World Views Round-Up: February 2019

The Litany of Horrors that is the Shamima Begum Case

Is there anything about this case that isn’t a stinking, scary horror?  To start off, ISIS is the stuff of really good apocalyptic films.  To think that there is an group, one of many,  actively fighting to bring the world under an ‘Islamic Caliphate’, where women are subjugated by rule of  law, gay people are beheaded and flung off buildings, anyone who doesn’t follow a strict, psychopathic version of Islam is hunted down and centuries of human rights, progression and civilisation are blown away by the chatter of machine guns.   Add to this the other murders, adults and children starving to death and the complete destruction of properties, communities and countries.   It makes me wonder why human kind feels the need to take a great big dump on any kind of progress with such depressing regularity?

So people are actually fighting to achieve the above nightmare on a global scale, fighters are being lured in from the West and teenage girls are being targeted as they are apparently malleable enough to be convinced by ISIS’ extreme form of patriarchal authority.    A “fifteen year old makes a good wife”, according to this group (It’s not just ISIS to be fair.  For a lot of people, the solution to the evils of feminism is to ‘catch em young’ or target younger and younger girls who can be moulded into whatever patriarchal fantasy is currently playing out in their minds).   We all watched with horror as  three teenage girls, including Shamima Begum,  left  their families and walked into a non-fictional version  of the Handsmaid Tale without a backward glance, illustrating  the inexplicable lure of ISIS to young people across the world.

Then, three years later,  Shamima Begum decides she wants to come back.   It’s not that she was totally wrong to go there, she tells us, but it’s no use, the Caliphate isn’t going to win.  She’s had enough now.   She wants to come back to NHS Britain and take care of her baby.  She’s already lost two.  Oh great.  The next challenge was obviously going to be how to manage the public’s justifiable fury and the risk of her radicalising other young people in a country where technically her right to her views and her expressions of faith is protected.  But what else can we do?  As a British citizen, she has every right to to come back, if only to face prosecution for joining a proscribed organisation and any other crimes, right? Right?

Her bid to return brought another realisation.    The government – one man in fact , the  Home Secretary – can decide that one is enough of a threat to national security to remove their citizenship, without any kind of discernible, much less transparent, process.  This isn’t a citizenship that was given to you when you became a naturalised Brit – it’s one that you have had since birth.  And the little problem with an international law that prevents the country from leaving you stateless?  No problem, as long as at least one of your parents looks like you could claim to be a national of another country.  In fact, you do look like and your surname sounds like you could have one of those parents.  Off you go, Shamima. On your bike.  Or stay there, we don’t really care (“Quite right!” shouted a million voices on social media “My faith in Britain has been restored!  I thought Britain was looking a little weak for a moment there…”).

Apart from Begum herself, there are three main players in this drama.  There’s the UK, where she was born, bred and radicalised.  Young British Asians are not the only group  who succumb to the beckoning of ISIS.  In 2015, a 17 year old Austrian girl of Bosnian origin was apparently beaten to death  as she tried to escape the ISIS in Raqqa, Iraq, to where she had deflected two years earlier.

Then we have Syria.  Syria, like a number of other countries in the Middle East, is in the midst of a civil war preceded by the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against oppressive, corrupt governments.  We all thought it was fabulous that these poor people were finally taking a stand against their awful governments.  So fabulous, in fact, that Western government including the United States and the United Kingdom under Obama’s and Cameron’s leadership decided to  do their bit to help the cause.   Unfortunately, instead of the  utopia that is Western style democracy,  the uprisings led to disjointed states encompassing rebel factors  in various regions  and, devastatingly the Islamic State, the latest incarnation  in a long line of Islamic fundamentalist nutters that seemed to flourish following the war on terrorism/Iraq/9/11, wreaking havoc all over the place.  Predictably, Western powers are not willing to sink resource after resource into resolving the problem, despite their initial involvement.  You can barely get them to connect the dots when they see the refugees streaming in from these regions.

The people of Syria are being hit from every direction – their own governments, ISIS, Western sponsored weaponry and whatever other aspiring despot in the area.  Sullen faced Begum, speaking like a particularly idiotic and vulnerable teenager from Twitter (which is essentially what she is) sounds like exactly what they need right now (NOT! for those of you who need me to break down my 1990s-style wit).

