the program, and remind our guests.

MONA ELTAHAWY

No, honestly, it’s… You know, this idea of respectability, this idea of civility, this idea of unity, all of these words, decorum, who invented those words? Those words were invented by white men for the benefit of other white men in systems and institutions that were always designed to be for white men. And they weren’t designed for women like you and me and so many others. Like you said, people of colour and gender-diverse people. They never imagined us in those spaces, and then we show up and we just ruin it for them.

And so those who abide by the system – and Barack Obama was part of the system and remains part of the system… I also disagree with his wife when she says, “When they go low, we go high.” No I fucking don’t. If you go low I’m going to come for you. So, no, I do not have the luxury or the privilege to sit there and be civil with people who do not acknowledge my full humanity. I refuse. Number one.

Number two, there were so many voices who have found their platform on social media finally, after being…the gatekeepers refused to let us in for such a long time. I mean, I say…I include myself, ‘cause I’m kind of in and out. But there are people who have never had any platform. I’m thinking of young black feminists in the United States, Indigenous feminists in the United States and Canada, ‘cause I move back and forth between the US and Canada. There is one Indigenous woman in Canada who every day tweets about missing and killed Indigenous women in Canada. Nobody has bothered to find out what happened to them. In the United States, really incredibly successful campaigns have happened online because we refused to be civil to those who don’t recognise our humanity.

So, for those who say, “Be civil,” for those who say, “Be polite,” I have an entire chapter on the political importance of profanity, and I remind them of a Ugandan feminist called Dr Stella Nyanzi who is currently in prison in Uganda because she wrote a poem on Facebook wishing that the mother of the dictator of her country had poisoned him, that her birth canal had poisoned him during birth. And when she was taken to court and doing her sentencing, she was video-taped in, because she’s known for her profanity, she stood there in the video, she took off her top, she jiggled her breasts and she said, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!” In court!

FRAN KELLY

Mona, I talked to you about this. OK, you’re watch…

MONA ELTAHAWY

So…

HANA ASSAFIRI

That’s three. Four.

MONA ELTAHAWY

..I disagree with Barack Obama. I agree with Stella Nyanzi.

FRAN KELLY

You’re watching Q&A live from Melbourne, with a panel of outspoken feminists. We’re staying with this issue of protest. Our next question is from Jos Tait.

JOS TAIT

Scott Morrison is talking again about cracking down on protesters and boycotts, but when citizen’s democratic rights are progressively degraded, what avenues are left for those citizens to affect political change, at least in between elections?

FRAN KELLY

Ashton, I knew you were keen to come on on the last question, but for this one, if you don’t know, Scott Morrison is our prime minister.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Yes. Well, as far as I can see, he was upset that climate change organisers were causing grievous harm to industries that are polluting the planet. I mean…

FRAN KELLY

He was very upset. He talks about a new breed of radical activism. Is it a new breed?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Ah, hardly. And, I mean, the whole discussion frame seemed almost absurd, you know? That he would accuse these young climate change protesters of being selfish by disrupting a teeny weeny bit of the corporate profits that are responsible for the plunder of the planet. Plus, if… I mean, to say that exercising our rights as consumers in a capitalist society is threatening is frankly ridiculous.

FRAN KELLY

Hana?

HANA ASSAFIRI

I mean, again, I think this is part of a bigger conversation…

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Of course.

HANA ASSAFIRI

..and an ideology of a government who is moving towards censoring everybody and masquerading around a whole host of different… The civil liberties, the erosion of civil liberties and now criminalising protests. I just want to take the opportunity and talk about climate change because I think it’s been led by extraordinary young people.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Agreed.

HANA ASSAFIRI

Loud young people who don’t have other avenues.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

And we older people need to join them.

HANA ASSAFIRI

They cannot vote. They are now being criminalised for protesting. Their MPs and governments are not listening to them. So I think these young people… Either we come to terms with leading on climate change or there’s going to be more protests.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Well, we need all ages on deck against climate change. I mean, my main issue with what Obama said is that it was framed a little bit as old versus young. And that’s just the ancient… you know, oldest tactic in the world to divide up groups that would otherwise join forces.

