In January of 2015, Nikita Chawla became another tragic statistic in an ongoing epidemic of violence against women in this country. Killed in her sleep by her domestic partner, the 23 year old’s death dealt a crippling blow to her family. Determined to rise above the grief and despair, her brother Tarang, 29, has since then been an advocate for stemming this plague of violence against women, through his own type of social media presence, and work through the advocacy groups Our Watch and White Ribbon.
On the 11 July edition of the ABC’s public affairs show Q & A, Tarang framed the recent incident involving Eddie McGuire’s on-air joke about drowning Caroline Wilson as part of a broader problem about disrespect of women leading to violence. He then posed the question to the panel: “My sister Nikita was stabbed to death by her partner in January last year with a meat cleaver. She was 23. How will politicians in the media play a better role in bringing about long overdue culture shift so tragedies like happened to my family are not normalised?”
Host Tony Jones threw the question to conservative broadcaster Steve Price, who (bafflingly) started off by announcing his close friendships with Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman. He then defended jokes, and banter, and said there was an over-reaction. Guardian columnist Van Badham took umbrage with his comments; things got heated, and Price said Badham was being ‘hysterical’. The next day, the media, the internet and everyone else with an opinion got involved. Steve Price went on Ten’s The Project, and in the face of opposition and a genuine opportunity to show contrition, displayed the kind of obstinate belligerence you’d think would be the sole domain of the Trumps of the world. The question, as asked, remains unanswered. That was two weeks ago.
Tarang and I work together. So this maelstrom was an interesting thing to bear witness to, at close range. We chatted about it.
How would you describe your past two weeks?
It’s been an intense fortnight. I’m glad that it’s sparked a necessary discussion about men’s violence against women. Also, that we’re seeing just how many people are tired of shock jocks saying things which cause offense and then refusing to acknowledge the impact of their words.
Where did it all begin – were you contacted by Q & A, or did you go through Our Watch?
I went as an audience member with a close friend. I submitted a question to the ABC producers via email after they put a call out for submissions.
Did you expect ‘a’ response, or THIS response? What were you thinking, going in?
I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect. I certainly didn’t have any expectation about the kind of answer I would receive from Steve Price, given his past comments. I was taken aback, as was a large proportion of the audience, when Price labelled Badham as ‘hysterical’ and interrupted her repeatedly. That wasn’t cool, not one bit.
But at the same time, you’ve been caught in the headlights yourself. There are some bad eggs out there on the interwebs, right?
I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support. It’s humbling and has been very positive. There have been some abusive messages and threats made towards me, but as a man, I think I can safely say that I receive far less of those than the many women who have been speaking about these issues for a lot longer than I have and whose lived experiences of male privilege makes life invariably harder.
What’s your impression of Steve Price? Before the Q & A appearance, immediately after, then from what he said on The Project the next day, and his subsequent statements about you on the radio?
I’m alarmed that after Waleed, Carrie and Pete (on The Project) explained the significance of his words, he didn’t see it as an opportunity for growth and education.
You told me his 2GB show reached out to you. Any interest on your part?
I filmed a video which responds to his comments about being ambushed. I’m not sure what more I could say to him. I’d be interested to hear from Steve Price about whether he thinks language matters or he can say whatever he likes without consequence. It’s one thing to criticize someone’s perspective when it differs, but it’s another to start using gender-based insults and then defending your right to continue behaving in that way.
What do you want to happen from here?
Ownership and accountability from those who give Price a platform and from Price himself over the way he characterises Badham and has responded to this issue.
So, thanks for your time. Want to plug anything here?
Support the work of lessercolumn.com.au for one. There are many organisations doing great work, from primary prevention, crisis response, and working with perpetrators to change violent behaviour. I would recommend that people push their local MP for answers, funding and action on what is one of the leading issues facing our nation.
Follow Tarang on Twitter: @tarang_chawla
… and you’d be among good company if you did.