Bangladesh, the third player,  woke up one morning to find itself being fingered by the Home Secretary, and not in a good way (if there ever is a good way; I imagine a bedside table signed, written, reviewable and revocable (verbally and in writing)  consent would be necessary).  I wonder if they were completely surprised that the Home Secretary announced  to the world, apparently without consultation with them, that ‘don’t worry, it’s all alright.  She is a Bangladeshi citizen after all.’ or whether officials were sitting around in various state offices, watching the situation very closely,  ‘wishing they would’ as they say in the US reality TV shows.   As several people have pointed out, Begum has never even attempted to claim her alleged citizenship from Bangledesh or even visited the country.  Quite apart from legal issues, many people have wondered why on earth Bangladesh should be obliged to take any responsibility for her.

It was reprehensible for Begum to join ISIS – to have any understanding of what they have done and what they stand for and decide ‘Yup! That’s the life for me!’.  If you can sense a ‘but’ coming, you are right  but I don’t say this lightly.  It is not a token precursor to some up-my-own-arse liberal posturing.  What was it that convinced her  – a dedication to what she thought was Islamic fundamentalism or some warped version of identity politics where murder and mayhem is perfectly okay with her as long she and people like her get to win in the end?

I am no expert on radicalisation but I’m willing to place a small bet (let’s face it, that’s easier than doing the actual research) that disenfranchisement and Islamophobia has something to do with it.  I know there’s a difference between imperfect foreign policy gone wrong and murderous terrorists but no one has ever explained to me the why UK victims of terrorist attack are somehow more innocent than Middle Eastern civilians who are constantly under attack.   Because I am British and live in Britain, I know who I’d want the state to protect  in a choice between the two but is that kind  inherent favouring of your own and protecting your own interests really what patriotism is about?

We live in a Britain where Muslims, despite never knowing any other home but Britain, are supposed to live in a constant state of gratitude because they don’t live in a ‘Muslim country’, including countries to which they have absolutely no connection to.   “You lot take the piss!!!!” people rage behind the safety of their computer keyboards and screens “We/you would never have these freedoms in Saudi Arabia or some other godforsaken country in the Middle East!”.  Well…..take it up with Saudi Arabia then.

Matters are  complicated and far beyond the scope of this article but ever since 9/11 there has been a rise of Islamophobia and a revival of visible and Orthodox variations of Islam that seems to make some non-Muslims uncomfortable  (not that I’m comparing the two) as well as terrorist attacks and Western intervention gone wrong, by way of understatement.   As a result, I think, a  lot of people are now completely uninterested in the fact that Begum was radicalised and, some say, groomed  as a minor. I’m not sure how I  feel about it myself.    Is it relevant or is this one of those things that is so bad  (happy to join a crowd of slave-taking, kidnapping, acid dousing murderers) that her  level of minority at the time she left doesn’t matter?  What about the fact that she has not been convicted of anything, whether joining a terrorist organisation or any other crime?

Also, there are the risks, which I honestly thought the government would be more focused on managing in the event that she does end up in the UK.  There is the remote possibility that she is a double agent and the less remote possibility that she will radicalise other young people to, if not escape to ISIS, commit and incite acts of local terrorism.

But, for me, perhaps the scariest thing about this case is  the potential for a two-tier system of British citizenship, as coined by Shiraz Maher, an expert on radicalisation.  I’ll be brief with this part of the essay because so many people articulated this worry before my mind had a chance to settle on what was bothering me.  Essentially, as I’ve alluded to above, this seems to solidify a type of discrimination in that if Begum did not have immigrant parents or other traceable ancestry which was not  (white) English, nobody would be scrambling around trying to make an argument, which Bangladesh now disputes, that she has a second citizenship and is not being made stateless.   As one article put it, what happened to her could happen to some of us, but not all.

“Well, don’t join a death-cult then!” the jubilating masses countered.  But who’s to decide what the government will say is unacceptable in the future? And even more worryingly, in light of the Windrush scandal, can you trust the government not to abuse this power?  People love to conflate issues and bring up their immigration stories at any chance but I believe the position is that people who are not British citizens can be deported from this country  for serious crimes, as defined by legislation.  Naturalised citizenship is apparently conditional and can potentially  be revoked.  In the Windrush scandal, the people affected were, in many cases citizens but  lacking documentation.  In a cynical bid to increase deportation figures, they were targeted when officials knew or should have known that they had a right to be in this country.

The next logical step of the hostile immigration policy, headed under ‘We Don’t Want You Here So We’ll Find Any Excuse to Get You Out’ or even ‘Getting You Out May-No-Pun-Honest win us more votes’ may be to strip people of their citizenship on the strength of being accused (admittedly in this case with pretty strong evidence) of a crime that is considered to be detrimental to national interests.  Dancing around like an idiot, painted red, in front of the American embassy, in a protest gone wrong which has now been reduced to four people  and enthusiastically shouting “Death to Trump!” – could that be deemed unacceptable enough to put someone’s citizenship in jeopardy?

