Mental Gymnastics

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts (or even just a few of my tweets) you probably have a pretty clear idea of where I stand on the matter of gender politics.

My stance (about which I’m not remotely shy) has earned me all sorts of supposedly derogatory names, from SJW to lesbian to – yes – the dreaded F word:

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Oh shit, I forgot to tag this post NSFW.

The one thing I’ve never been accused of being, however, is sympathetic to abusers. Never, that is, until a recent Saturday morning, when I encountered someone so determined to avoid addressing patriarchy’s widespread detrimental effects that she (yes, SHE) somehow interpreted my suggestion (that we stop teaching men that anger is the only appropriate emotion to feel and holding women responsible for what others do to them) as an effort to excuse men who abuse women.

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Say WHAT? [IMG: giphy.com]
I’m going to pause here and let you go back and read that last line again. No typos there. That’s what happened. And I have screenshots to prove it. (Good thing too, because she deleted the entire thread when her argument began to unravel.)

Before I unload these gems onto your consciousness, I want to be clear: my issue here isn’t with her. It’s with the disturbingly common school of thought that enables so many of us to pretend that every case of a woman being beaten, raped, murdered, etc. is an isolated incident. That mentality is why so many men continue to operate with impunity and it’s time for that mentality to go. So, in that spirit, let’s look at the arguments in favor of sticking our heads in the sand, shall we?

It all began with a Facebook post by a woman named Michelle Roxanne Ramdoolar for whom an irritating everyday occurrence turned into a horrifying case of road rage:

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I have identical encounters every single day, up to the point where the driver lost his mind and beat a woman, her mother and her sister because she honked her horn.

I came across this post when a good friend shared it in the hopes of getting enough attention to force a proper police investigation and tagged me because this kind of disturbing shit is right up my alley. Naturally, we ranted in the thread about having to shame the police into doing their jobs once again and how terrifying it is that this man felt empowered to brutalise her this way in the first place.

Then a true gem appeared. It read (before it was edited): “I am confused about the type of demon someone has to have for this type of behaviour smfh…”

By way of context, let me tell you that at least one of these demon posts pops up under every single local news story about violence against women. Every. One. They’re often accompanied by calls for prayer and/or a “Jesus fix it” lamentation. On this day, I’d had about enough. It may have been the fact that this could easily have been me, or the fact that I knew the woman who tagged me would be just as enraged by the implication of the post as I was, but whatever the reason, I decided to engage. The sideshow below is what followed:

On the off chance that you had to stop reading that before the absurdity melted your brain, let me give you the TL;DR of her main arguments and the obvious rebuttals:

1. Acknowledging society’s role in encouraging the toxic masculinity ideal and placing the responsibility for preventing crimes against women on women is tantamount to excusing the perpetrators of said crime.

This, is by far, the most ridiculous argument, but it’s also fairly common. Point out the link between the multitude of domestic violence cases and our culture’s worship of dangerous ideas of masculinity in any public forum and someone is bound to accuse you of trying to lay the blame for one man’s action at the feet of everyone.

Here’s the thing, though: I do, in fact, believe in personal responsibility. The man who allegedly perpetrated this crime (and all the others who allegedly perpetrated the scores of crimes before him) should absolutely be brought to justice. That, however, will do absolutely nothing to prevent the next woman from falling victim to the same fate at the hands of another man who feels the need to put her in her place.

In the last couple of weeks alone, one woman‘s mutilated body was found in a barrel floating down a river, another one was beaten to death, and yet another one was stabbed to death. Oh, and then there was the man who planassed his wife for daring to take out an order of protection against him.

There’s a little more going on here than a handful of men plagued with demons (literal or not). If we’re not willing to take a holistic look at why this tiny twin-island nation is churning out so much domestic violence at such a disturbing rate, we’re resigning ourselves to waiting for the next victim.

2. The fact that every single boy who has received these toxic messages hasn’t grown up to be an abuser proves that the messages themselves are moot.

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IMG: balancingjane.com

And coming in second in terms of ridiculousness…

Does something have to affect everyone in the exact same way for it to have a detrimental effect? Surely not. Surely the fact that boys are taught from early on that to be masculine is to be unemotional (aside from anger, of course) as well as physically and sexually aggressive is bad for every boy, whether they end up assaulting a woman or not. Surely such a lesson can manifest itself in a number of ways, including violence against women.

Surely the fact that it’s such a harmful situation is reason enough to conclude that change is necessary.

3. There are many reasons for domestic violence, including but not limited to (as she put it): “gangs or other external entities”.

There are many reasons for everything we humans do. We’re unique that way. That fact isn’t a valid excuse to ignore something that is clearly creating a fairly widespread problem, though, is it?

I struggled with writing this blog post because the arguments themselves are so ludicrous. And yet… as each new story breaks, there are a frustrating number of people twisting themselves into pretzels to explain away the problem that is sitting right in front of our faces.

We have a problem. It’s a complicated one for which a multifaceted approach is required. If that approach does not include recognition and confrontation of the dangerous messages we’re sending to our boys and girls we’re doomed before we start.

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