A woman's appearance, demeanour should have no link to abusive behaviour

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
A masked man joins a protest in the Capitol Hill, a neighborhood of Seattle in Washington state, against the death in police custody of African-American George Floyd. /Jason Redmond / AFP
A masked man joins a protest in the Capitol Hill, a neighborhood of Seattle in Washington state, against the death in police custody of African-American George Floyd. /Jason Redmond / AFP

One afternoon while relaxing at home, playing in the background was a television reality show that my daughter was watching.

I was not paying much attention to it as I was preoccupied with catching up on my newspapers.

Additionally, my daughter and I have vastly different tastes when coming to the type of television content we consume. The show she was watching centred around intervening in quarrels between couples.

As the host was getting the background on the couple's problems, it was found out that the man physically abused his partner.

What struck me, and took me aback a bit, was the statement the host made, saying: "How do you beat up such a beautiful and loyal woman?". The show got my attention at this point.

What was an entertainment show in the background, quickly turned into a reminder of the dangerous opinions we have that perpetuate misogynism and problematic thinking around violence.

The host was probably "innocently" expressing himself and did not have any malicious intent.

However, he represents how many in our society think. We must be careful to not think such moments/statements are insignificant and have no bearing on our society's trajectory when coming to the battle against gender-based violence.

I think such statements speak to our implicit internal processes that have a fundamental impact on our daily behaviour.

The danger in the host's statement is implied by referring to the woman's loyalty and beauty. He is implicitly saying a woman of that nature does not deserve to be abused.

Many of us speak this way, "harmlessly" saying such statements, not aware that they feed into problematic thinking around abuse. It is as if we are saying there is someone or a case that does warrant abuse. Or that there are those who are less "deserving" of abuse.

No one is deserving of any sort of abuse, whether society deems them as immoral, disloyal, less attractive or "promiscuous" - which is already a problematic concept by the way.

It is a concept that aims to shame women for choosing to live life according to their own rules. People are worthy of having their dignity respected, solely because it is inherent.

We do not need to substantiate why someone should not be abused. The negative antecedent consequence of such thinking is that, it perpetuates the narrative that some abuse can be justified.

This is right up there with misconceptions such as sex workers cannot be raped, wives cannot get raped by their husbands, highly independent, successful woman cannot be abused, very "clean" men who are professionals cannot be rapists, or that men themselves cannot be raped.

Lastly, rest in peace George Floyd and Collins Khosa and the countless black people whose murder is largely rooted in racial prejudice. To this day, as blatant as it is, I still find it difficult to rationalise the perpetual disregard for human life, especially the life of black people.

I know it is naíve of me because by now I should have reckoned with this lived experience as this has been the reality of black people since time immemorial.

What I battle with mostly is the parallel black experience the world over. It is as if black people have no escape or a place where we equally matter to everyone else.

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