But even if my mad conspiracy theories are just that, the recent exercise of power by the Home Secretary is still discriminatory.  What astounds me is the number of people of colour hailing this decision as if they have not thought of these ramifications.  In the middle of a discussion with a friend  about this matter, she announced that she was definitely going to make sure her children had dual citizenship.

I was baffled, dear readers, baffled.

Thin on the Inside

Image result for overweight and miserable

On to the more mundane.  I desperately want to lose weight.  Any loss between half a stone to a stone and a half would be gratefully accepted.

I don’t have the self-esteem issues that comes or  may come with always being fat in a society that thinks of itself as thin, but in the majority is really quite overweight.  In a way, I still think of myself as a thin person and am frequently and unpleasantly surprised at my own unprepared reflection (or photograph).  By that I mean that I often prepare myself before looking in the mirror – by strategically sucking in  my mid-section, bending my knees, swinging my hips in the opposite direction, placing my hands on my waist and slightly turning sideways, all in an effort to convince myself that ‘it’s not that bad.’  I get a bad shock when I catch myself in the mirror slumped over,  tummy rolling over crotch.  Or when I’m lying in the bath and said tummy is still a dome because there’s no doubt that I feel like a failure.

This is probably because my fat is due to failure.  I lost the ‘baby fat’ and then put it back on again.  This was all due to overeating, by the way.  There are no glandular issues, unhelpful husband or lack of opportunity to exercise – just greed and emotional eating.

There is also a race and age issue.  I am now black, nappy, middle-aged and overweight.  No one admonishes me for announcing that I’m going on a diet.  No one marvels at my figure, especially when considering my erratic eating habits.  No one argues with me about what a real black figure should look like and whether I am trying too hard to emulate Western beauty standards.  In terms of looks, I am completely unremarkable and I now realise how much of my ‘specialness’ was wrapped up in being tall, thin and constantly being told I should “consider modelling”.

I now understand that people with more than a little extra fat aren’t enviably free from worries about their weight, as I thought.  They haven’t just ‘given up’ and decided to eat what they want.  They probably start a new diet every week , just like me, and spend the entire day strategising, refusing treats, only to lose the battle at 9:52 pm with half a packet of inferior biscuits hiding behind the kids’ Haribos.  Clothes shopping is now an exercise in caution and managing expectations, instead of a naughty pleasure, as I now know that almost everything I try on will be unsatisfactory and I’ll have to settle for being able to button it up and not looking horrific.  Sadly, I’ve realised that leggings and flowing, chiffon tops are not as comfortable as they previously looked on other people and that as sizing goes up, proper fitting seems to go down.

An objectionable man who I once knew complained about the ‘real women’ Dove advert a few years ago.  Why aren’t women who work hard at their figures real, he asked, missing the point, as usual?.  I told him that women shouldn’t have to slave away their precious hours obsessively working out and dieting in order to be considered valuable and that was the purpose of the ad (I didn’t.  I muttered something significantly less coherent but I’m sure my heart was in the right place), smug in the assumption that I wasn’t one of those ‘real women’.  I chose to work out and maintain a slim figure but I was damned if I wasn’t going to fight for my larger sisters.  God, I was such an arsehole.

Ps  I still want to lose weight.  I promise to be quietly and humbly thin this time.  Any loss between half a stone to a stone and a half would be gratefully received……

7 Types of Ninjas That I Hate

Image result for evil ninja

I hate….

  1. A “what was she wearing” ninja
  2. A “it’s funny but there were actual real economic reasons for slavery” headass no-shit-Sherlock ninja
  3. A “what happened was horrible, of course,but don’t you think the Nazis were brilliant at X, Y  and Z” ninja
  4. A “Catholics aren’t real Christians anyway but the KORAN instructs Muslims to carry out jihad” ninja who couldn’t pick  a Koran out from a pile of Peter Rabbit books ninja
  5. A “Boys may have a lot of energy but little girls are just AWFUL” demonising demon ninja
  6. A “men aren’t trash but if you step into a man’s apartment (I don’t care which man) without a samurai sword, you only have yourself to blame if you are attacked” know-your-responsibilities ninja
  7. A “Oh, I’ll never remember that” ninja in relation to any non-English name regardless of how few syllables or letters the name actually has

Bonus

“Women are the worst bosses” – a ninja who has been self-employed for the last 15 years.

Worldviews Round-up: 9 September 2017: Politicians on Abortion, the Art of Criticism and Simisola the Album!

