'In Memory of Eurydice Dixon and Qi Yu' / Sarah Hellyer
CW: Violence, death.
I have just returned home from Princes Park where the vigil took place this evening in honour and remembrance of Eurydice Dixon. I didn’t know Eurydice but tonight I feel an undeniable sense of familiarity with her and her experience. That’s the thing about this kind of atrocity, we don’t have to wander far with our imagination to see it happening to one of our own friends or family. But that doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend. The news of Eurydice’s death was like a slap in the face that leaves you disorientated and with a burning sense of indignation in your stomach. The half an hour of reflection tonight was I think the first chance I have had to actually process what happened to Eurydice and what that means for the rest of us.
Rape and murder are words we hear a lot and it’s easy for their significance to become lost. I worry that in a similar way, the significance of Eurydice’s life as an individual will also be over looked in our focus on the event that was her death. For this reason, I wanted to imagine how she might have been feeling as she walked home from her gig. She had just said goodbye to friends, just finished doing something she clearly loved and that made her feel accomplished. I like to think that Eurydice was feeling empowered on her walk home, by her ability to make people laugh and the loving connections she had in her life.
I suspect with almost certainty, that as she turned into the park, there was also a part of her mind that turned to her surroundings with heightened awareness. I’m sure she must have reached to locate her keys in her pocket, concealed her quickened pace in a well-rehearsed stride and turned to check behind a few more times than she would during the day. I’m sure because I know this experience, I know it like all other people who identify as women or non- binary in the world as know it. And just like myself and so many before, Eurydice was probably looking out for the worst but never expecting that it would actually happen.
The expectation that in the end, we will be safe or “it won’t be me”, is beginning to feel more and more unrealistic. If the name Qi Yu doesn’t spring to mind here, it should. Qi is another woman who had her life taken from her at the hands of a man this week in Australia. A number of things should confront us about her death. Firstly, the extent to which the murder of Qi, a Chinese woman, has been subsumed by news coverage about Eurydice who is white, is cause for reflection. Our selective outrage as a nation is startling and it’s not good enough. It’s also one of many issues which contribute to this culture of rape we find ourselves in, the idea that some women’s lives are more valuable than others. Ending rape culture is not about just looking out for your sisters or daughters or friends, it is about committing to the safety and respect for all women, regardless of whether they are a part of your life or have something to offer you.
Yet, another thing which makes Qi’s death so distressing is the fact that her alleged murderer was her own housemate. To anyone whose initial reaction to Eurydice’s death was to question why she was walking in the park “at that hour,” let that fact sink in for a minute. Clearly, we cannot make women and non-binary people safe by asking them not to walk alone at night. In fact, we can’t make women safe by asking them to do anything. It’s not women we need to be having the conversation about safety with, it’s men.
When confronted with this collective responsibility, too many men are quick to distance themselves from the kinds of violence experienced by Eurydice and Qi, claiming they could never do something like that. The reality is that men don't need to be capable of brutal murder and rape to be capable of contributing to the culture that allows it. The conversation amongst men needs to switch from self-serving notions of what they are not, to an honest reflection on the behaviours they partake in which lay the foundations of a culture in which rape can eventuate.
It’s time to recognise that we can no longer view the unchecked behaviours and privileges of men in isolation from one another. The brutal attack on Eurydice has as much to do with an unwanted wink or the request to "give us a smile" as it does with murder and assault. These micro- aggressions occur on a continuum, flowing on from each other in ways that can be difficult to detect. That is, until a 22-year-old woman is found in the middle of a park, her life stolen from her by one man’s senseless expression of anger and hatred. This tragedy did not just come out of nowhere and although we are all shocked, we really shouldn’t be. The sense of entitlement that surrounds the male experience has come to be so great that people nationwide will try and make sense of Eurydice and Qi’s murders with conversations about mental health before they are willing to acknowledge their fate for what it is, a gender and sexism issue.
We also need to remember that rape culture is not just about the way men act towards women, it’s also about how they act around us. There needs to be greater awareness amongst men part of the inherent power structure that exists between themselves and people who identify as women or non-binary. Whether their intentions are malicious or completely good, men have the capacity to intimidate people and they need to be mindful of this when they occupy public spaces. A large part of making us feel safe is being aware of the way one’s presence is felt and perceived by women and non-binary people in shared spaces. Right now, more than ever, we need active and conscious respect of personal space and common boundaries.
However, just because it is the collective responsibility of men to dismantle this culture doesn't mean it should be seen as a burden. Responsibility is more empowering than that. When we witness intimidating or belittling behaviour towards someone who identifies as a woman or as non-binary, we need to think of how it connects in a causal chain with what happened to both Eurydice and Qi. Yet more than this, we need to think back to the sense of power and accomplishment Eurydice must have been feeling on her walk home from her gig, before she turned into Princes Park and before she was attacked. It is everyone’s responsibility, but especially men’s, to acknowledge and nurture the capacity for women and non-binary people’s self-empowerment as we take this conversation and action forward. This is about more than protecting women, it’s about enabling them.
The turnout at the vigil should humble us all. I hope that having witnessed the unbelievable strength in what occurred tonight, men have a clearer understanding of what their role is in the wake of this tragedy. Just like Eurydice, women and non-binary people in this city have established our own agency, we have become experts at uplifting one another. What we really need though, is for men to get better at checking on themselves and each other, so that problematic behaviours aren’t allowed to fester in a way which keeps us from walking to where we want and need to be.
Rest in Peace Qi Yu.
Rest in Peace Eurydice Dixon.
Image: Ruby Sinclair, with words from Georgie Halliwell.