RAMONA WORKSHOPS: PERIOD WITCHES

In Conversation with Tarang Chawla

Interview of Tarang Chawla by Freya Bennett

It’s been a crazy few weeks since Q and A, how are you feeling?

It’s been an intense fortnight. I’m glad that it’s sparked a necessary discussion about men’s violence against women and that it’s pushing that discussion in what I think is a positive direction. It’s good to see just how many people are becoming tired of shock jocks saying things that cause offence and then refusing to acknowledge the impact of their words, given the privileged position and platform they occupy.

Can you give our readers a small recap of your experience?

I went to ABC’s Q&A live filming as an audience member with a close friend. I submitted a question to the show’s producers via email after they put a call out for submissions. I asked the panel what the media and politicians can do to prevent violence against women so tragedies like what happened to my family are not normalised. During the broadcast, Steve Price, a journalist with decades of media experience, labelled his co-panellist, Van Badham, as “hysterical” and interrupted her response, saying, “Just because you’re a woman…” It’s since blown up as Price didn’t see a problem with his choice of words.

How did you feel after Steve Price’s comments?

I felt alarmed because his co-panellists on The Project pointed out the language he’d used and how it could cause offence, but he seemed intent on claiming he’d been “ambushed” and that he was the victim in what had occurred. I saw it as an opportunity for growth, understanding, and education about gender equality and language, but unfortunately that isn’t how it played out.

We are so sorry about what happened to your sister Nikita, how do you think we can change violence against women?

I think that as a society we’re becoming more aware of the prevalence of men’s violence against women, and that’s a useful first step. For lasting change, I think that shifting attitudes and promoting gender equality is crucial to eradicating the violence, and this requires the cooperation of government, business, and the community to work together. It also takes time.

What can the media do to help this epidemic of violence against women?

As an entity, the media can act responsibly in its reporting of violence against women, to avoid things such as “victim blaming” or framing the victim as responsible for the violence that was inflicted upon her. There are many individual journalists who are already doing this, and it’s heartening to see and read when victims and their families are respected by the media.

How can we stop the mentality of victim blaming?

Just don’t engage in it. It’s no more or less complicated than that.

What role do men play in ending violence against women and the culture around this issue?

An understanding that men, collectively, are the overwhelming majority of perpetrators of violence against women. And much of that is the byproduct of male privilege, entitlement, and gender inequality, which actually harms men, too. I think an acceptance of various forms of masculinity, enables and empowers men to be non-violent.

Tell us a bit about the work you do with Our Watch?

Our Watch is a primary prevention organisation. I was invited by Natasha Stott Despoja to become an Ambassador at the beginning of the year, following the advocacy work I had been doing since my sister’s death. I represent Our Watch at public events and speak about this issue in the media, as well as working with the community, schools and workplaces, and others about the issue and how we can work together to address it.

How can people get involved in this cause?

There are various ways to get involved, whether people want to donate to one of the many organisations that works in the primary prevention area (e.g. Our Watch, White Ribbon), or those who work on the frontline to provide support services for women and children experiencing violence (e.g. safe steps Family Violence Response Centre, Domestic Violence Victoria), or those organisations that work with violent men to change behaviour (e.g. No To Violence / Men’s Referral Service). Ultimately, in our communities it’s important we all play our role in supporting a culture where violence against women is unacceptable and we embody that attitude in our everyday lives. I also encourage people to question their local MP about where this issue is in their priority list and what they intend to do about it at a government-level.

Do you see society changing in our lifetime?

I certainly hope so. Comments such as Steve Price’s are disappointing, but they present an opportunity for growth and education. Unfortunately, that isn’t how this has developed, but as a society we are growing and understanding the drivers of violence against women. With this education comes change, but it’ll take time.

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Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine for Girls. She is a writer and illustrator from Melbourne, Australia who has a passion for youth rights and mental health. To combat her own battle with anxiety and hypochondria, you can find Freya boxing, practicing yoga, taking sertraline and swimming in the ocean. She believes in opening up about her mental health struggles and shining a light on what is not spoken about. Freya welcomed her first daughter, Aurora into the world on the 21st of November, 2017 and spends her days building blocks, reading stories and completely exhausted. With a passion for grassroots activism and creative community, Freya began Ramona Magazine as an alternative to boring, image-obsessed teen media. The magazine is founded upon Freya’s core values of creative expression, equality and kindness. You can follow her on Instagram @freyasadventures.

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