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’ and other news…

Politicians on Abortion

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’.  The most controversial was admitting that he thought abortion was wrong even in cases of rape and incest, in accordance with his Catholic faith.

His statements remind me a little of Tim Farron’s resignation from his position as leader of the Liberal Democrats earlier this year. Tim said he found it impossible to live as a Christian and lead the party. According to him, the press hounded him because of what they considered to be prejudices that inevitably flow from his evangelical Christian faith.

tf

There was some evidence of this alleged hounding. In a number of interviews he was grilled about his views on abortion and gay relationships. He wasn’t allowed to get away with saying he supports people’s freedom to do what they want to or that he voted for this or that freedom or  that it was his political views, not his personal beliefs, that were relevant to his campaign.

Nope. He was asked to state categorically whether he thought these things were wrong. He was quoted scripture and asked whether he believed and accepted the quotes. Just answer the question, Tim, do you believe in this, yes or no. Simples. Perhaps a bit too far but the silly, sad and immature part of me chuckles inside when (some) Christians decide to graciously and liberally admit something or the other is a matter of personal conviction and not state or even societal censure. To our bitter amazement, we find that our new position is not enough, times have moved on and we are now required to endorse whatever it was that we thought went against Christian teaching. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M STILL A BIGOT?!? I ALREADY SAID GAY PEOPLE WOULDN’T NECESSARILY BURN IN HELL!!!” (silent, internal screaming of course). I’m working on being a better person.

I suppose Rees-Mogg’s answer had the superficial merit of dealing with the abortion issue precisely although I note that he firmly shifted the responsibility for his response to the Catholic church and its teaching instead of his personal understanding of Christianity and the Bible.

Being a Christian, I’m not going to pretend to be shocked by Rees Mogg’s views (even though I strongly disagree with them  – let’s make that clear from the outset!).  Neither will I pretend that I’d find it easy to answer a question on abortion.  If I was asked about abortion, I’d have to say that my answer has 6 parts and I’m afraid I’d have to dogmatically insist on outlining each part in every interview.

The first is what the Bible says about abortion. Nothing, as far as I know. It does affirm the sanctity of life, starting with the commandment “Thou shalt not kill’ – but this is in the context where many many lives are taken seemingly with God’s permission or complancency (much like today but it’s more complicated than that really). There is also a strange story in the Bible of a man ejaculating outside his dead brother’s wife (while having sex with her obviously or else the story wouldn’t really be strange at all).

The second (and third) is I would describe myself as pro-choice but (apart from the obvious exceptions like health of the mother, rape etc) probably also a little anti-abortion. I absolutely do not want to live in a society where choice is taken from women but would rather they chose not to abort. I don’t think, for example, it’s wrong to speak to a woman about other options if she has asked for an abortion and wants to listen. I don’t think abortion is killing a baby; I do think that provided a certain age of the foetus – it’s ending life – or at least a tiny spark of life.

Incidentally, extreme members from both the left and right don’t think you should mention exceptions. The left think that any mention of exceptions suggests that some abortions are more deserving than others and chips away at the inalienable right to the choose and the right think that nothing justifies ‘killing a baby’ – not what happened to or what would happen to the mother. Both sides are mad.

Fourth: Abortion shouldn’t be but is politicised and I do not want to live in a world where the people who want to criminalise abortion get their way. A lot of them are largely interested in controlling women and with their constant campaigning for removing or reducing  welfare, sex education and access to contraception;  they are also mad.

Fifth: My views on ending a life involve, I must admit, a healthy dose of ignorance on my part especially the science bit. I’m very vague on this issue. I don’t for instance think taking the morning after pill is ending any sort of life. I start thinking that way when the embryo/foetus is around 6-8 weeks and has passed some kind of test in my head.

The second area of vagueness has to do with late abortions (which I understand are very much in the minority) and the brutal way it has been described. I can’t help but wonder if the foetus suffers pain. I ought to look it up but I’m afraid if I do, I will be drawn to one of the more extreme camps – probably the anti-abortion people. I think the law in the UK probably contains the right balance:

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith –

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
(b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
(d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

Yes, a foetus’ life may be important but so is the mother’s, in terms of the physical and mental effect of continuing the pregnancy. And also,  at the risk of sounding dramatic (and unoriginal),  I do think we have to question the outrage at a Western rape victim terminating a pregnancy if we are willing to accept the risk of refugee children, babies and unborn babies perishing at sea because of  immigration laws and statistics.

Finally: An analogy. Between my children, I had a miscarriage. I opted to remove the foetal matter by a D&C. So muddled was my mental state that I actually wondered if I was in fact having an abortion. I’m mad.

