In South Africa, when a man brutally kills another man, there is a general acceptance that he is a violent criminal, a killer, a murderer. When a man brutally kills a woman, social rhetoric strives to emphasise that he is a normal person. The point being made in this regard is that “this is what men do”. You see, the killing of a man and the killing of a woman, by a man, are considered two different kinds crime. One is seen as a result of criminal intent, the other borne out of the normal confines of the male psyche. Namely, “this is what men do”. Statistically, this is very, very true. A woman is more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than a stranger.
But the question is, why? Why do we consider it “normal behaviour” for men to violate women and abnormal for a man to violate another man?. #MenAreTrash implies that gender based violence is a state of being that men are born with. Also, it implies that men only exist within the confines of their transgressions against women, and nowhere else. By this reasoning, there’s really nothing to be done, you can’t change a person’s genetic make-up or the inherent functioning of their existence. Yet, intrinsically, we know this is not the case. We know there is something wrong, we know it can be changed and we know that it should be changed.
The answer, however, is one that we avoid. We avoid it because we know, deep down, that the answer will not absolve us, as a society. The truth that we all know is that there’s no suddenness to what is happening right now. There’s no outbreak of some virus induced hunger in some men to destroy women. What is happening is normal for a society that they have neglected the root of the very fear that stalks it. What is happening right now in our society is that our daughters are reaping what we have sowed in the minds of our sons.
In the process of telling young boys to value strength over compassion, we teach them to view emotions as a weakness. We teach them that they shouldn’t have any emotions besides anger, because anger is a form of control. We teach them to lack empathy. Because we raise boys to believe that they are inherently bad and they have to earn being loved. As a result, we teach them that everything in life is a commodity and that a man can have anything that he is strong enough to get; respect, wealth, love, affection, women.
If you saw any of the threads where women were sharing their experiences at the hands of men, one thing will always standout and that is just how easy it was for these men to engage in these heinous acts. How nonchalant they were about their own actions. It is as if some men seem to view a woman’s pain as imaginary. As in, yeah sure, I hurt her but, she’ll be fine, I apologized. He might as well have been playing Xbox.
Some men’s lack of comprehension of women’s pain makes them believe that a woman’s mental strength is some kind of mental block that stops her from using “common sense”. Not only that, they also believe that a woman only feels pain up to a certain level and beyond that, she feels no pain. That is why they feel the need to intensify the hurt, to the point where simply killing someone is not enough, you need to violate their very essence, so that they will “listen”. Because a man who is not listened to is believed to be weak and therefore resorts to violence.
In teaching young girls that their virtue lies in the gaze of society, that absolutely anyone can tell them to close their legs, to dress this way or that (to dress a certain way that won’t “tempt” men), making them to feel ashamed of their sexuality, we are teaching them that they do not own their bodies. In not teaching young boys anything about how to interact with girls praising them for their sexual virility, we are teaching young boys that they don’t need to have self-control and we leave the girl to believe that she is to blame for any sexual deviance in boys. In telling girls to “stay away from boys”, because boys are bad, and telling boys to stay away from girls because boys are bad, we teach them there is something inherently bad in boys. We teach boys that they don’t need to be accountable because they are already screw ups, and we expect the girl to know better, because she is the one who was taught all the rules.
We can arrest every single adult male and send them to jail today, but a decade from now we will be in the same predicament. The fact that the issue we face is complex makes many people, looking for an easy out, to believe that the problem is something else, somewhere out there lurking. Many want to blame absent fathers. But an absent father alone doesn’t raise a killer. A single mother alone doesn’t raise an upstanding member of society. “It takes a village raise a child”. Consequently, it takes a village to break them. It has taken a village of psychopaths teaching children brokenness for us to get to this point. WE DID THIS.
We need to stop normalising gender based violence. The fact that it happens so consistently does not make it a norm. Women abuse is NOT normal. A man wanting sex as payment for spending money on a woman is NOT normal. A man wanting to violate a woman in order to “teach her a lesson” is NOT normal. Believing that you own another human being is NOT normal. We need to change society’s definition of “norm” and channel the minds of young boys the same way we do to our young girls.
While we are calling for the death penalty for those men who murder women, let us not forget that little black boy.