by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 13 June 2007)
It is good to see an ongoing discussion concerning the rights and protection of the women of Guyana. This discussion is long overdue, especially given fact that so many women suffer from beating at the hands of men who supposedly love them or those same “loving” men kill them.
Freddie Kissoon wrote about this very subject just last Friday in his column entitled “Wife-killing and wife-beating; so what?” Within the last few months there have also been a letters to the dailies crying out for justice and protection for women and editorials mulling the effect such a travesty has on society.
A statement made by Freddie in his column from last Friday gave me pause. He said, “I lived all my life in South Georgetown (I moved out last month to live next to the Atlantic; that is where I always wanted to be) and in South Georgetown there exists a sub-culture in which ghetto men are born into what informs them that women are to be roughed up if you are going make them obey you.”
It is the last eight words that made my hair stand on end. I simply despise the word obey when it is used about women in regards to men. I am not sure from the way it was phrased, whether Freddie believes that women should obey men and that this obedience should be wrought in other ways outside of physical violence – or if he is simply stating this as part of what certain men in his old community think and thus why they beat their women.
I am inclined to give Freddie the benefit of the doubt because firstly, although he has never said as much, Freddie’s track record does not seem to imply that he believes women should be required to obey men. And secondly, since he is not religious, he has no archaic dogma requiring him to force women into submission.
There is a third reason to give Freddie the benefit of the doubt on this subject. He has treated this female columnist with the same respect as the rest of his male colleagues even when we have not agreed. That says so much in and of itself.
In any case, it is this notion of obedience to which I wish to speak because it is not until women realise that they are not required to obey a man with whom they are in a relationship that they will respect themselves enough to leave an abusive man long before he inflicts his will on her to the degree that it requires her life.
I do not wish to change these types of men because they are of little consequence in the long run. Once women have opened their eyes to the fact that abusive men have absolutely no right to beat women – not even for the ridiculous notion of forcing a woman to submit to his will – that is when those men become insignificant.
Moreover, as Freddie pointed out in his aforementioned column, when the judicial system finally gets its act together and puts these abusive men and murderers away for good, the more these men will realise that it is not worth the time in jail to force a woman into “obedience.”
My oldest daughter recently got engaged to a wonderful young man she has known for years. The wedding will not be until late next year, but we were so caught up in the excitement that we were going over even the smallest details. This is when I wanted to now if she intended to include the word “obey” in her wedding vows.
Her emphatic answer was no. Her father and I have taught her well. Quite honestly, she is so full of personality and brains that I would hate to see any man try to control her for even one second. Luckily, she has found a man who loves her because of her personality and brains and would never want her to become anything else.
Not all women are so lucky because some men only want a slave to take care of him, his house, his food, his clothes – him, him, him. An eighteenth century English author named Mary Wollstonecraft once said, “…as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.”
This notion of female obedience to a male master is just pure rubbish. Nonsense. Gibberish. Babble. Drivel. Jabberwocky. Skimble-skamble. Balderdash. Baloney. Bilge. Blatherskite. Piffle. Pishposh. Poppycock. Tomfoolery. Flummadiddle. Horsefeathers. Hogwash. Fiddlesticks. Malarkey. Twaddle. Windbaggery. Hooey.
You get the point.
It is a non-issue as to whether the men (those who do not like giving up their female slaves) ever embrace the fact that women are not subject to them, women do not have to submit their wills to their husbands and women are no longer required to obey men. All that is important is that women know these truths and start acting on them.
Germaine de Staël, a French novelist and literary critic who lived in the early 1800s said, “Every time a new nation, America or Russia for instance, advances toward civilization, the human race perfects itself; every time an inferior class emerges from enslavement and degradation, the human race again perfects itself.”
This is what the judicial system must keep in mind as they advance toward human perfection by ridding society of wife-beaters and wife murderers. To close this column I am going to provide a short poem that speaks to the notion of coerced obedience that was first written in 1555.
Your brutal goal was to make me a slave
beneath the ruse of being served by you.
Pardon me, friend, and for once hear me through:
I am outraged with anger and I rave.
— Sonnet XXIII, Oeuvres (1555)
A Book of Women Poets, Aliki and Willis Barnstone, eds., 1980