FRAN KELLY

Just on the point that Obama was making, is there anything… Yeah, old versus young, true. But what about… Was there an element of, it’s easy on social media to take a pot shot at somebody and you’re not actually doing anything in yourself, but meanwhile you’ve caused a lot of grief for someone and nothing much has changed – is that valid at all, Jess?

JESS HILL

Yeah, it is. And there’s certainly a bit of that in the cancel culture that people talk about and whatever. But, you know, I also agree with what people are saying on this panel which is there are voices on social media now that we have never heard from. You know, it’s one of the best things about social media. There’s some rampant awfulness about social media but that is the best thing. And when I was writing this book about domestic abuse, I had their voices in my head and their scrutiny on my shoulder and it made me write a better book because I thought, “Someone can call me out. If I write something that isn’t nuanced enough or if I betray the principles or whatever I do, someone is going to call me out for it.” And that was great.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I want to address further the protest point because I think this is a really significant moment in your history and I say this as that Egyptian American. Because, you know, one part of me, Egypt, had… We began a revolution in 2011 and it’s not gone very well, obviously. And the other part of me is the American and we have this fascist fuck called Donald Trump as president.

And your prime minister here is a mini version of Donald Trump. Because we’re talking about white supremacists, capitalists, etc, etc, and we’ve got… Donald Trump is a wannabe dictator. He wants to be able to do what the fascist president of my country of birth is doing. And when your prime minister, who is also a Christian evangelical like Mike Pence in the United States, the evangelical… White evangelicals in the US voted for Trump. So, you’re on a parallel path here. When they start talking about the media as enemies of the people, when they start talking about banning boycotts, you have to start asking, what is happening to your so-called democracy?

As young people, and people of all ages, not just young people, are rising up against the world… I mean, across the world. Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Iraq – people are risking their lives for the sake of protest and your ostensibly democratically elected prime minister wants to ban boycotts. Boycotts helped end apartheid in South Africa. So ask yourself, where he is taking you?

JESS HILL

And they test your boundaries as well. You know?

FRAN KELLY

But also, Nayuka, this Morrison Government wouldn’t be the first government to have a crack at protesters, young protesters.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

FRAN KELLY

Well, Vietnam. I mean, you know, is it… Are we just seeing our usual cycle here or is it something different, do you think?

NAYUKA GORRIE

Um, well, I wasn’t around during Vietnam. But, yeah, it does seem like business as usual. And part of me… (COUGHS) Pardon me. Part of me is thinking, “Well, perhaps there is something that people are doing right now that’s really effective and scaring the shit out of him, which is great.” But we really…we really have to be, I think, wary if we think about the digital sort of invasion of our privacy and legislation that’s enabled that, as well as I think there’s been a creep towards giving police more powers against protesters. Like, Queensland is looking at it, down here in Victoria. I think… So, yeah, Scott Morrison can say what he wants, but then there’s things like, you know, they’ll… How do you legislate against boycotts? I don’t even know how that’s…

FRAN KELLY

No, I’m not sure they know either. But they’re thinking about it, that’s the point.

NAYUKA GORRIE

But that’s a promise… For me, when I hear him say that, that’s him trying to get in with the Resource Council. That’s him…

FRAN KELLY

Virtue signalling.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah, he’s just trying to, “I’m on your side, guys.” I don’t know how much he can actually do but on the state level, particularly on a state level, we need to make sure that we’re…

FRAN KELLY

Just before we leave the whole protesting thing, Mona, I’m just wondering, you know, there’s people, kids mostly, on the streets in Hong Kong, young men and women in Iraq…

MONA ELTAHAWY

Lebanon. Chile.

FRAN KELLY

..in Lebanon… Is something different happening now? It’s not just… It isn’t just social media, or what are they? Slacktivists. It’s not that.

MONA ELTAHAWY

It’s not.

FRAN KELLY

It’s people on the streets.

MONA ELTAHAWY

It’s… I think, what we’re seeing happening across the world is the rise of two things. One is we’re seeing these patriarchal authoritarians, as I’ve said – Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the US, Scott Morrison here, and others – and then we’re also seeing a rise of people saying, “No,” people saying, “We will resist.” And as a feminist, for me, feminism is the best kind of resistance to that patriarchal authoritarianism.

