Talkback radio is not often a unifying force.
Stations across the country provide a contest of ideas and those who call and text the talkback line aren’t shy in voicing their varied opinions.
But one caller to ABC Radio Melbourne has done an amazing job of uniting a huge number of women and men, who agreed her poem about society’s response to violence against women summed up their own feelings.
Carmel is a psychologist who works in the domestic violence field. She said she was fascinated by how “good, decent men often jump in to defend men, rather than listen to what women are saying”.
When I say I’m afraid of men who mean me harm,
You tell me not to make a fuss, there’s no need for alarm.
That not all men are like that, not to stress my pretty head,
Or talk about those other men just look at you instead.
But what of women suffering, a slap, a punch, a shove,
A life of menacing oppression from a man they love.
Not all men are sexist, not all men disrespect,
Not all men are the man who harms what he should protect.
Not all men are vicious, not all men are brutes,
Not all men are the man who punches, rapes and shoots.
Not all men use violence, most are courteous and kind,
But when I talk of toxic men, others feel maligned.
So I ask you to consider, when you jump in to defend,
How did speaking up for women become slandering of men?
Why is it when I voice my fears you first defend your brothers,
Instead of listening to your sisters, mothers or your lovers.
I need you to hear my voice and listen to my fears,
But you just keep on shouting louder and my voice just disappears.
Not all men will listen, not all men understand,
You tell me you are not all men, a verbal sleight of hand.
I can look at you and love you and yet still be afraid,
While so much deadly violence still seems to be man-made.
Do not usurp my story, don’t tell me what to do,
This is not about all men, don’t make it about you.
The text line quickly lit up.
“Wow, that jerked a tear or two,” one listener said.
“Shivers after hearing Carmel’s poem. What a beautiful articulation of what I feel,” Kate wrote.
“As a man, I am crying listening to those verses. Thank you so much,” another listener said.
There was a similar response on Facebook.
“This is spot on. Thanks Carmel for so eloquently putting our feelings into words,” Alison Ackerley wrote.
“Fantastic poem. I am going to play it to my younger son who is feeling the pressure of being a young man who does the right thing, is courteous, kind and respectful, but feels under threat at the moment,” Kirsty Robertson said.
“Thank you Carmel for expressing my thoughts so eloquently. I’m sure you echo the thoughts of some of the wonderful men in my life as well as the women,” Jeanene Howard said.
“Well written. I cannot agree more with the message contained in this poem,” Peter Cook wrote.