Domestic Violence: “But…What If She Provokes and Provokes till He Snaps?”

Obviously there are healthy ways to disagree and really two adults should not be shouting and screaming at each other but this is a separate and distinct conversation from the line of DV which should never be crossed.

 

 

There are some statements or even questions that I struggle to give a comprehensible response to, not to mention coherent argument, because I am so filled with rage. An example is when a woman is badly injured or killed in a domestic violence case and some bright spark comes out with “What did she do to provoke him?” or the cleverly worded “I wonder why he was so angry” or “We must also teach women not to provoke men” or whatever nonsense  Empress Njamah and ‘Silent Night, Christmas Lights’ Edochie spouted recently.

What triggered this essay is finding a Youtube clip from 2014 of ‘The Banky and Tiwa Show’ (who knew?) on Domestic Violence (“DV”). The clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5rXRywENCE) contained just a 45 second segment of the episode, which included, among Basketmouth’s comedic ranting about how parents should teach their daughters martial arts, Banky W asking something like this ‘but what if a woman pushes and pushes and pushes her husband and one day he just snaps and hits her?’.

Banky! BANKY! My chest (as they say on twitter these days)! I now realise that on the issue of gender equality, I’d put this man on a pedestal far higher than any other Nigerian entertainer simply because (1) he enjoys cooking and (2) he once posted a picture of himself carrying a #heforshe card on instagram.   I was actually sitting  in front of my computer like a lemon waiting for him to shrilly denounce any kind of DV in any situation in his usual earnest American manner.

Now I don’t know how the show ended. It’s very possible Banky said that under no circumstances should a man hit a woman (and presumably he was, during the clip, in ‘investigative mode’ and ‘asking the hard questions’) so I’ll concentrate on breaking down my  discomfort with the provocation/DV debate.

If I was on the show  I would ask for a definition of provocation. I can only imagine 3 scenarios. Firstly, physical violence by the wife; secondly constant emotional and verbal abuse by the wife (what Empress Njamah called ‘mental abuse’ causing me to now hate drum and base music because ‘its mentallist, innit?’ Stupid woman) or the far more common place scenario of two very angry spouses having an absolute howler of an argument.

In the first case of physical violence, no one should be hitting anyone in a relationship. As a woman if you hit your spouse or partner, you are  committing DV against him. This is just as heinous as him committing DV against you.

There are reasons why the spotlight is on DV against women. There are far more cases of DV against women. Women are more susceptible to DV because they are usually physically weaker than their male partners . The bigger reason is that it is an institutionalised form of sexism against women. Not only is it justified by upstanding members of society, sexist views of women actually increase the chance of DV. DV, as a societal problem, is partly a result of women being demonised (‘she will run wild if you don’t control her’),  infantalised (‘so that she will not misbehave’ – although men are also infantalised because they apparently cannot control themselves and are ‘like babies’), dehumanised (reduced to servile, submissive, domestic, child bearing/rearing property) and devalued.

I found this neat summary on the web:

On pages 45-49, Gary quotes from a pamphlet written by Dr. John Barger in which Barger admits abusing his wife but claims a complete transformation. There’s no way to hear his wife’s side of the story because she passed away from cancer.

Dr. Barger writes, “It’s easy to scorn women and most men do. We see women as physically weak, easy to intimidate, bound to the menial tasks of motherhood, emotional, illogical and often petty. Or…..we scorn and hate them for their commanding sexual power over us…”1

But DV does happen to men; there’s no doubt about that.  Hitting is a line that should not be crossed (even if he cheats; even if he lines dem bitches up wall to wall. If he cheats, LEAVE lol. I know folks ain’t tryna hear that but that is another article) other than in self-defence, defending someone else; possibly excusable if you’ve just witnessed him attacking someone more vulnerable but you are not technically acting in defence.

Another reason for not hitting is that it normalises violence in your relationship and in a physical fight, the man is likely to win. Again and again and again.

