Have our stories about who we are reached their use by date?

‘I think culture is the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves,’ said Australian of the Year 2016 General David Morrison recently at a fund raising event for The Dangerous Dance, our upcoming feature length documentary about the causes of domestic violence.

Watch the teaser for the documentary, which includes some of the highlights of that event, below…

’The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves as Australians … define us as men or as women … skew our young men and our young women to live a life that is reminding us of our past, not of the future we want to create.’ David said. Watch his moving keynote speech below.

Many experts in the field link family violence and abuse to a mismatch between the demands of modern reality and the outdated pop culture stereotypes we are surrounded by.

Speaking on a panel at the event Martin Fisk of Menslink reported ‘… this young man said to one of our staff the other day that ‘violence isn’t just the way we do things in our extended family – it’s expected of you.’ Watch the panel – Martin Fisk, Professor Catharine Lumby, Dean Widders, Lisa McAdams, and Anita Bentat – discuss the issues below.

The title of The Dangerous Dance refers to the wedding dance, a moment flooded with cultural symbolism, and a story that says love conquers all. A story that promises that, in an ever-changing and emotionally insecure world, romantic love will enable you to overcome life’s challenges.

For many of us this holds an element of truth. The bonds cemented in that first dance gives us the loving, caring and committed relationship to cope with whatever hoops life asks us to jump through, because we know we have someone to hold our hand or catch us if we fall.

But that isn’t always the case, and the awful truth of our culture is that 1 in 4 Australian relationships is blighted by domestic abuse and family violence. Relationships where a helping hand is replaced with a cruel fist, and words of comfort and reassurance are substituted for degradation and manipulation which is often spread to the next generation.

General Morrison believes that the violence he has seen around the world in the military is no different to the violence in Australian homes, and that the only difference is that it happens behind closed doors ignored by neighbours or family. Where the consequence is a blighting of lives and traducing of talent and potential.

Paramilitary conflict, violent uprisings, coups and protest movements, often stem from a feeling of powerlessness, a change in status or identity, or a suppression of freedom. It’s an expression of the inability to cope with change or lack thereof. This applies equally to domestic abuse where the answer for some men who feel emasculated or cannot see the positives in changing equalities is violence. For some female perpetrators it is a seizing of power or creation of an illusion of safety.

But, as David Morrison said in his powerful keynote speech we can make a difference. We can change the national conversation on an important social issue. We can tackle outdated gender stereotyping and acceptability by proxy of domestic violence. But first we need to start talking about it.

This is a conversation that desperately needs to be had. You can help shape the discussion by donating (fully tax deductible) here or contributing to the material of the documentary. See here for further information.

General Morrison summed it up perfectly when he said “I think the greatest legacy we can leave as a society living in contemporary Australia is to change the stories that make up the great Australian narrative.” Let’s do that.

For further information contact the Dangerous Dance’s producer, Claire Stretch here.