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‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ and other good phrases to get men out of trouble

By Caroline Spencer - posted Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Help wanted! Greg Inglis and the Melbourne Storm have asked me to raise a team of propagandists to see Greg and the team through this “difficult” time. No doubt you’ve heard about Greg’s recent “indiscretion”, which resulted in his girlfriend sustaining what the media are politely calling “a black eye”. The team has suspended Greg, but that’s just a holding strategy until I - together with you - come up with a plan to take the heat off the poor guy. I’ve pieced together some strategies below that have been used to good effect in the past. I’m sure we’ll easily be able to tailor one of them to fit this particular sticky situation. Let me know what you think.

Going on past example, the quickest way to absolve men of any responsibility for their violence against women is to blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The phrase “Why didn’t she just leave?” is usually enough to get this particular message across. The phrase rests on the widely believed fallacy that women are in an equal social position to men, so can up and leave them without any fear of social ostracism, loss of financial status, condemnation from families for wasting an opportunity with a “good guy”, or any personal feelings of failure for having lost another chance at happiness.

The phrase is also good for covering up the fact that abusive men are likely to inflict retribution on women who dare leave them. I know we wouldn’t expect torture victims - who are personally disassembled in the same way as domestic violence victims - to suddenly find the wherewithal to break free of their abusers, but I figure no one in Australian society is going to liken Inglis to a torturer anytime soon.


A second way to absolve sporting men of any responsibility for their violence against women is what I call the “Four Corners strategy”. This strategy, used on the TV show Four Corners earlier this year, says that, because footballers must put up with being bashed around on the footy field, the sport inevitably attracts men with “risk taker” personalities. This means they can’t be held responsible for bashing and raping women.

I know there’s a bit of a leap in logic between the first and second aforementioned sentences, but I know people will be welcoming of any vaguely coherent piece of rhetoric that gives them an excuse to forgive Inglis. Don’t forget, there’s big betting and investment money at stake in footy, and no one will be willing to let one silly little “black eye” interrupt the plans of rich men.

The Four Corners strategy also gives succour to all the men bashing their wives in teleland: they can all imagine themselves to be rugged, adventurous “risk takers”, just like Inglis. It’s a win-win strategy for all men, rich or poor.

The third quickest way to absolve men of any responsibility for their violence against women is to talk up their individual good deeds, especially in the case of men who have made a big contribution to Australian male culture (i.e., sport or moneymaking). Helpfully, it looks like the media have already embarked on this strategy in relation to Inglis: we’ve heard him described as almost nothing but a “social work student” and “world class rugby star” since the incident.

This strategy works particularly well for men who haven’t been caught bashing or raping women before, because their behaviour can be written off as an “isolated incident”, or a mistake that was totally out-of-character. If Inglis can be persuaded to make a few contrite comments to the media this strategy should suffice. No one really wants to punish Inglis and make an example out him, especially with all his talent and the fortunes of the Storm at stake. Imagine if such a successful guy were to be made an example of! Men all over Australia would be given reason to think that their violence against women might actually have lasting consequences.

Remember, team, women in Australian society are, at best, seen as fodder for Sam Newman’s jokes, and generally occupy very lowly social positions as men’s cheergirls, dishwashers, sexual servicers, and paper filers. Going on past experience, their bashing or raping by rich superstar sportsmen will cause barely a ripple in Australian society. So any strategy we come up with for Inglis and the Storm needn’t be too elaborate or time consuming. We just need to throw a bone to the feminists, and to female NRL supporters who are probably by now starting to feel uneasy at the thought that male violence on the sporting field might actually be connected to their wellbeing in Australian society.

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About the Author

Caroline Spencer is a Melbourne writer.

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