What should a man do if he’s hit? Ideally, I’d say because he’s stronger, getting away and if necessary, restraining the woman should be sufficient to defend himself. But I really wish more men would leave  for this kind of behaviour. I phrased my last sentence like that because, certainly in Nigeria, it seems very few people would advocate a man ending a relationship or a marriage because his partner slapped or hit him. This is probably partly rooted in patriarchy – the assumption that a husband should be able to ‘control’ his wife, a fully grown adult.

So no it’s not an excuse to beat seven bells out of your female partner, but, in the immediate aftermath of being punched in the face, who can say how anyone will react?

On to verbal assault. I’m thinking of abusive behaviour here. Someone who insults, demeans and belittles their partner constantly . It is still not a reason to hit your wife/partner. However if your partner is being verbally abusive it is a real problem and grounds to end the relationship. An illustration is the irrepressible Nunu in #BckchatLdn who said if I insult your mother, you can insult my mother back. You can’t touch me. I completely agree but if your girlfriend or wife is constantly telling you that your mother is a bitch, that relationship is probably on its way out.

Let’s move on to what people usually mean when they say that a woman is ‘pushing her husband’. You have two very angry people; communication has broken down; they are arguing in a hurtful and destructive way; they are both pushing each other. What people mean when they say the woman “should stop pushing her husband now. Can’t she see that he’s already angry?” is that she should defer to the fact that he can end this argument any time he wants – with one punch.

Because if not for that, her logical response may very well be ‘I’M angry. He’s PUSHING me. Why don’t you tell him to stop??’  Obviously there are healthy ways to disagree and really two adults should not be shouting and screaming at each other but this is a separate and distinct conversation from the line of DV which should never be crossed.

provocation image 2

Banky framing the question like that was, to my mind ,putting DV in the mix of normal, whether good, bad or regrettable, behaviour in a marriage. She buys groceries. He mows the lawn. He leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor. She spends too much time on the phone. He slaps her. She…Hold up! Hold up! What was that last one again??

In reality, couples do provoke each other. They do. Sometimes deliberately and sometimes not. If you constantly fail to flush the toilet or plan half a dozen holidays in one year without your husband and children, you are likely (rightly or wrongly) to get the tongue lashing of your life, which an observing stranger might find shocking to witness.

Of course, in an ideal world the offended party will explain in a calm way why your behaviour was unacceptable. In real life, spouses argue and something usually ‘starts the argument’ The message out there should simply be DV is unacceptable. This should ingrained and instilled in everyone’s head.

While we work towards getting better at communicating, DV shouldn’t be presented as something you accidentally slip up and do in the course of marriage – you know, not very nice but it happens.. It is deal-breaker. It leads to atrocities and abject misery. It’s usually more about control than losing your rag (except when you lose it because she dares DARES to disobey you). By the time it gets to death or serious injury, the victim is barely existing as human, a long term prisoner of terror and has learnt a long time ago not to ‘provoke’ her tormentor. He still attacks her regularly.

The question on the show was ‘should a wife stay or go in the case of DV’ (is that one even a question sef?). My answer is a marriage with DV, a relationship that has descended into violence, is not worth sustaining. The marriage is already over. Somebody just needs to do the paperwork.

1From the website ‘A Cry for Justice’ – review of Gary Thomas’ book – A Sacred Marriage – full review here – https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2017/05/17/gary-thomass-book-sacred-marriage-a-review-by-avid-reader/

Trending on Twitter: 4:44 and The Serial Cheat Who Really Really Really Loves You (Honest!)

The mad assumptions, the nonsensical talk that it is some sign of strength and character to resume such a crazy relationship and the lack of consequences it has for men – it’s not just about choice.

This post is everything I said I wouldn’t write when I started this blog – it’s short, angry, impulsive and judgmental.  However it’s an issue that has been tormenting my brain for a while now.  Somewhere between respecting women’s choices and trying to avoid blaming them for all that stems from being cheated on, has evolved this poisonous ideology that  (1) a man can cheat on you multiple times and still love and respect you and have any interest in being married/together/in a monogamous relationship (2) that staying in these circumstances (when you have other options) is a viable, sane or even admirable choice.

