January 10, 2022
Federal government advertising is falling short on domestic violence messaging, with bad jokes and sledges at sports matches barely scratching the surface of the real problem, according to Northern Victorian MP Tania Maxwell.
“We are very used to seeing confronting road trauma violence in advertising from the Transport Accident Commission,” she said.
“But the ads about domestic violence – which is lethal for one woman a week in Australia – are all about calling out bad language when you see it or off-colour jokes about women and girls.
“If the problem of domestic violence was limited to degrading language – these ads would be spot on. But we know we have a much bigger problem than that.”
The ‘Unmute yourself’ ads, funded by the federal government, are a part of the Stop it at the Start campaign on domestic violence. One of the most recent ads features two men talking about girls and sport.
The older man asks a younger male “what’s wrong with playing like a girl?”
Ms Maxwell, who has campaigned against domestic and family violence for many years, said the advertising needed to reflect the realities of trauma – just as road safety messages did.
“The softly, softly approach to this issue is not appropriate,” she said.
“A lot of the messaging is silent on what men can do apart from reject degrading language.”
Coercive control should be shown in the ads to educate the audience about healthy expectations in relationships, Ms Maxwell said.
“I think an ad that told men ‘Your partner is allowed to disagree with you – or say no to you – without being punished for it’ would probably be eye-opening for a lot of people,” she said.
“There is an expectation that it’s ok to pressure a woman into going to parties she doesn’t want to attend, or use her money on things she objects to, and people need to know that mental and emotional abuse is domestic violence, too.”
Ms Maxwell said Australians should also reject soap operas as an instructional life guide.
“Children are like sponges and their perception of what is real in some TV shows can have lasting effects,” she said.
“Education is the key here in determining what is and isn’t real life.
“These are dramas – they are written and acted to entertain you – not teach you about how boyfriends and girlfriends should behave towards each other,” Ms Maxwell said.
“A lot of fictional television programs – not just the soap operas – are about grumpy, controlling men and sad, stressed women. We need to reject those role models and change the narrative.
“There is often a lot of conflict in the relationships on screen as part of the storytelling but it needs to be seen in its context as fictional entertainment, not as an expectation-setting tool.
“All those men who are respectful and treat everyone equally and there are, from my experience, thousands of them out there, should be thanked. It is a shame that the minority who display reprehensible behaviours don’t learn from the majority of men in our society.”
This story was first reported in The Bendigo Advertiser on January 6, 2022.