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Hurting those we profess to love is uncool

By unknown | Dec 07, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SINCE 1999 - between November 25 and December 10 - South Africa and the world have come together to talk about why we should not hurt women and children.

SINCE 1999 - between November 25 and December 10 - South Africa and the world have come together to talk about why we should not hurt women and children.

Each year we hear the same stories. If you have been to one anti-abuse workshop you have been to all. There, like-minded people gather to tell each other what they already know. This they perhaps do in the hope that there is someone in the audience who until that day truly believed that there was virtue in harming women and children.

Patriarchy, culture and an indifferent political will, we are told, are all responsible for the little change in the attitude of those who abuse women and children.

The cynic and the practical in me says that these gatherings and campaigns are preaching to the converted.

Who in the world today does not know that harming children is wrong?

Which culture do we know of where hurting children is regarded as a sport?

As with the gratuitous and sadistic pain visited on our children, many of those who abuse women know that it is wrong, just like those who rob cash-in-transit vans need not be told that they should not do so.

Granted that there are some, including the victims themselves, who believe that beating up women is a form of showing them love.

These men see it as their duty to "correct" the behaviour of "their" women. To them, women are merely another category of children and thus the injunction to spare the rod and spoil the child is also applicable to them.

I would venture to say that it is time we changed focus and strategy.

What right does a man who lies to, cheats on his partner - which is most of us men - or one has to be forced by a maintenance court to feed and clothe his offspring, to think he is any better than one who lifts his hand against women and children?

I would rather us be spreading the message to men that hurting those we love is uncool and expanding the definition of hurt to include the emotional distress we as men cause.

I would rather we preached a message of empowerment of both men and women rather than the many "thou shall nots". We need a carrot and stick policy to enforce the behaviour we approve of.

I would prefer that we run social programmes that deal with the feelings of inadequacy among some men that make them seek validation by hurting women, or with having as many partners as they can muster.

We currently have a judgmental discourse over why the abuse happens.

As in the debate over whether the traditional Zulu killing the bull as part of the First Fruits Festival, it helps when a discussion about what some people believe to be their cultural prerogative to act in certain ways is held.

We cannot keep conflating the effort to understand with an attempt to justify.

In the study of human societies and their behaviour, conclusions and recommendations are based on learning why those concerned behave the way they do and what circumstances could change such behaviour. When it comes to men doing the despicable, we reduce it to "because society allows them".

I find this a half-truth at best. The problem with half-truths is that the other half is often a lie.

For as long as we keep on this trajectory, the campaign will be like the Abba songs we hear around this time and then pack away for the next year once the season ends.


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