Aussie Feminist Germaine Greer Argues That Domestic Violence Against Aboriginal Women Is UnderstandableThere are few countries in the world that have clean hands when it comes to the rights of indigenous peoples. From our own treatment of Native Americans to the behavior of the Chinese in Tibet and beyond, there too often has been and too often remains an us-and-them mentality on both sides that is harmful for all involved. Australia is no exception. Despite Kevin Rudd's official apology to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for their treatment at the hands of the Australian government, his government continues to support and fund the previous government's Northern Territory Intervention, which puts troops on the streets of Aboriginal towns (among other seemingly repressive measures) to combat the well-documented widespread epidemic of domestic and child abuse. That said, feminist Germaine Greer's response to it is nearly as shocking. She suggests that domestic violence is an understandable outlet of rage against oppression and thus argues that we shouldn't ask them to stop. What?!When I first saw this story, I thought she was joking, but she's not. In trying to argue that rage, substance abuse and violence is a result of the oppression of the Aboriginal people, most people would be hard pressed to say that she's wrong. Addiction begets addicts, violence begets violence, and crushing and hopeless poverty and societal isolation does nothing to help. But that does not mean that no one should try. That the NT intervention is heavy-handed and sucks at fixing the problems in Aboriginal society probably goes without saying. In 1999, one report found that "in Western Australia, Aboriginal women are more than 45 times more likely to be a victim of domestic violence than non-Aborigines." Putting troops on the streets, or interviewing every child about abuse, or curtailing welfare payments is not going to combat a systemic and (at this point) multi-generational problem. It requires education and equity in the legal system and would probably be assisted by poverty-eradication programs, better health care and living conditions and efforts to right the wrongs of racism (like some version of affirmative action). But it does not mean, as Greer suggests, "They can't get over [their rage] and it's inhuman to ask them to get over it." If one accepts the premise that Aboriginal men are — consciously or subconsciously — expressing their rage over their position in Australian society on the bodies of Aboriginal women and children, one must also recognize that it is the wrong outlet. But domestic violence (as we learned yesterday) also stems from sexism, from an attempt to assert power over another person and from the failure to understand that it's completely wrong. That, even as Ted Bunch noted, more "brown and black men" are punished for it than white men is not a reason to refrain from punishing the former, but a reason to increase the equity in the system for the victims of the latter. And the last thing a feminist ought to be doing is advancing the idea that domestic violence is an understandable reaction to racial oppression and can thus be dealt with, if it still exists, when racial oppression is gone. Australia Apologizes to Aborigines [International Herald Tribune] Senate Paves the Way For NT 'Emergency Intervention [Crikey] The Storm Within [The Age] Germain Greer Writes on Aboriginal Rage [UPI] The Truth About Aboriginal Domestic Violence [The Australian Paper Archives]