It became clear that the embryo/foetus was dead when I was 11 or 12 weeks pregnant. It turned out, from its size, that it had in fact died at 5-6 weeks. The reaction to my miscarriage is probably how most people would reasonably react to the termination of a pregnancy if the thorny (and very relevant) issue of choice wasn’t involved.

Even my most Christian, anti-abortionist friends (I’m not going to call them pro-life because really who isn’t pro-life?) didn’t treat me like I had lost a baby. Even the most convicted pro-choice/abortion people didn’t act like I had simply removed a bunion. There was a recognition that a huge part of my grief was about my hopes and aspirations for the pregnancy and baby. But there was also an acknowledgement that I had lost something outside of myself – the beginnings of a life or a child.

I suspect that had I had a still birth (defined as losing the foetus after 28 weeks of pregnancy) and the closer I got to term, the more  I would have been treated as if I lost a baby. And if I had lost a baby, then I guess I would have just lost a baby.

I wonder, had I chosen to terminate at the same time, say between 5 and 11 weeks of pregnancy, because of the viability or health of the foetus, would my (alright!) pro-life friends have accused me of killing a baby? I usually try to be even- handed but I can’t think of a comparable example for my pro-choice friends.

The Art of Criticism

M. I. and Osagie Alonge’s discussion on the recent Loosetalk podcast episode  has caused a bit of conversation. When I write about people, I try to imagine them reading it (even though at the moment there’s not a hope in hell…never mind) and I hope this helps me to avoid being too vicious. For me, in that episode, M.I. was a vivid reminder of the human face at the other side of every critical article or review.

mi-abaga3

So I know what I got from the discussion  but I’m still trying to understand what either party achieved, especially by airing what appeared to be an unedited version.  M.I. obviously came out better than Alonge in many respects. I don’t think there’s any need to dwell on Alonge’s sweary outbursts as I’m sure he’s still ‘conking’ himself in private about that. I did find it amusing (alright, very funny), that when M.I. started to criticise one of Ayomide Tayo’s articles, he was met with loud hysterics before he even got to line 2 of his critique.

OA

No one really likes criticism.   It’s disingenuous to pretend that despite his friendly, chilled online persona, M.I. is in reality a raving egomaniac (just) for objecting to the treatment his music has received from Pulse Magazine. Some of the same people tweeting that if M.I. cannot take criticism, then he shouldn’t release music, will either send you a snappy retort (along the lines of ‘go and write your own!’) if you disagree with their tweet or produce a long thread on how you are trying to erase the validity of their experiences and existence. No one likes criticism. It’s just that we have accepted or assumed that part of a viable music industry includes a credible music critiquing/reviewing arm.

However, I don’t agree with M.I. when he says that critics should 1) understand the difficulties he has gone through to produce a record 2) somehow pay homage, in every critique, to his or 2face’s legacy in pioneering the current Afropop/beat/hip hop movement and 3) should criticise with the objective of supporting (not ‘bringing down’) the Nigerian music industry.

All that is suspiciously close to sycophancy. Music review in Nigeria should be the same as everywhere else. It’s not easy to define but, apart from avoiding gratuitous rudeness and insults, what I expect is some expertise both of music and the market and some level of objectivity. I’m not saying a reviewer is not allowed to have an opinion of the artist but I’m a bit cautious about reviews when it is clear that the reviewer either adores, idolises or hates the artist.

Alonge is very knowledgeable and unrivalled in his passion for hip-hop (particularly African) but some of his statements about M.I. and other acts  make him sound like a deranged obsessive fan. I’m very familiar with ‘the deranged fan’ being one myself (and currently having an object of my obsessive fandom). The deranged fan has moved on from simply liking, loving or approving of the music and now wants the artist to do exactly what he or she thinks they should be doing (despite, like me and perhaps unlike Alonge, not having a clue about making music). I mean he was talking to M.I. like M.I. was losing him, personally,  money by the way he was running Chocolate City record label.

I’m also not convinced by the justification for harsh criticism which is that it is needed “to make our artists do better”. The “we love them but we just want to make them better” narrative is bit too paternalistic for me. I suspect that we don’t all really have any vested interest in making artists better as such. If we don’t think they produce good enough music, we are free to drop our opinion and spend our money elsewhere. Presumably, it was this instinct to make our artists “do better” that drove Nigerians in their hundreds to Simi’s Twitter page during the AMCVA awards earlier this year to tell her they didn’t like her dress.

Speaking of Simi, I’ve bought the album Simisola and it’s  fantastic! Now I’m off to  listen to the album obsessively until I can find something in it to write a good, long, moany article about. Have a good weekend!

simisola

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.