To give some context to this rant, it has been triggered by  Beyonce and Jay-Z’s relationship and particularly his recent album and song 4:44.  No one really knows what is going on between those two but Beyonce’s 2016 album, Lemonade, more than hints that he cheated on her and the album 4:44  seems to confirm he has done so multiple times, in creative ways and against the backdrop of multiple miscarriages and stillbirths.  All desperately sad.

I’ve managed to avoid the kind of commentary that assumes that Beyonce must have done something wrong to make her man cheat or that a woman who considers leaving her marriage for infidelity is failing in some way.  (I’ll give you an example of this:  In the reality show Mary Mary, about the gospel group of the same name, we discovered that Tina Campbell’s husband  had been consistently cheating on her for 9 out of the 14 years of their marriage.  Leaving Tina’s reaction  aside, I was struck by what her sister said in an interview about the matter.  It was something to the effect that women who wouldn’t consider forgiving (forgiving means resuming the same relationship of course) in the same circumstances were perhaps “not really serious about their vows in the first place”  When I say ‘struck’ I of course mean livid).

I’m not talking about  that.  I’m talking about feminists and womanists and seemingly sensible women effectively saying the only relevant factor is the decision that Beyonce chose to take.  Anyone criticising that choice is being patriarchal and is trying to tell women what to do.

I’m going to assume that a large part of this is because the subject is Beyonce and for some of her followers (which includes me!), the  default mode is to jump to her defence and analyse later.   But the thing is I’ve had this argument several times.  I thought I was going mad!  I’d almost reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must be ‘missing something’ and decided to park the issue.

To illustrate, I’ll share a few thoughts I jotted down while thinking about the intersection between my feminist beliefs and my Christian faith:

  1. Infidelity – This is an interesting one. I’ve always felt salty when a man cheats and, in my culture and within members of my faith, the woman is told that the right (or patient, loving, however you want to put it) thing to do is to forgive the man. Forgiving in this context means taking him back and resuming the relationship. This has irritated me to the extent that I can get very grumpy indeed when the woman does end up taking the man back. I feel that the man has somehow gotten away with yet another thing in a man’s world.

In reality, it’s an individual and personal choice, regardless of my own (dim) views on  infidelity. It’s when people try to promote the idea that it is a Christian woman’s duty to keep the family together by carrying on with the marriage, regardless of how she feels, that it becomes a social and feminist issue. There are so many things wrong with this point of view that whenever I try to write them down, I inevitably forget some points. Forgiveness is a central part of Christianity but it does not necessarily mean resuming the same relationship. If a church treasurer is caught stealing money from the church, most churches would ‘forgive’; few would put him or her back in the same position.

Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it is not freely given; if it is done out of duty, emotional blackmail or societal coercion. Infidelity is a breach of one of the sacred vows of marriage – it is not just a ‘mistake’, an imperfection, comparable to being negligent with housework. Imperfection has nothing to do with it – it has to do with an act not a characteristic or a weakness. The person who carries out the infidelity breaks the marriage; the person who files the divorce is just doing follow up admin. If the couple decide to continue being marriage, they should be re-starting rather than resuming the marriage in my view.

However the most distressing thing for me is dismissing the level of betrayal, hurt, lack of trust etc that a woman (I say woman not because only men cheat but because only women apparently are expected to gloss over infidelity when it is done to them) feels when she is betrayed this way and not only failing to acknowledge that some women cannot just ‘get over it’ but shaming them for this.

These are the kind of reluctant compromises I’ve been making in my head.  Until salvation came in the form of one tweeter (tweep?) who goes by the name of ‘Nigerian God’.  After his tweets, well, this article is really not necessary (but I’m going to write it anyway).

