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Why Do We Keep Excusing Violence Against Men?

A man in Migori suffered the humiliation of getting busted having an affair on Citizen TV prime time news. He locked himself in a house with his new lover and his wife got wind of it. Unable to gain access to the room, she turned her rage on his Freelander Range Rover. The camera panned to provide live footage, inter cut with a running commentary of her tribulations as she meticulously smashed glass panes on the car. Turns out the man had been missing for a few months, abandoning his wife and children, living it up like an Armenian mercenary in Kenya. His 40 days were up. The crowd watched in solidarity as if to say, “We understand your pain sister”.

Eventually the police showed up and dragged the man and his new lover out of the house and bundled him into the back of a police Land Rover. I guess for their own safety.

As I watched the news clip, I wondered why this kind of shaming never happens to grand theft, economic embezzlers. The other men I was with in the room, blamed the victim for his foolishness. Poor bastard! As a general rule of survival, infidelity is not for amateurs and a man who ventures into the business of starting a second union before dissolving the first is playing Russian roulette with a machine gun.  Seniority has to be respected. Miss-Suzy-Come-Lately cannot enjoy the same privilege and status as the original wife, the one who stood by your scruffy behind when the hustle was real.

We never got to hear the man’s side of the story, not that anyone asked. The simplistic take-home at the end of that news feature was that men are natural born cheaters and those who get caught, get what they deserve.

Why don’t we call out women who turn violent on their partners? The ready excuse is attributed to ingrained notion of a wife’s right to revenge, by all means necessary.  In social experiments where men are physically abused in public, women and men onlookers react with amusement.

There is never any troubling underlying issues with the counter narrative of the woman on top, giving men a taste of the bitter medicine that patriarchy has served up women for centuries. The wife who sets her hubby’s prized suits on fire may be labelled, the crazy bitch but alongside that will be the undeniable rider, that she was emotionally provoked. Therefore, society is willing to let the act of criminality slide in the course of righteous revenge.

…beyond the bitter spousal blame game, what we desperately need is a new conversation on ways to survive the final disintegration of marriage in a dignified way.

Female wrath is the stuff of folklore, the Euripedea tragic heroines such as Medea who became famous representatives of oppressed women, striking back with no holds barred. They were admired for their daring and celebrated in myth as paragons of virtue.

There are probably 101 reasons to shoot an unfaithful man in the butt or hang him by his big toes off a tree with a nest of red ants, lathered in honey. In civilised society, we do not cross the line between a revenge fantasy and reality because as Lao Tzu says, Violence, even well intentioned, rebounds upon oneself.

So it is troubling when the recurring media narrative is seen to tolerate violence towards men and packages it as amusement between hard news. It is akin to endorsing the idea that male victims of spousal violence asked for it and thereby belittling their truth.

Hell hath no fury, like a woman scorned, is a morality tale for men as told by women. The scorned woman has every right to restore her honour after a betrayal. For her to rise again, some man has to feel the pain.

However, beyond the bitter spousal blame game, what we desperately need is a new conversation on ways to survive the final disintegration of marriage in a dignified way. Couples grow apart progressively, suffering in silence, maintaining appearances and living in denial until one day, someone snaps. Violence becomes the only way to get heard and it is south from then on.

Love and marriage for all our fairy-tale expectations, do not last forever. People change and grow apart. When the flames die and commitment does not deliver on its promise, viable options should be sought. Couples have to learn to exercise the right to say, “I do not love you anymore” and negotiate separation with dignity especially when children are involved.

The big puzzle of our time, alongside world peace, should be how to move on with our lives when the love dies and the trust is broken.

And, you mustn’t forget. When you are left stunned by a partner who turned out not to be the angel you thought you knew, then you were probably half awake through your entire relationship.

 

Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.

3 Comments

  1. Love this !!! “I do not love you anymore” and negotiate separation with dignity especially when children are involved…. If only more people in this country would embrace that phrase..The scenes like the one we saw would not be happening.
    Always a pleasure OP.

  2. Wachera

    Good writing OP. Violence against any human being should never be justified, excused or even tolerated. I watched that Lady bash that vehicle releasing her pent up anger and frustrations . From observation, I have seen people result to violence when they feel there is no way out of their problems.Social support system is almost a thing of the past which I feel is a much needed outfit to help couples in struggling relationships transition to a new status amicably . We are living in a society where people are ‘busy’ and no concern for others welfare in times of pain and emotional distress to offer the much needed emotional support and also help guide in peaceful dispute resolution.The result is that kind of anger and bitterness that only leads to the arms of the Law.

  3. In my opinion, matters of the home should stay behind locked doors. Unless there is a threat to safety- physical or otherwise- or a crime involved, let couples solve their issues privately. That’s what needs to be preached. Personal issues are not for the enjoyment of the world. Then again I hear it’s a sure fire way of getting a syndicated reality show. But what do I know?

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