The defaming of women and the way they handle the abuse they suffer at the hands of men has remained unchanged for millennia. Yet, women have always made excuses for men. Even in the most horrendous circumstances, some women who has been beaten and/or raped or emotionally abused by her partner or husband will often attempt to exonerate him by uttering these chilling words:
“He didn’t mean it. I’m sure he loves me, really…”
Why do women do this? Why do men expect it? In the past, little girls learned that placating an angry brother, father or uncle was better than receiving a sexual abuse, a punch or a kick or a mouthful of abusive language. Today, girls are more willing to physically protect themselves in such a scenario, giving as good as they get, but females have always preferred to use words as a weapon and for this they have suffered immeasurable contempt and even been burnt at the stake.
This phrase: ‘You always had too much to say for yourself!’ is one many women have heard when they have tried, using only words, to stand up to a violent man. It usually comes before a smack in the mouth. This might sound facetious, and I am aware that this is a subject that should not be made into any kind of joke because isn’t that what abusive men do when they look for ways to belittle and emotionally abuse women? Turn them in something laughable? Literature is peppered with the denigration of women using humour. Seaside postcards, porn, page 3 in the tabloids, internet sites – the list is endless. We have become so used to it; we barely notice how much women are the butt of abusive humour. We excuse it and laugh at it; boys will be boys…
Girls might learn to deal with verbal abuse by male relatives by transmitting their hidden anger onto other females. So mothers and grandmothers can be in the firing line of their daughters and granddaughters as these hurt young women try to control abusive male adults by attacking verbally any female relative, using disrespectful and abusive language, which by rights should have been directed at the male abuser, but that is a dangerous strategy. Much safer to attack a woman you are sure loves you, and so the circle is complete.
Young women use other ways to maintain control over men; they abuse their own bodies by not eating, by neglect, by self-harm. And do men acknowledge this? Some do. Some don’t. Some are ambivalent, too vain or emotionally rigid, damaged or stubborn to see what is under their noses. Some men simply don’t get women. Why is this?
What do we do to boy babies, born innocent of any knowledge of abuse in its many and varied forms? Is this all the fault of bad mothering? Many would have you believe it is, and so women carry the burden of guilt. Do they? There is a phrase: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ What that means is that each new baby develops a personality through experience, through meetings with all sorts of different people, in many places and situations. Yet, boy children are still conditioned, even today, to want toys built for what manufacturers consider are appropriately masculine: guns, cars, tractors etc. But girls like those things, too, don’t they? But, what mother of a girl child hasn’t inadvertently or deliberately made some comment about ‘nice’ dolls, lovely bead games, pretty things specially made for little girls?
This puts girls at a disadvantage from the start of their lives. They are subtly taught to be soft, gentle princesses, despite the role models out there; women who have done incredible things in the fields of art, science and technology. We have just had a female Prime Minister in the UK, who lasted a shorter time in her job than a lettuce. I have to say that she, and her contemporaries who all suffered abuse in one way or another at the hands of colleagues, played into the hands of male critics of them, as women. To me, these women in their powerful roles as leaders seemed torn between exposing their femininity by their dress and demeaner and despite harsh language they use at Parliamentary Questions, trying to emulate the men. So, what should they do? The whole issue of what it is to be a woman is being debated. We are even being asked to question our right to use the term ‘woman’ as we might offend someone who is transitioning from male to female. Is this just another way of taking our voices away from us?
It seems that all women, whatever their status, have the female disease: appease the boys and make excuses for their bad behaviour. Politics is abusive by nature. Is it not thrilling to see a woman vanquished, demoted, desecrated by a load of braying men in government? Isn’t she getting what she deserves? After all, she did have quite a lot to say for herself, didn’t she?
My film, THE LOST CHILD looks at the abuse of two women: a wife and daughter. The man in their life is suffering from a mental illness, which is not his fault. But in the film, we see the story through the eyes of a girl child, from babyhood to the age of sixteen. Her last words are: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been a child…’
The chaos she experiences because his illness was not treated quickly enough impacts on her development and down the generations. That’s what happens when abuse happens. The excuse may be a devastating illness or something less obvious, but women and society will be affected by what happens behind closed doors and the fallout unwittingly escapes into the world.
We are all tainted by abuse, whatever the cause and in an increasingly abusive world, we have to find peaceful ways to eliminate it. Or is that just fantasy?
THE LOST CHILD film is on YouTube. https://youtu.be/HTYBS27zqfg