Because when you see all of the countries rising up, they’re rising up against corruption, they’re rising up against capitalism, they’re rising up…in Lebanon, they’re rising up against sectarianism. There was a women’s protest on Sunday that was rising up against patriarchy, sectarianism, and authoritarianism and corruption. So, you’re looking… And that’s really essential. And I think the reason that we know about so many of them and it’s so invigorating to see is because of social media, is because we’re so connected in ways that we weren’t in the past. But I salute each and every person that goes out on the streets and risks their lives. And people have been killed, have been killed for rights that you take for granted. So don’t think that because your economy is doing well, but when you have a prime minister who wants the pockets of capitalist giants like coal… Coalmining! How can you be talking about coal, as 16-year-old young women are on the streets saying, “What kind of world are you giving us?”

So, this is what we are seeing. We’re seeing people who are saying, “No, we deserve better,” against these old white men, mostly, who are saying, “No, we want to keep our hands on everything.” And clearly you have to be on this side, that’s what’s changing.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

It’s not their age. It’s not their race. It’s their privilege.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I think that a lot of them it is. They’re old men.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

They are indeed old men and many are white but that is because of the privilege that they have enjoyed their whole lives, that they are trying damn hard to hold on to that is being threatened as it never has been.

FRAN KELLY

But also, underneath the privilege, isn’t there also a disruption going on? And that’s affecting not just the…as you would say, the old white men in power, it’s affecting the people in the communities who… That has been their livelihoods. This is a period of great change we are projecting here and living through.

JESS HILL

People are terrified.

NAYUKA GORRIE

As well, I think old white men, yeah, you know, sure, absolutely. But when we… Like, white women voted for Trump.

MONA ELTAHAWY

Oh, I have a whole chapter on them. I know.

NAYUKA GORRIE

We can’t… Yeah, I think it’s a bit more nuanced. And just…

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

It’s ideology.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah, it’s easy to just say that it’s one group. Anyway…

FRAN KELLY

No… We have got many questions to get through and this one sort of flows. The next question comes from Murray Saunder.

MURRAY SAUNDER

Thanks, Fran. When trying to bring about significant change, when is aggression and violence a better option than assertiveness, strong arguments and modelling the behaviour you expect of others?

FRAN KELLY

Ashton?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

When none of that other stuff works.

FRAN KELLY

It’s as simple as that?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Yep.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I have an answer for this that a lot of people do not like. I want patriarchy to fear feminism. And there is a chapter in my book on violence. There is a chapter in my book about white women who voted for Trump and white women who accept crumbs from patriarchy because they allow their whiteness to trump their gender. I’m fully aware of this. But at the end of the day, even those white women have to recognise that nothing protects them from patriarchy.

Nothing. For me, as a feminist the most important thing is to destroy patriarchy. And all of this talk about how, if you talk about violence, you’re just becoming like the men. So, your question is a really important one but I’m going to answer it with another question. How long must we wait for men and boys to stop murdering us, to stop beating us and to stop raping us? How many rapists must we kill? Not the state, because I disagree with the death penalty and I want to get rid of incarceration and I’m with you on the police. So I want women themselves… As a woman I’m asking, how many rapists must we kill until men stop raping us?

FRAN KELLY

So, Mona, them’s fighting words. Spectator Australia is already saying Mona is promoting violence.

MONA ELTAHAWY

Mm-hm.

FRAN KELLY

That’s what you’re doing?

MONA ELTAHAWY

Well, what I’m doing is I’m saying that violence has been owned by the state. That violence has been given by the state to its police. That violence has been allowed to continue, unchecked mostly, by men, especially privileged men. So, exactly how long do I have to wait to be safe? And when I say “to be safe”, there’s a hierarchy of safety too. Obviously people of colour, disabled people, etc.

FRAN KELLY

Murray, what do you think of that answer? How do you feel about this?

MURRAY SAUNDER

I guess there’s two things. One is, there’s a lot of smashing and destroying, but what’s the alternative?

MONA ELTAHAWY

The alternative is a world where I’m not raped and murdered.

MURRAY SAUNDER

I would agree with that. That’s a good start. The other thing is too, if you think about bullying, bullying begets bullies, so, violence begets violence is what I’m seeing.

FRAN KELLY

Sorry, Mona. Let me bring Jess in on that, about violence begets violence.

