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.
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/