Last night, radio personality Steve Price stunned the Q&A audience by angrily defending Eddie McGuire’s “drowning” comments – and then informing a female panellist she was “hysterical”.
The controversy came after audience member and domestic violence campaigner Tarang Chawla referred to Eddie McGuire’s now-famous “drowning” comments, and then explained that his sister Nikita had been “stabbed to death by her partner in January last year”.
He asked the panel: “How will politicians and the media play a better role in bringing about long overdue cultural shifts so tragedies like what happened to my family are not normalised?"
Steve Price didn’t acknowledge the tragic loss of Chawla’s sister. He barely drew breath. Instead – seemingly driven by a simmering, self-righteous fury on behalf of his poor, persecuted friend Eddie McGuire (nay, poor, persecuted non-violent men everywhere!) – he leapt straight into defence mode.
“I happen to know all the people you mentioned there… Sam, Eddie, Caroline Wilson, very well,” he said blustered, before informing Chawla that “far too much was made of [the drowning comments]”.
Fellow panellist Van Badham took a more considered view. (Not exactly difficult.) She expressed her sadness over Chawla’s loss, and then attempted to address the issue of violence against women. But Price spoke over her. Again. And again. And again.
"Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you’re the only person who can get upset about this," he interjected.
"Steve, you're proving my point very excellently, about the attitudes that create this kind of problem," she said, in a rare window where Price allowed her to speak.
"I don't think I'm proving anything," Price responded with all the dignity of a two-year-old having a tantrum. "I think you're just being hysterical."
It took for a moment for that comment to sink in. That a grown man had just publicly described a woman as hysterical on live television.
And then Van Badham delivered the crushing blow: "It's probably my ovaries making me do it, Steve."
The worst part of the whole thing was not the way Price casually dismissed Van Badham by speaking over her, time and time again. It wasn't even the use of the word "hysterical". ("Hysterical” is a particularly gendered insult. The word comes from the Latin hystericus – or “of the womb” – and it harks back to the idea that women’s wombs sent them neurotically insane. It’s demeaning and damaging, and a term that is never, ever associated with men.) Or that Price insulted a woman as she was literally trying to explain how a lack of respect towards women can foster violence.
The worst part was that those few minutes of television encapsulated everything that’s wrong with the debate around gender equality and violence against women.
A perfectly sensible question was raised: how we can reduce rates of violence against women?
And yet, instead of considering the issue – instead of even listening to the entire question - Steve Price - television presenter, shock jock, dinosaur – went on the defensive on behalf of all non-violent men, who see the entire debate as a personal attack against them.
Until the Steve Prices of the world stop talking and start listening, we will continue to hear the Eddie McGuires of the world insulting women and we will continue to see one woman killed by her partner every week in Australia. And that's the most tragic part of last night's debate.