JESS HILL

Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think if anyone is shocked by what Mona is suggesting, you just have to look back to history and a certain faction of the suffragettes in the earlier 20th century. They used violence. They thought what they were fighting was a civil war between the sexes. They smashed windows. One suffragette actually went up to a young Winston Churchill in 1909 and whipped him with a horse whip at a railway station. Someone likes that. Winston Churchill did a lot of shitty things.

Um, so, you know, that was, for a faction, a violent movement. And the only thing that stopped their militancy was World War I. You know, if it hadn’t been for World War I there’s not telling what might have happened because they were fighting for their lives.

MONA ELTAHAWY

And World War I was violence, World War I is violence by men against men.

FRAN KELLY

One second, let’s have Ashton.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

It’s never the ideal, it’s never the first thing to go to, but, you know, slave rebellions, I mean, there are many causes where people have resorted to violence as a way to finally break through and get heard and achieve what we need. And if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

NAYUKA GORRIE

If I can just jump in, Mona. So, I’m thinking I just want to bring this conversation back to the land that we’re on, Australia, whatever. Like, we live in a colonial state and I think for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we are living in a constant state of duress. We experience violence from so many different types of systems. We experience it interpersonally.

When you say violence begets violence, there’s something kind of… It’s almost sounding like it’s like a level playing field which it’s not. It’s absolutely not. So I think if you’re defending yourself, then I’m surprised. I wonder what our kind of tipping point in Australia’s going to be when people are going to start burning stuff. I look forward to it.

FRAN KELLY

Murray’s question was when is a better offer than assertiveness, strong arguments and modelling the behaviour you expect of others?

NAYUKA GORRIE

Who is that bloody quote, like, “Appealing to your oppressor”?

MONA ELTAHAWY

Assata Shakur. Assata Shakur.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Audre Lorde.

MONA ELTAHAWY

It’s throughout history, no-one has ever gotten their right or their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of their oppressor. It’s fascinating for me that men constantly ask, “You don’t want to become like us,” so don’t use violence.

FRAN KELLY

Nayuka, finish your point.

NAYUKA GORRIE

So I’m thinking about, you know, a colony, we live in a colony. We’ve tried for 230-plus years to appeal to the colonisers’ morality which doesn’t seem to exist. I think violence, yeah, I think violence is OK because if someone is trying to kill you, there’s no amount of, “Oh, but I’m really clever.” You know, “I’m really articulate.” No amount of that is going to save you, so, yeah, let’s burn stuff.

FRAN KELLY

I think that’s a really good moment to go to our next question. You’re watching a special Broadside edition of Q&A with a panel of strong women, as you can see. We are trying to keep the language under control, but if you’re offended by the profanity, maybe leave now. I’m not sure. Our next question is from Stacey Otto.

STACEY OTTO

I want to know if we can change the legal system to better deal with domestic violence. Can domestic violence-related charges be introduced instead of the stock standard unlawful assault and, with this, mandatory sentencing? The sentencing seems to be grossly inadequate for domestic-related crimes.

MONA ELTAHAWY

Can I say something really quickly?

FRAN KELLY

Let me go to Jess first. This is her area of special interest.

JESS HILL

Mona is champing at the bit.

FRAN KELLY

I know.

JESS HILL

Thank you for your question. And, yes, we do see in various countries that massive changes are being made to legal systems. You know, I think in terms of, say, for example, what we were saying before about you go to the police first, right? So the police are the first people to respond, you know. And we’re talking about what would happen if you just didn’t have the police, right? You know, across Latin America, the police betrayed women so flagrantly, you know, into forced pregnancies, abducting their babies, etc, through the dictatorship, the regimes, that after those regimes fell there was no point in having those police respond to women’s concerns.

And so they thought up something entirely new in those countries, and they were police stations for women that were staffed by women. And the effect of that, that has carried on for the last 30, 40 years, has had an incredible effect on the way that women feel confident enough to report. They feel like their concerns will be taken seriously. It’s actually had an enormous rate on the domestic homicide rate in Brazil, for example. They’ve had the domestic homicide rate dropped for all women in the neighbourhoods where these police stations were present by 17%. In the cities, for young women, 15 to 24, it dropped by 50%.

FRAN KELLY

Jess, they also bought in a crime in Argentina, I read, perhaps in your book, I can’t recall where I read it, a crime of femicide which carries harsher penalties than homicide.

