Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why are men pouting?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 4 February 2012)

During my work as an advocate for women, I cannot even begin to count the number of times a man has asked me, “What about the men?” Although I am a staunch believer in gender equality, this phrase always catches me off guard because it is an ironic question in so many ways.

When one considers that men have “ruled/owned” women for several thousands of years in most cultures and that women have served men in every possible (and often degrading) way during those millennia, it is indeed ironic that little more than a couple decades into a substantial gender equality movement men would pout about being left out when women address the issues they still encounter in relation to inequality.

It is a logical conclusion that as women rise up to take a place of equality in society, men will, of course, lose some standing. After all, as women take their rightful place in business, politics, religion, etc., that will translate into fewer men in those places. The “what about the men” response is the male knee-jerk reaction to this loss of “ruler of all” status.

This loss of “ruler of all” status is the compromise the men of the world must make in order to see a better world for all – not just the males. The push by women for gender equality should not be seen as a punishment for men, but a balancing of how things should have been all along. The balancing process might hurt a bit as men have to step aside and allow women their rightful place, but trust me, it will hurt no more than what women have endured for so long as the servants and property of men.

Recently, one man asked whether I blamed men for every ill that happens to women. My blunt response was that it is men who beat women, degrade women, rape women, sexually harass women, psychologically abuse women – and yes, murder women.

Last week, a Berbice man who has been living with another woman disassembled the house of his wife and children and left them and their belongings in the rain without shelter. Am I to blame the wife and children for this horrendous act?

The other day a Blankenburg woman was murdered allegedly by her husband. I post all news stories about Guyana’s women to my Facebook page to keep the consciousness of women’s issues alive. Upon reading this news story about the murdered woman, one man blamed the woman. She should have chosen a better type of man. He said, “Stella, I hope you’re not blaming men for this disease but rather the choices women make.”

What this man does not comprehend is that domestic violence crosses social and cultural lines. There are as many doctors, politicians and businessmen who beat and murder their wives as there are men who deal drugs. And yes, I do blame the men.

Women have been blamed for being forcibly raped – and still are in some cultures where they are then killed for dishonouring her family because a man forced himself on her. Women wear coverings from head to toe in these cultures so the man is not tempted and yet they are still raped and then murdered for being raped.

In Western cultures, women are blamed for rape because they must have worn the “wrong” clothes or acted in an inappropriate way, but I blame the men.

Female victims of domestic violence are blamed for the torture they face because they must have done something wrong to provoke the wrath of the man. They did not do what he wanted, or did not do it in the manner he wanted or any number of petty little reasons that have nothing at all to do with the violence meted out to the women. Yes, I blame the men.

Moreover, when a woman stands up and declares that it is the men who need to change and that it is men who are wrong – there are men who then pout about their bad reputation and cry foul. Sorry Charlie, but these are the facts. You may not like it and you may not want to change, but this is reality. And change you must.

Why is it that so many men insist on not accepting the responsibility for their gender’s sexist and violent actions toward women? As a man, if you hit a woman, it is your fault, not hers. If you rape a woman, it is your fault, not hers. If you murder a woman, it is your fault, not hers.

The sooner men own up to their own actions and stop treating women as if they are no better than a dog on the street, the sooner we can get on with the more important things in life. I would be happy to move on to address another social ill, like feeding the starving of the world, but that will never happen until men respect women as equals in society.

Yes, men do face social ills, too. At times, males are victims of domestic violence and rape (most often raped by men) and I will not minimalize their victimisation with statistics that show how many more women are abused than men. Each man who is abused is a victim who needs the help of society.

However, as a woman’s advocate, my passion and goal is to bring the plight of women to the fore. I stand with female and male victims alike as a survivor of domestic violence, but as a women’s advocate, my focus is on how to keep women alive and safe.

My response to those who pose the question, “What about the men?” is this: “Yes, what about the men?” Where are the men to help the male victims of domestic violence and rape? Where are the men to champion the safety and equality of women?

After thousands of years of victimisation at the hands of men, I believe women have the right to stand up and demand a social correction. As such, no amount of mocking, scorn or outright rage by men should prevent women from the continued promotion of women’s rights. So stop pouting guys and start working for a better world.

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