Firstly, this shouldn’t even be a feminist issue.  Looking at it objectively, a person who is supposedly in a monogamous relationship who cheats repeatedly is not interested in being in that relationship.  In fact, he’s already out of the relationship and you’re just there to provide food, shelter and water (in a manner of speaking).  One indiscretion I can perhaps wrap my head around, but multiple times?  You’re in that relationship on your own.

The only reason people are questioning this logic and finding excuses and “mental gymnastics” around this issue is because of how society is structured.  Specifically, a man is seen as a prize and it’s a woman’s job to satisfy all his needs including keeping him in a relationship that he’s not interested in.

It’s not that I don’t agree with people who say that we are wrongly focusing on the woman’s reaction.  They say don’t tell women whether to stay or not, tell men to act right. But there’s no point in telling men to act right if there’s no consequence to them acting wrongly.  That’s where the woman’s reaction comes into it.  You can condemn all you want with your words but if you’re taking them back  your actions are saying that they should keep on keepin’ on.

Simply reducing the matter to choice is ignoring the centuries of conditioning that has led to this even being a discussion in this day and age  in a supposedly monogamous relationship where both parties apparently care deeply for each other.  And then people have turned it from a discussion to a virtue; from a virtue to a requirement for all women who are serious about their marriage.  A huge reason why these men keep getting caught out like this (and assuming, contrary to what I think, that they do have any feelings for their partners) is not because they are any less sensible than women or they mature slower, it’s because they get away with it.  It is feminism’s job to attempt to redress that balance in my view.

What about Beyonce?  Is she just living her life, as several tweets have declared, with no responsibility to use her marriage to teach anybody any lessons?  Two problems with that.  Firstly, she has proudly declared herself an enabler of women empowerment and received whatever accolades and criticisms that has come with that declaration.  More importantly, she chose not only to share this story but to literally make music out of it.  Music that is supposed to be ‘real’, that is supposed to be inspiring.

Now, she’s an artist, she can sing about what she wants.  However to deny the influence this will have on her followers is to divorce yourself from reality.  As uncharitable as this sounds, perhaps she should have kept this mess to herself.  Or better yet, maybe we should scale back the importance of celebrity role models and concentrate on enforcing the fact that women deserve better than a serial cheat, no matter how sorry he says he is afterwards.

Finally, continuing from the theme in my excerpt, I’d just like to say something about the misery and depression this kind of enforced ‘forgiveness’ plunges women into.  I don’t care how many adultery seminars Tina Campbell holds, I strongly suspect that choosing to stay in the first place is mainly a result of a combination of lack of self esteem and societal conditioning.  The kind of love that means you can maintain an intimate relationship (not talking about sex here) with someone that has no regard for your body, the devastation he causes you by his actions and your very soul is alien to me and like some kind of ‘ride or die’ atheist, I don’t actually believe it exists.

Having forced yourself to stay, what kind of relationship will you have?  What kind of trust do you want to build again? You are either not allowed to refer to the indiscretion again because you have supposedly ‘moved on’ or you constantly think of or mention it and feel a burning resentment.

Take Beyonce for instance – Jay Z implies on his album that it was his cheating that caused Solange to  turn on him in the infamous elevator attack.  Now that it has all come out, some tweets have reaffirmed their approval of that attack.  I was one of the people who were shocked by the footage.  And I still think it’s wrong even if Jay Z did cheat.  I don’t even think it would have been right for Beyonce herself to attack him.   Violence is no substitute for the normal reaction to a grand betrayal of your trust – leaving.  People make all types of excuses for women to ‘choose’ to stay but when you have to set your sister on your husband just to make him see the error of his ways, you may just be better off on your own.

Even these confessionals make me suspicious.  Supposedly re-energised and re-vitalised in her marriage, Tina Campbell spent a good couple of years dragging her pillock of a husband all around the US to make him repeat how he cheated on her multiple times.   Is this really the reaction of a forgiving and peaceful heart?

The mad assumptions, the nonsensical talk that it is some sign of strength and character to resume such a crazy relationship and the lack of consequences it has for men – it’s not just about choice.    It’s more about the kind of thinking that says a woman is less than and lucky to have a man.