Over the last year domestic violence appears to have made its way into the national conversation. What was once considered a family matter and largely swept under the carpet and away from any real agenda for change has suddenly become a topic of conversation. Men like Tom Meagher, Patrick Stewart and most recently the our new Prime Minister have taken a stand against male violence against women. In fact, on his first full day in his new posting, the PM pledged that his office will tackle the issue head on, stating ‘Real men don’t hit women.’
Its a refreshing change, but a very subtle one. Hopefully over the coming months we will see a gradual shift in awareness that could result in longer term cultural changes. It’s part of the discussion and it’s a step in the right direction – but there is an awful long way to go.
In a week that has seen two domestic violence deaths (one to a pregnant woman and one to a twelve year old girl) it seems the new government may be forced to meet its first test on the topic and much earlier than planned. Rapper Chris Brown, who has a history of assault after he was charged with beating his then girlfriend Rhianna, is due to arrive in Australia for a tour in December and activist organisation GetUp! are calling for the singer to be denied entry.
There is precedent, albeit inconsistent. In 2007 another rapper, Snoop Dogg, was denied entry due to his criminal record though in 2014 he was granted a visa. Unsuccessful calls for a reversal of the latter decision were made on the basis his song lyrics were mysoginistic. Then immigration minister Scott Morrison confirmed the rapper had met the character test and would be granted entry. Similarly, in 2012 the Gillard government granted access to Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist.
While Mike Tyson has a long history of violence against women, (and violence in general), he has at least feigned some measure of regret in the years since his convictions. Chris Brown has repeatedly and unashamedly made comments in interviews and on social media that can only be interpreted as anti-woman. He has no remorse.
If it were up to me neither Brown nor Tyson would be granted entry in order to profit from Australian audiences. A motivational speaking tour from a man whose crimes span two decades and form a list in the double digits is hardly in the national interest. Similarly, artists like Chris Brown send a dangerous message to their teenage fans – many of them girls. Surely, the government cannot endorse an unrepentant, violent man wooing young fans with decidedly sexist lyrics. What hope do we have of curbing this violent trend if teenage boys are encouraged to mindlessly sing along to such poetic rhymes as ‘hoes ain’t loyal,’ and teenage girls are sold the lyric ‘no is not an option…girl you better not change your mind?’
We cannot expect to catalyse change if our youngest and most ideologically vulnerable Australians are lead to believe that the sexist drivel of a man that relentlessly beat his girlfriend – a man with a considerable social following – is validated. If the government allows Chris Brown access to a lucrative Australian audience, this is a tacit endorsement.
Furthermore, his tour can only damage the painstaking gains made in recognising the cultural epidemic that is intimate partner violence. We are at a precarious time in our social history and this new government has a chance to do something that makes a difference. The sooner we evolve into a society that outwardly and categorically decries violence against women, the more lives will be saved. We are at 63 deaths so far this year and counting. Mr Turnbull, do you have the courage to take a public stand?