JESS HILL

That’s right.

FRAN KELLY

One of the questions that came in earlier talked about a king-hit punch here is considered worse than domestic violence and abuse in terms of the sentencing. I mean, does changing that, one single change of that, would that make a difference?

JESS HILL

Well, the point is that actually what women and children have been telling us for the last 40 years, since the refuge has opened, is that often the physical violence is not the worst part. Sometimes physical and sexual violence is not even present. It’s about the perpetrator creating a believable threat of violence and then through in some of the worst abuse that we see, in coercive control, the actual violence is against the self, the sense of self.

It’s about eroding and degrading that person to where they have no self-esteem left, where basically to survive they need to make the perpetrator more powerful inside themselves than they are so that they can see the world through the perpetrator’s eyes and second-guess their next move. Now, in Scotland, what they’re doing at the moment, well, they’ve done across the whole UK but Scotland is really the gold standard, is that they’ve actually criminalised domestic abuse.

So right now in Australia domestic abuse is not a crime. Assaults are crimes, stalking is a crime but most of what happens in these households is permissible. So installing GPS trackers, using spyware, you know, micro-regulating a woman’s behaviour, insisting that what just happened in front of her didn’t happen to the point where she feels like she’s going insane, none of that is illegal. But you know what? In Scotland now it is.

FRAN KELLY

OK. So the question is – can the… The sentencing seems to be grossly inadequate, and you seem to say, yes, it is, and what can be done differently? Hana, you’ve got personal experience of this. What’s your thoughts?

HANA ASSAFIRI

Well, I think, and I look to countries that have dealt with it well, relative to Australia and, again, I go back to this double speak. And you’re absolutely right, we are and have leaders who speak in ways, unwittingly or deliberately, where they message and give signals to men in terms of male behaviour and put their hand in the hand of and embrace the values of someone like Donald Trump.

FRAN KELLY

But how can we change it to make it better?

HANA ASSAFIRI

So, the countries who get it right and the environments that get it right have a strong commitment to human rights, which we don’t. Alongside gender equity and a commitment to economic and gender equity.

FRAN KELLY

We’re talking Brazil at the moment. There’s a few problems there, in terms of human rights.

HANA ASSAFIRI

Well, I’m not saying Brazil is the best one. I’m talking about the Netherlands and those sorts of countries and Finland and the countries that have really reduced in a consistent way, time and again, not who have gone from extraordinary abusers to then, you know, relatively better outcome.

But countries who have consistently addressed the issues of violence towards women. And I find it problematic and disconcerting that we’re saying, “Oh, well, the gender equity conversation hasn’t worked and we still have increased incidence of violence towards women. What is it that we’re getting wrong?” What we’re getting wrong is the double speak, it’s the attitude that gives legitimacy to the treatment of women.

FRAN KELLY

I’ll just let Mona, and then you, Nayuka.

MONA ELTAHAWY

In the chapter I wrote on violence, in the US, for example, not everybody can even call the police, so that there can even be a case. Because if you’re a person of colour and you call the police in a domestic violence case, invariably, someone is going to be killed or hurt and it actually is more harmful for a woman of colour in many communities, especially black women, to call the police.

And I’m always taken back to a quote by feminist psychiatrist Judith Herman, who said the legal system was designed to protect men from the superior power of the state and not to protect women and children from the superior power of men. So when we talk about the police, the police themselves are sometimes domestic abusers. Who in the United States – I’m sure it’s the same in Australia – who in the United States would call the police if there’s a domestic violence incident and would hope to survive? It would be white people.

So it’s not working for us as people of colour. When it comes to the sentencing, it’s like what I said about civility and respectability, this is a legal system that is set up against us. This entire game is rigged. You look across the world, I’m glad there are positive examples, but the entire system is rigged. There’s another legal specialist called Mary Anne Franks who wrote a law article in which she says, “We need optimal levels of violence where men think twice before being violent to a woman.”

And she, a law professor, is saying that women need to practise justifiable violence against men’s unjustifiable violence, and men need to be less unjustifiably violent against women. I think this is the system.

NAYUKA GORRIE

To answer your question, I think we have to be really wary of having a carceral response to an issue like domestic violence. Because what is the aim? What are we trying to do? We want to stop violence happening. We want to stop the harm happening. So what happens? We call the police. In this scenario, in an ideal world, there’s a minimum sentence of, a mandatory sentence of however long. I don’t know how many years you’re looking for. But then these largely men are going to extremely violent institutions, extremely violent.

