Flat White

The problem with the ‘fearless feminist’ narrative

16 May 2018

2:33 PM

16 May 2018

2:33 PM

On the morning of May 11, seven family members lost their lives in a murder-suicide on a farm property East of Margaret River in Western Australia.  It was the biggest mass shooting since the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996. Grandfather, Peter Miles allegedly shot dead his wife Cynda, his daughter Katrina and four grandchildren before ending his own life.

Forty-eight hours later, Aaron Cockman, the grief-stricken estranged husband of Katrina Miles and father to their four children bravely faced the media outside Margaret River police station.

Cockman was asked by a journalist, what he meant when he said he ‘knew’ what Peter Miles was going through.

Cockman replied, “Peter is an awesome man. Before all this blew up I’d get on so well with him. He was like my best friend and I still love who he was. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have Katrina. I wouldn’t have the kids. He gave them to me. If it had to happen there is no better person than that.”

By the evening of May 13, Australia’s feminist-darling Clementine Ford was on Twitter tweeting about the tragedy and giving another sermon in under 280 characters to the members of her cult.

Numerous people on the thread disagreed with Ford’s ‘judgemental’ statement and urged her to take Peter Miles mental health into consideration.

Nica Cordover from Hobart confided to Ford that she had considered killing her children, then herself. Ford replied: “I’m sorry you felt that way. But you didn’t do it.”

Ford has a history of denying violent acts executed by women. In 2014, 34-year-old, Queensland mother, Mersane Warria violently stabbed eight children to death in her home, the youngest just an 18-month-old baby. Ford never covered the story, perhaps because the perpetrator had a vagina and was black.

By May 14, 72 hours after Aaron Cockman had lost three sons, one daughter, his ex-wife and his former in-laws in a horrifying murder-suicide, Clementine Ford had penned a column for Fairfax Media, titled The problem with “the good bloke” narrative. In the column Ford stated:

The framing of criminal acts like these as being somehow the result of depression or financial struggles or just a lack of appropriate emotional support cannot help but infect the circumstances with an air of sympathy and understanding. It’s dangerous to immediately valorise the people responsible for this kind of behaviour. It is an act of valorisation to focus on the so-called “awesome” traits of someone who has just slaughtered their entire family.

With zero respect or sensitivity towards Aaron Cockman and the two surviving sons of Peter Miles and their families, Ford decided it was an appropriate time to discuss gender politics and drag a man who had just lost his entire world over the coals for a few grief-stricken inarticulate sentences.

According to Dr Sherri Jacobson after a deeply traumatic experience, the amygdala (which is the alarm centre of the brain) goes into overdrive, which makes the brain interpret with feelings over logic.

But screw what trained psychologists and psychiatrists say about trauma and people’s responses. Dr Clem Ford knows best.

Most people suffering from a mental illness don’t go around killing people under stress but the fact remains that undiagnosed and untreated mental illness ‘can’ warp the mind and lead loving ‘good blokes’  and ‘good shielas’ to kill.

I don’t know if Clementine Ford is a nice woman. I don’t know what she’s like behind closed doors. I don’t know what kind of mother she is or how she treats her son or partner. I don’t know what kind of personal anguish she was wrestling when she attached herself to Australia’s second biggest mass shooting in order to grab a headline and stay relevant.

What I do know is that she doesn’t appear to be a ‘decent human being’ and all attempts to frame her as one should be actively discouraged.

Perhaps it’s just the compassionate and sympathetic human being in me speaking but I personally feel that writing a column and targeting a man whose whole family has just been murdered, is where we have to draw the line at being gifted with that title.

Vanessa de Largie is a freelance journalist and sex columnist who divides her time between London and Melbourne.

Illustration: Allen & Unwin.

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