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  • Writer's pictureKate Halfpenny

Hold it, fellas: Let women bring out their slayer

Because it’s 2021, even Disney understands leading ladies can stick up for themselves while being pretty. It’s a different story at the Richmond Football Club, where this week two players escaped penalties after a nightclub box-on.

The reason? Daniel Rioli defended girlfriend Paris Lawrence over what he “deemed to be inappropriate conduct”, said Tigers CEO Brendon Gale. Shai Bolton broke his wrist jumping in as back-up.

Ah. They were protecting a lady’s honour based on what they thought wasn’t on. Gotcha! No bloke says that to my girlfriend. Stand back, darl. Let us deal with this.

Without details of what Lawrence, a professional DJ, “deemed” appropriate or even experienced – reports range from an arm around the waist to offensive comments – we don’t know if she called in the cavalry. But as her 28.9K Insta followers know, she looks like an anti-shrinking violet, with enough confidence to tell anyone to run along.

I value loyalty so how fabulous that Rioli and Bolton had someone’s back. But my little feminine head is confused over how their methods (and Richmond’s approval) mesh with what half the population actually wants and needs.

Campaigns for domestic violence and workplace harassment against women urge men to speak up. Speak. Not use violence to stop violence. Not take away someone’s power by fighting their corner for them.

“We’ve all been sold the fairytale of the knight in shining armour, slaying our dragons,” says female empowerment expert and trained psychologist Paula Bernardic, of PB Success Coaching.

“The thing about being the hero is when we rescue someone, we inhibit their opportunity to find their internal slayer.”

This is how to support someone in an unpleasant situation. Be by their side. Step in if it becomes unsafe. But first let them speak up and put boundaries in place, says Bernardic. Otherwise, your “good manners” feels like muscle flexing and territory marking, a la Billy Brownless’ 2016 comparison of his wife to a wallet.

It’s what leads so many parents of young men to wake to a door knock and a sergeant’s flat delivery about a knifing or king hit.

Women can make people and run countries, so using words to defuse situations is within our power. Think Taylor Swift ferociously pursuing a fan who groped her and Melinda Gates, in 2014, dismissing the damsels-in-distress narrative: “Women speaking up for themselves … is the strongest force we have.” Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said his stars’ actions complied with a code: “Put anyone in that situation, they’re going to stand up for their partner.”

What if the partner wants to stand up for themselves? Or let it slide so nobody gets hurt over a comment from a random moron? There’s a fine line between protectiveness and possessiveness, between macho posturing and chivalry. In the 1980s, my brother and I were behind a car that didn’t move at a green light. I honked. The towering driver got out and punched me. Then he drove off. On foot, my brother chased the car for blocks with me chasing him. I was sobbing, from fear he would catch up and be bashed and in frustration that he was fighting my fight.

I would have just let it go. Can’t take the punch back. Can avoid more being dished out. I ring my daughter. At 23, she’s captained Australia at roller derby, is finishing a male-dominated degree, pulls beers in a Fitzroy pub, feels comfortable crawling under houses. Does she sometimes want to be saved?

Nah. Sadie fights her own battles – “You feel great and when you do it once, you can do it a million times” – but says “a lot of chicks are intimidated or afraid of being impolite”. Others love being defended: “They feel desirable.” My husband laughs when asked what he’d do if someone accosted me: “If I was sober, I’d pay to watch you sort them out. If I was drunk, I’d want to punch on.” Read the original article on Sydney Morning Herald

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