I know it is Women’s Month and I know that I risk the slings and arrows of sexism accusations being launched my way, but I have to point out the pink-hued elephant in the room of gender violence, which is politely being ignored by most people.
And that uncomfortable presence is, simply, this: what are women themselves doing about reducing violence against other women?
I hear the angry responses already. Women are second-class citizens (true). Society is patriarchal and dominated by men (also true). Women are physically weaker than men (definitely true).
Against this “woman as victim” mentality, let me ask one simple question: who raises these men-monsters?
Think about it. Most boys are brought up by women. In this country, fathers are conspicuous by their absence.
Sowing a seed is a hell of a lot easier than hanging around while it grows. And, even in families where there is a father present, a mother is still a huge influence. She is the first object a baby encounters in the world; the reason why that baby survives. That powerful bonding force – or potential for it – should never be ignored when it comes to child-rearing.
So, why are the vast majority of our mothers not instilling in their young men a basic respect for women?
The Jesuit brothers in the Catholic Church say that, if they have a child for the first seven years of its life, it will remain a Catholic for the rest of it. That is certainly steely indoctrination, but it also underlines that what is learned in the formative years remains part of one’s character.
That’s why mothers (whatever their circumstances) have such heavy responsibilities (and opportunity).
In my family, my mother was a strong, take-no-kak-from-a-man type of woman. She let my father know that the first time he hit her, it would be the last. He never did. She made the point over and over to me that boys do not hit girls and men do not hit women.
I once lost my temper when I went to my Irish girlfriend’s flat and found she was out drinking with some other guy.
My anger flared and I punched a hole in a door. The pain in my hand was less of a shock than of seeing the creature who had suddenly taken me over.
And the shame of allowing my temper to degenerate into violence made me realise I was breaking that moral code my mother had infused in me. By her example – of being an intelligent woman running an office full of lazy, dof white men – she also instilled in me the realisation that women are quite capable of being as clever as men and doing the same jobs as them.
For many years, too, she earned the most money in the house (my father was a barman) so I do not find it odd or offensive that a woman can earn more than me.
We never discussed relationships or sex in our house but, again, I instinctively knew it is all about equality.
I still cannot fathom how a man can force himself on a woman if she is clearly repulsed by him.
As Teddy Pendergrass sang: It’s so good loving somebody and that somebody loves you back … If you’re not teaching your sons this, mothers, then maybe you’re part of the problem…