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A licence for violence?

Women’s month is a good time for us guys to strike back at that part of the women’s movement that says it is acceptable for women to slap men who have made them sufficiently angry.

For a society striving for less violence, it is amazing how blasé we are about women smacking men who arrive late, cheat on them or generally behave like assholes. There is no gainsaying that it is wrong for men to behave as such. But, equally, it is wrong for women to behave in that fashion.

Saying that men who get drinks spilt in their pants or glasses of wine thrown in their faces probably deserve it is the most hypocrital line any woman could utter. The same women who shout ‘go-girl” when their kin behave like louts would not want to rationalise that a man murders his spouse because she is cheating on him. They will, rightly, say he should divorce her and move on. The same should happen when women do not like the fact that their beau is constantly late or just not living up to expectations.

Even among men, there is a rising level of consciousness that looks down on their kind who beat up or rape women. These men brook no excuse for men behaving badly. The numbers of men’s organisations taking to the streets in protest against the scourge testifies to this.

Sure, there is a difference between throwing pie in someone’s face and pumping bullets through his skull. But violence begets violence and if your victim does not seem to grasp the message you are trying to convey, why not up the ante until you are ‘heard”.

After all, our own struggle history taught us that if blowing electric pylons did not make people change, then shooting a church full of congregants just might. It may sound alarmist, but chickens have a knack of coming home to roost.

Activists have constantly called for the levels of violence on TV to be reduced because they don’t want this behaviour as a model of arbitration being ingrained in their children’s psyches. Similarly, men are reminded that as members of the most rational of species, they cannot stoop to the base levels of animals in the resolution of disputes. But, for some reason, our daughters grow up watching violent women on TV lay it on hapless men.

In a society where black people are continually being asked to assimilate white, Western and Eurocentric ideals, black people who have not been schooled in the art of turning the other cheek are frowned upon as uncivilised.

People such as Chicco Twala, the musician-turned-soccer club owner and then musician again, make headlines because they had the temerity to smack a woman (former Sundowns boss Natasha Tsichlas). Although everyone who witnessed the incident agreed that Tsichlas slapped Twala first, they were appalled that Twala had actually retaliated.

Twala, born and raised in Soweto, probably comes from a culture where ‘men are men” and the worst impudence is when a woman raises her hand to a man. That does not justify him slapping a woman, but neither does being a woman give Tsichlas licence to behave in such a brutish manner. We are told that if a woman slaps us, we must grin and bear it. Imagine such double standard.

The Twala-Tsichlas incident is used here not because it is unique, but because it shows the duplicity inherent in the gender discourse in the country and the refusal to look at the socialisation of behaviour.

There is sufficient consensus that men who batter women are not cool. But women who smack men silly or throw drinks at them are ‘heroes” in certain sections of the women’s movement, which understands gender bashing to be a synonym for wife-beating.

As much as it is wrong for men to think that women were created with the intention of being punch bags, it is not any sexier when the one doing the slapping is a woman.

As we celebrate the great strides women have made, we should ask why then do they accept that which is the lowest form of our being: using might to register their point.

Having succeeded in placing violence against women and children in its rightful place in society, it is time to tell TV and movie producers that violence is ugly, regardless of who perpetrates it.

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