Speaking Truth to Power and Safety

Speaking Truth to Power and Safety

Recently, two very brave young women delivered speeches at the National Press Club (https://youtu.be/YO8IQ_rVM8g). If you think these speeches were about ‘women issues’ or ‘sexism’ you would be wrong. The common theme of both speeches was speaking truth to power. Speaking truth to power is the essence of Feminism.

Feminism emerges out of the same source as Social Psychology (The Frankfurt School). This is presented in the map at Figure 1.


Feminism is not about sex but rather how gender is constructed, way beyond issues of maleness and femaleness. Similarly, Masculinism is about masculinist power and the long history of domination, oppression, colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy and abuse (https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/masculinism). Masculinist ideology dominates the discourse of safety and explains why the industry has no interest in social psychology, feminism or critical discourse analysis.

One of the wonderful characteristics of Grace Tame’s presentations over her year as Australian of the Year has been her determination to ‘make noise!’ (about the abuse of power). From the moment of her acceptance speech she made it clear, she had been silenced as a victim of systematic and ritual abuse and as she concluded her acceptance speech she said: ‘hear me now!’ (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-26/grace-tame-australian-of-the-year-speech-in-full/13091710 ).

Child sexual abuse and rape are not about sex but about power (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/29/rape-about-power-not-sex; https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-rape/ ).

Grace said in her acceptance speech:

‘I remember him towering over me, blocking the door.

‘I remember him saying, ‘Don’t tell anybody.’

I remember him saying, ‘Don’t make a sound.’


‘Let’s make some noise, Australia.’

Then in her speech yesterday to the National Press Club, Grace revealed that during her time as Australian of the Year she had been confronted by a threatening phone call by an official not to say anything damning about the Prime Minister at the next Australian of the Year Presentation (25 minute mark of speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO8IQ_rVM8g ). Grace’s words at this point were incisive:

‘He will have a fear’, said the official.

‘A fear?’ said Grace. ‘What kind of fear, I asked myself?’

‘A fear for our Nation’s most vulnerable?’

‘A fear for the future of our planet?’

‘and then I heard the words: ‘you know with an election coming’

and it crystalized: ‘a fear, a fear for himself and no one else’

‘A fear that he might lose his position, or more to the point, his power’

‘Sound familiar to anyone?’

‘Well it does to me’

‘I remember standing in the presence of an authority figure being threatened in just the same way’

This is the voice of feminism and as Grace stated shortly after: ‘what I wanted then is the same thing I want right now, and that is: an end to the darkness, an end to sexual violence, safety, equity, respect, a better future, for all of us’.

Grace painted the picture clearly that enabling the power of the powerful relies on compliance, duty and silence. These are the same three darlings of the AIHS BoK Chapter on non-ethics. Deontological ethics enables abuse and the sustenance of power. How better to dehumanise and harm another than in the name of duty as a good. These are the same principles that enable the Freedom to Harm (https://safetyrisk.net/real-harm-real-risk-and-the-safety-way/ ).

We read the same three principles paraded as empowerment for young people in safety in the nonsense Worksafe Victoria ‘Umm’ campaign (https://safetyrisk.net/ummm-more-dumb/). This is the same discourse dished out to young people under the guise of duty and compliance. Of course, there is no recognition of youth culture in this campaign nor the impossibility of ‘speaking up’ when compliance and duty are the shibboleth of safety power.

The last thing Safety wants to hear is dissent, contestation, debate, criticism or challenge to authority – none of these fit a deontological ethic.

And if you want to know more about what sustains abuse, just listen for where there is silence and where there is noise by those in power.

Make no mistake, the AIHS BoK Chapter on non-ethics excludes any discussion of power, care ethics, feminist ethics, helping, personhood or politics. This is a remarkable indictment of a document that advocates duty, compliance, obedience and ‘check your gut’. All four of these principles are central to domination, oppression, imperialism, patriarchy, silence and systemic abuse.

And don’t go looking for anything feminist from Women in Safety or so called S2. Listen for where there is noise and listen to the silences.

Where is the conversation about power, ethics, ideology, helping, personhood and politics? Crickets! Where is the criticism of masculinist safety? Where is any analysis of the discourse of power? Where is the voice and noise against zero, the symbol of brutalism, power and dehumanisation in the name of good? Crickets! Duty and check your gut! (https://safetyrisk.net/the-aihs-bok-and-ethics-check-your-gut/ ). You know, do the right thing (Duty, compliance and silence).

Masculinist ideology is afraid of critical discourse analysis or any compromise (read zero), and under the rubric of compliance and deontology, ensures that any dissenting voice is demonised. Just declare your enemy toxic and don’t listen.

Safety can never listen to the content of criticism, it can only hear a threat to its power. Masculinist power protects territory, doesn’t embrace conversation, questioning or listening, it just rules and rules absolutely. It’s zero or nothing! No wonder Safety loves zero (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/for-the-love-of-zero-free-download/ ). Just believe the impossible!

There is no compromise in zero and, risk and safety associations clearly fit this paradigm. The zero paradigm: rejects learning, encourages bullying/abuse, sustains the powerful, delights in power in the name of safety, demonises persons and risk as enemies of safety, polices numerics/metrics, delights in objects and defines itself by the absence of injuries.

But let’s now move to the positives: If you want to know how to Envision Risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/ ) and speak truth to power here are a few thoughts to consider:












(There is a cost to this of course, and many end up leaving the safety industry when they recognise it for what it is).

Life and Work – Feminine Perspectives from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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