Beat the drum, not the woman

Mbabane, Swaziland | 29 October 2014
Bill Snaddon

Like a well-oiled machine, the campaign known as Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is rolling around again.

We can expect a number of gala dinners, breakfast meetings, and some well-intentioned and inflated jargon about “ending this scourge”.

All around the globe there will be an avalanche of commitments by public figures and Hollywood celebrities who will climb high on their pulpits to exclaim the evils of gender-based violence.

And rightly so.

It’s hard to imagine a more cowardly act than that of a man abusing a woman.

“She provoked me!”

“I had to teach her a lesson, to put her in her place!”

“She was wearing a short dress and tempted the devil within me so I was forced to force myself upon her.”

“She was drunk… she had it coming!”

“She was flirting with another man.”

“The Bible says men should control women.” (Who wrote the Bible? And other holy books?)

All around the world, weak men use weak excuses to justify their evil behaviour.

It was her fault that I abused her, he might say.

No.

Her hand didn’t hit herself. Her private part didn’t penetrate itself.

You did the crime. It’s your fault. End of story.

It points to a system where, predominantly, men make the rules and are therefore reluctant to enforce the rules that don’t suit their interests.

And, often, where women are included in the drafting of rules and laws, it comes with certain conditions or a patronising declaration that women are only involved because we have to include a quota of women.

None of this should be confused with “man hating”, for violence and abuse in all its forms is equally disgusting.

And how could I hate myself? That wouldn’t make much sense.

Before you jump out of your seat and point your finger, let me declare that I am no saint and am not trying to paint myself as such; but if I did ever lay a hand on a woman then I would hope I would hate myself.

And to men who try to fight against the tide of women’s rights by loudly stating that “women also abuse men”, the reply might be: “Yes, from time to time, they do, and it’s just as bad as you abusing her, but violence against women is a much, much bigger problem.”

As far as I’m aware there is no true culture that condones abuse. But I may not be aware.

By the looks of this article, you might even call me a feminist. That’s fine, I’ve been called worse.

But if feminism is simply the idea that women and men are treated as equals under the law, and if there is equality of opportunity for both women and men, then I’m a proud feminist.

Moreover, since today’s column is lacking a sense of humour, then, with great respect, my sisters, I fear I am making an even better feminist.

No, no, that’s unfair — there are a few funny ones around.

Of course all this is somewhat easier to say from the privileged male position. If I were a woman who made this case to a violent husband, he might belt me around the head. In that case, I do understand that there is not always something to laugh about.

And so, you can hear it from here, the drums of the 16 Days campaign are beginning to beat.

And I have just added to the noise by jumping on my high horse to express a few self-righteous views.

Why not? If those Hollywood stars can do it, so can I.

This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 29 October 2014

#45_Beat the drum not the woman_29 Oct 2014
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