Our Readers' Opinions
December 22, 2006
Women feeling backlash from rejecting men’s advances

EDITOR: In this, the season of good will and cooperation, we see acts of selfishness and destruction that expose the predominant culture of greed and self-absorption, none more horrific than last week’s slaying of Stacey Wilson in little Tokyo. This barbaric act took place in full view of a shocked crowd many of them school children. It is hard to imagine anything more uncivilised or inhumane.

As if the slaughter was not extreme enough, the fact that the decapitated body lay exposed for two hours for many more to view and take pictures reflects a coldness on the part of the authorities that shows little respect for its citizens living or dead. No counselling has been offered to scores of children and adults who are now haunted by what they saw.{{more}}

It’s beyond comprehension that a man could drag a young woman off public transportation, mutilate her and then joke with those watching. And yet it happened right here among us, in the centre of our community. There have been many other incidents where a man killed or mutilated his partner/target of obsession, and sometimes their children. The main issue in these crimes is the inability to cope with rejection.

For those that don’t result in murder, many live in fear for their lives with threats and abuse. And though we seldom discuss it openly, this is a serious and widespread social problem.

But why is it that a woman’s right to choose how she lives, what she thinks and how she expresses herself presents a threat to many men? Independence, confidence in thought and action are admired and demanded in a man, yet provoke negativity and jealousy when shown by a woman.

George Lamming has written “Historical and personal evidence is abundant that all men, irrespective of their economic or racial status, hold a common belief about the subordinate role of women in their lives.”

Methods of control

The truth of this is evident on a daily basis. A woman thinking independently incurs the wrath of men in the workplace or in personal relationships. This wrath may be acted out in different ways depending on the character of the individual, some react with a bad temper or violence, some with destructive criticism, some with passive aggression becoming uncommunicative. All are methods of control, reactions against the fact that they cannot accept the woman’s basic right to develop her own way of being in the world and succeed.

But if this were all, women would not be so badly off. The situation is made much worse by the issue of sexual harassment endured by all women and girls in St Vincent. Practically every teenage girl I know has been stalked in town and harassed with sexual innuendos. The image of girls and women as sexual objects has been reinforced by many cultural practices that we consider normal – advertising campaigns, alcoholic drink advertisements, queen shows, beauty pageants, and music videos, all considered to be normal entertainment but strongly reinforce stereotypes that women’s value is in their sex appeal and less about their integrity of character. This accepted conditioning paves the way for a prejudice against women that is more damaging to the society that racism. They struggle against humiliation, being patronised, being labelled as troublesome for having independent opinions and aggressive for standing firmly behind them.

Tragically this conditioning imparts a grave injustice upon society’s women, one that requires them to work harder than a male counterpart to achieve anything, of being judged and pursued because of their looks and being denigrated if they do not conform to what men require of them.

All women know the backlash from rejecting a man’s sexual passes, of not conforming to his control tactics, but how many of us realise that women actually play a large role in creating this conditioning? It is women who accept the role given to them and it women who raise the men as sons. It is her responsibility to ensure that her son grows up respecting women. By not treating sons differently than daughters, not indulging boys when they are young, by teaching them how to communicate emotionally, by sharing and consulting, raising sons to be empathetic and understanding human beings, this is the responsibility of parenthood. By respecting ourselves as women, we can teach our sons to respect all women.

Fathers unavailable

Fathers should share this responsibility, but all too often fathers are emotionally unavailable for their children, possibly because of the same conditioning that makes them feel women should subordinate, that it is the woman’s role to raise the children. And whilst this attitude prevails, the responsibility does fall on mothers, supported or not, to provide the loving foundation of a child’s life. We have only one chance, in the early years of a child’s life to lay down the capability of that child to love, to empathise and to respect others.

Responsible parenting is not something for which a formal education is required. Some of the most compassionate and understanding men I know come from humble backgrounds, whose parents are not literate. But they have been cared for lovingly by at least one parent or guardian and brought up feeling secure.

This is something that obviously was denied Stacey’s killer who demonstrated in extreme the common belief that women must be subordinate to men. While the youth and children stood watching the exposed remains of our Vincentian daughter what was the message they received? As long as society, including those in authority continue to support and practise discrimination against women, we will see an increase of such brutality, the perpetrators living on with no remorse, and children being primed to follow their heinous example.

Vonnie Roudette