The way the community reacts to the killing of a young woman can be vastly different to when an older woman is killed.
The way the community reacts to the killing of a young woman can be vastly different to when an older woman is killed.

Thugs kill woman in random attack, but where is the anger?

A random group of thugs beat a woman to death last week, yet there is almost no public anger about her killing. Could ageism be to blame, asks SHERELE MOODY

OLDER women do not really count when they are murdered.

The brutal death last week of 59-year-old Louise Allison Langhorn has barely made a ripple across Australia, despite her being bashed by a group of blokes in a random attack.

When 21-year-old Aya Maasarwe was killed in Melbourne on January 15, so many of us were quick to express our outrage.

Like Louise, Aya was allegedly killed in a random attack by a strange male in a public place.

Within a day of her death, we knew from media reports that Aya was a student, she was visiting Australia and that she had sisters, loving parents and many friends.

Her sparkling brown eyes and infectious smile were seen in photos published around the world.

Thousands of people left flowers at her makeshift memorial and massive crowds gathered in Melbourne's CBD to commemorate her at a candlelight vigil.

Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke about Aya (something he failed to do for the 75 women killed last year or the seven other women murdered this year).

I do not think for one second that our collective outrage for Aya was misplaced.

It was important, necessary and absolutely valid.

Yet, when compared to the lack of anger over Louise Langhorn's death, it is clear youth and beauty trumps age in the war on violence against women.

59-year-old Louise Allison Langhorn was bashed by a group of blokes in a random attack. She died two days later.
59-year-old Louise Allison Langhorn was bashed by a group of blokes in a random attack. She died two days later.

Louise Langhorn was savagely beaten on Wednesday, February 6. Although injured, Louise was able to tell police about her killers before she died from her injuries two days later.

Her killers have not been caught.

Beneath the blurriness of the one photo of Louise released publicly, we see a slightly overweight woman with greying hair, sombre smile and wrinkles.

Media reports surrounding her death are scant so there is little else to tell you other than police are looking for a good Samaritan who intervened in the attack, that Louise was 59 and that she is now dead.

We do not know if she worked, if she was a mother or a grandmother or even if she had a partner.

There have been no quotes from family or friends and no mass-sharing of photographs.

No one has left flowers at a makeshift memorial for Louise and there is no vigil planned.

No community leaders and, certainly, no politicians have expressed their anger that this woman was beaten to death by a group of random male strangers in a suburban street.

So, what is it about Louise's murder that fails to make our blood boil?

Is it because her killers did not rape her?

Is it because she died in suburban Perth rather than inner-city Melbourne where people are more attuned to male violence and its impacts on women?

Is it because Louise had lived most of her life, while Aya was just starting to live hers?

Is it because Louise's age and life experience meant she was more vulnerable and less susceptible to random male violence than Aya?

I think the answers to all of these questions is really simple - Louise's death is considered less important because she was an older woman.

21-year-old Aya Maasarwe was killed in Melbourne.
21-year-old Aya Maasarwe was killed in Melbourne. Facebook

Ageism and sexism go hand in hand - as women wrinkle, people tend to care less about them.

We see this most in popular culture where aging stars like Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Ozzy Osbourne, Mick Jagger and the like permeate our airwaves yet extremely talented mature-aged women like Sigourney Weaver, Suzi Quatro, Vanessa Redgrave and Susan Sarandon rarely grace our screens or echo from our radios.

Even feminist-focused movements like #metoo are dominated by the experiences of younger women despite sexual violence being prevalent across all age groups.

We saw the same disparate response play out last year after the deaths of Eurydice Dixon and Qi Yu.

Eurydice Dixon died in a public park, allegedly at the hands of a man who did not know her just one week after Qi Yu died behind the front door of her own home, allegedly at the hands of a man she lived with.

The public outrage over Eurydice's death was astounding - as it should have been - but Qi Yu's death flew under the radar.

I wrote then that this was a reflection of how many people fear the monster in our streets, more than the monster in our homes.

It is terribly sad that we react to the killings of women in such vastly different ways.

With more than one woman murdered each week in Australia, it can be hard to maintain our rage.

So many deaths mean we can be perpetually angry.

But we must stay furious and the first step towards doing this is to put all our prejudices aside.

Equality in death is the least we can afford these victims - after all, every woman's life matter.

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of the 2018 B&T Women in Media Social Change Maker Award and has multiple Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her work highlighting violence against women and children. She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Australian Femicide & Child Death Map.