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MURRAY SAUNDER: 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.