When my son was one year old, he decided he had enough with us shovelling food down his throat. He pried the spoon from me and insisted on using his motor skills. He picked up a bunch of noodles in his chubby little hands and watched in fascination as they wiggled like little worms and slid off his fingers. Then he must have decided to feed the carpet – that lovely beige thing that always fascinated him with its cornucopia of dust and hair – because that’s where the remaining noodles that he flung landed.
It’s a cute memory. We recite this story and laugh over it.
Let’s imagine him as a middle-aged man (with all mental faculties intact )doing the food flinging act ,food which … let’s say his wife prepared. The same act will no longer be called cute. It will be called domestic violence. It won’t be a memory that can be laughed over….ever.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) . Are you aware of what constitutes domestic violence?
Have you ever thrown objects on the floor in anger, in front of your spouse /or someone who were angry with? Remotes, cellphones, paper-weights, plates, cups……whatever you can get you hand on? It may not have landed on a person and “hurt” them- but did you know that it’s still called Domestic violence? It’s called “destruction of property” and it’s a form of psychological abuse according to the United states department justice: http://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence.
The website called Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/) uses a diagram called the Power & Control Wheel to describe most accurately what occurs in an abusive relationship. The below text is from their website provided above:
Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.
Out of these 8 areas – how many areas have you actively dabbled in? Whether you are a man or a woman, It’s important to look at these behaviours and see not only who has victimized you but to also see if you engage in any of these actions.
I’m guilty of one thing…. Please don’t start imagining me mounting my spouse on a crucifix …whipping him with a stick ……although I have done something close to that ,according to my in-laws , by asking their son to take out the garbage.
Many of us Indian women are already “victims” of “male privilege” type domestic abuse and this is not exactly a secret…it is one that we have experienced publicly, along with several of our fellow compatriots who are in the same proverbial boat. But here’s the issue – everyone including me , do not recognize that as an abuse. We expect it , are prepared for it all our young lives and accept it because it’s our “culture” . A wife “Being treated like a servant” would not raise any eyebrows in our Indian “culture”. Some people may even look down on him if he treats his wife nicely and as an equal and doesn’t exercise his male privilege. In some cases , they may be pressured- directly or indirectly – to subordinate the wife and become the “master of the castle”, by their own parent(s).
It is difficult for this average (I say average because some Indian males have evolved and I commend them for that) Indian male to see himself painted as a domestic abuser because this is how he was raised to act. He is only following social conventions….Parental guidance….walking in the footsteps of his forefathers ,like sheep. No one has told him that this is wrong. Until now. If you have read this , you no longer have an excuse. You have a choice: to change for the better.
It’s not an easy choice. For some it’s to choose between being a disobedient son and being a better human being. That’s major conflict, I tell you . Like how the legend goes that Parashurama had to choose between being an obedient son and a murderer when his father asked him to behead his mother. (More on the legend: http://www.speakingtree.in/blog/why-did-parashuram-kill-his-mother )
But being aware of what is considered a negative behaviour is an important first step in changing negative patterns – in cleaning up our culture. As human beings we are endowed with a capacity to learn and evolve. Culture need not be static either – it can grow – it needs to evolve. So my question to you is : are you capable of evolution? If you are man, are you ready to forgo ‘male privilege” ? Are you willing to transcend the barriers of gender and look at everyone as human beings equal to you?
Note: I have only written on a mild form of abuse that a segment of the world’s population experiences. I know that that there are much more harsher abuses that go on that impact both men and women and this post does not address that – simply because I don’t find myself qualified to talk about it . Another reason is that I believe the fundamental root cause of domestic violence (against women) is male privilege- that is sanctioned by “culture” and that if we change that mind-set we can curb domestic violence in its infancy.