There is no chance of rehabilitation. They come out and then what happens? So, I think we need to re-imagine the way we’re dealing with this harm because these are, they are our brothers… Not black, you know, your brothers. They’re our neighbours. They’re our teachers. They are police officers. They are politicians. This is everywhere. How do we want to work with them to get better? But if our answer – like the elderly – is just to lock away the problem, which doesn’t actually solve it, it just makes it worse. And there are people who do want to stay with their partners but want their partners to get better. But if our only answer is incarceration, then we’re stuffed.

FRAN KELLY

We do have a related question to this, but just before we finish this one, is the answer not then to try and do, which is the current discussion in this country, try and make the court system better protective of women, because both the family violence, the Family Court is riddled with violence, to make our policewomen more prevalent in that system so women feel more comfortable. Is that not the answer?

NAYUKA GORRIE

My mum was a police officer. So, no, I don’t think more… It’s a patriarchal institution. It’s not going to…it doesn’t do much. But the other thing I just want to say is that when we see carceral responses to social issues, particularly Aboriginal women, and as we’re seeing, there’s been a huge increase in the amount of Aboriginal women that are incarcerated and women in general, it’s higher than the rates of men that have gone up. So while we might think, “Yeah, let’s lock them up,” who are the people that also get caught up in that? And there are also a lot of women, you know, police, misidentify them as the perpetrator.

FRAN KELLY

OK. Let’s go to our next question because time will run out on us tonight. This one is from Nicole Lee.

NICOLE LEE

So, disabled women are twice as likely to be victims of violence and a third of disabled women will be victims of domestic and family violence. How can we increase awareness of disability gendered violence when we don’t get invited to the discussions?

FRAN KELLY

Jess? I mean, the stats on this are shocking.

JESS HILL

The stats ARE shocking, and especially in situations where if women are reliant on their carers, who are also their abusers, there’s very little choice that they feel like they can have. Nicole, full disclosure, interviewed for my book, and she is one of the most fierce and brave advocates that I’ve ever met. What she said to me once really stuck with me, “We are not vulnerable by virtue of being disabled, we are vulnerable because the state makes us vulnerable. We should not have to rely on men who abuse us to care for us.”

And that’s really where it’s at, right? When you bravely left your partner, if I may say, it took them weeks to just let you know about the package that was available to you that would help you take a shower, that would help you get your kids to school, that would enable you to stay separate from the man who had viciously abused you for years.

And that was because all of these sectors, they operate in silos and they don’t speak to each other and they think that disabled services are different from family violence services. And part of the answer to this, not just for disabled women but for all women that are going through this, is for these people to get together and collaborate instead of working at cross-purposes or competing for clients or passing women like you from one service provider to the next, in which you’re basically just spending all of your days trying to figure out how you’re going to get the help that you need.

FRAN KELLY

Just, Nicole, let me ask you, how do you think you can increase the awareness? What do you think needs to change?

NICOLE LEE

Well, I’ve been very lucky. I got to be part of Jess’s book and she interviewed me and I do get invited into feminist bases – I’m speaking at Broadside on the weekend – but I’m only one person and I’ve only got one story to tell. What we need to do is make room for other women with disabilities from different demographics, different backgrounds, different diversities in these spaces as well and in more mainstream spaces.

So, we get to come into feminist bases, which is fantastic, but in more of the mainstream spaces like this – there’s quite a lot of us that speak on The Drum quite regularly, but when it comes to Q&A, when it comes to even things like other, I guess, forums such as this, we don’t tend to get included in the conversation, of if we do, it’s only because it’s a disability special. I’ve got things to say that aren’t just related to being disabled.

I mean, I’ve got things that interact with all aspects of society, you know? The rates that we experience violence are quite horrific, and, as Jess said, some of the things that kept me so inherently stuck was the fact that the sectors didn’t link up. And I’m trying very hard, as an individual, within the family violence sector to point out that we are victims of violence and the rates are horrific, and this happens to Indigenous disabled women as well as, you know, LGBTI disabled women, and also disabled men.

But I go to the disability sector and I talk about violence and people are really uncomfortable about it, and I talk about violence in the family violence sector and people are really uncomfortable because I’ve got a disability, so I get sidelined in both arenas.

FRAN KELLY

Yeah, it’s like you don’t fit.

NICOLE LEE

I don’t fit in either. I make both sectors uncomfortable, yet both sectors need to be talking to each other if we want to even get close to dealing with what’s going on.

NAYUKA GORRIE

I would imagine as well for people who are trying to leave… I think about this with Indigenous women, but I imagine it’s the same in the disability community. Like, there’s trying to leave and there’s that battle in the home, but then once you go to services and then facing ableism or facing, like, racism or whatever, it just…

FRAN KELLY

Once you find the services.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Yeah! It’s just another layer, like, another thing that makes it harder to leave.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

The overlap with ageism is tremendous, and that goes little discussed, but I think when we talk about the sectors not relating to each other, we’re talking about these different forms of oppression. I do think the sort of zooming-way-out answer is to address all these oppressions at once because when you chip away at the fear and ignorance that underlies any form of it, you do chip away… I mean, I think activism is intersectional also, and I think at the broadest level that is how we can capitalise on all these movements happening in all these sectors together.

FRAN KELLY

It’s so hard, isn’t it, though, because you get trapped in your own ‘ism’?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

I hope not.

FRAN KELLY

And there’s a hierarchy of ‘isms’ then. Anyway, our next question comes from Beth Kay.

BETH KAY

Thanks, Fran. Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion of toxic masculinity and its impacts on society, but my question for the panel is – aren’t the constraints of femininity and masculinity toxic in themselves? And what does positive masculinity look like?

FRAN KELLY

Mona?

MONA ELTAHAWY

Hm! Ha! You know, I find it really fascinating that we’ve heard about so many instances of male violence against women, real incidents, whether it’s disabled women or women in domestic abuse of all forms of abilities, and yet when I talk about imaginary violence against men, everyone’s like, “Oh, my God! Mona wants us to kill men,” and I’m just asking you to imagine a scenario that is the daily reality for women everywhere.

I agree with you that, yes, the gender binary is long overdue – let’s get rid of it, fuck the gender binary, yes – but we are also talking about a society that socialises boys and men into believing that they are entitled to women’s time, bodies, love, affection. In the United States, that has a direct impact into boys as young as 16 going into school and shooting to death half their class because a girl said no.

FRAN KELLY

So what would positive masculinity look like?

MONA ELTAHAWY

I have no fucking idea.

FRAN KELLY

Hana? Hana?

HANA ASSAFIRI

Positive masculinity is an empowered woman who raises and teaches and will nurture attitudes of respect towards women.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I sign on to that.

FRAN KELLY

Nayuka?

NAYUKA GORRIE

I can’t believe I’m going to do this. Positive masculinity does exist amongst men. Like, it does exist. Like, you know, I see it sometimes amongst my uncles or I see it, you know, my brother, for example. I think there are examples out there. You know, I don’t want to live in a world where it’s like, “Well, all men are crap, so whatever.” I think it’s kind of reductionist to… Sorry, full disclosure – I’m pregnant with twins and my brain is absolutely fried.

FRAN KELLY

No, no, but the point is you’re pregnant with twins, and I don’t know what they are but they might be boys, therefore, you’ve got to be thinking about positive masculinity.

NAYUKA GORRIE

No, I seriously have been thinking about this.

FRAN KELLY

And congratulations.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Thank you. Like, initially I was scared. It’s like, “What if I raise a cis-straight man?” Like, “What am I going to do?” But I think that’s crap. This masculinity and femininity, like, for me, they’re things to be played with, that we can have fun with them. They can be traps for a lot of people, I think particularly white kind of patriarchy and white patriarchal values traps people, and I kind of feel sorry for dudes. Like, scented candles are really beautiful. I bought my brother one the other day and I’m like, “Man, you’ve missed out for, like, nearly 30 years because men aren’t meant to do it.” But I don’t know, I think the softness and the beauty and the positivity is there. Yeah. Anyway, I’m rambling.

FRAN KELLY

Jess? I’m stopping you rambling now. Jess?

NAYUKA GORRIE

Help me!

JESS HILL

You don’t need rescuing, ever. I think that positive masculinity looks like positive humanity. Imagine us talking about what does positive femininity look like. I don’t know. As I grew up, I didn’t think about being a woman, I just thought about being a person. Unfortunately, sometimes as I grew older, I was reminded about how very much I was a woman, especially when I was sexually harassed.

But that was like an imposition on what I basically felt was our fundamental humanity. What does positive masculinity look like? It looks like getting back in touch with who you are as people and not trying to define yourself by being one or the other, and especially not trying to define yourself by not being a girl because that’s what toxic masculinity teaches us. It’s like, you know, you are a man primarily by rejecting feminine features like compassion and understanding and talking and having best friends.

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

And scented candles.

JESS HILL

And scented candles.

FRAN KELLY

And scented candles. Alright, I’m going to…

JESS HILL

And God knows they’ve got me through hard times.

FRAN KELLY

I’m only winding us up because I’m going to squeeze in one last question – I shouldn’t. So, we’ve got one last question, and we’ve all got to be very, very short with the answer. This one’s from Timothy Moore.

TIMOTHY MOORE

My question returns to ageing and celebrating the positive aspects of ageing, and in particular one important thing about ageing is knowledge and knowledge transfer. We’ve spoken a lot tonight about the negative aspects of cultural transmission by patriarchy, but can we flip that around and think about what positive feminist advice you have received from your elders?

FRAN KELLY

OK, very quickly, let’s go down the table. Ashton?

ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Well, I will say that I don’t think all older people are wise – I think lots of children are wise – but we are experienced, and I think it’s important to listen to each other and not allow the value of a human being to expire over time, is really the ugly heart of ageism. So, to give equal value to everyone from the moment we’re born on, because ageing is living, ageing is moving through life – it is not being sick, it is not dying.

So, to look at the entire life course and think how we can support learning from each other through contact across the generations. Let’s break down age segregation, let’s work on all these causes at all ages and make those efforts intersectional and intergenerational, and that way we’ll pass on everything we all know.

FRAN KELLY

And just so you all know, that wasn’t short. So, Mona? Very short.

MONA ELTAHAWY

I’m just going to tell you what I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older, ‘cause I’m 52 years old. The older I get, the queerer I am, and my partner is a bisexual man, and I’m urging the cis-straight men out there, there is something deeply broken in you and in the way that you move through the world. As you get older, learn from people like us, so that this can be a better world. Be queerer. Be more bisexual. Be less cis-gendered in the way that you move through the world. Just fuck it all up and be free!

FRAN KELLY

Hana? What positive advice have you had from your elders? And take it where you want.

HANA ASSAFIRI

Well, again, I mean, for me this is about the contribution of cultural diversity into this conversation. Not withstanding abuse and violence and all the issues we’ve covered, but we afford absolute dignity and respect and wisdom to ageing populations, so it ties in with the whole conversation around aged care, and we only have a single model that is born out of Anglo-Celtic ways of thinking about treating the elderly who are no longer useful in society. So I think it will be a good idea to consider thinking about those who have acquired wisdom throughout life.

FRAN KELLY

OK. Nayuka? Short answer.

NAYUKA GORRIE

Oh, God. I spent the day up at Shepparton yesterday and was at Rumbalara, and I visited some of my old aunties there. And they were filthy, a lot of sex jokes, but something my Auntie Audrey said was that you have to laugh, so I think that is something I’ve been trying to do. Yeah, “You’ve got to laugh” is a pearl.

FRAN KELLY

Great advice, it is a pearl. Jess?

JESS HILL

My nonna was my rock, and she campaigned for the rights of writers, and I used to sit at her dining room table and fold leaflets campaigning for the freedom of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian activist, and many others. And she taught me – she imbued in me – that writing was a way to keep the bastards honest, and so I became a writer.

FRAN KELLY

Another pearl. That’s all we’ve got time for tonight. Can you please thank our panel – Ashton Applewhite, Mona Eltahawy, Hana Assafiri, Nayuka Gorrie and Jess Hill. And you can continue this discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Next week Tony Jones is back in the chair with economics professor Ross Garnaut, whose new book calls for Australia to seize the opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower, a leading voice from Silicon Valley, Sarah Friar, is the CEO and founder of the local neighbourhood social media platform Nextdoor, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler. That’s it. So long and farewell. Thank you.

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