Friday, November 27, 2009

I have XY chromosomes, too.

I wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt her. She was just part of the haphazard crowd we knew then. Brought together under trying circumstances and made to co-labour under the watchful eye of the overseer. We’d get hopelessly absorbed in the minutiae of the mundane and puerile tasks invented to keep us sane, and escape like migrating ungulates during the short period of fresh air allotted to us. There was no seething discontent, no fermenting malevolence. As quickly as the sun is eclipsed by the moon, my sense of moral value slipped into shadow.

She was perfect, in almost every way, and in the surge of violence that rose through my veins, I hated her and wanted to destroy her. For no reason other than that she was in competition with me, she challenged my emerging manhood. The room, its’ institutionalized nature confirmed in grey paint, was too small for both of us. Life and lives can change in an instant. Mine did. 34 years on, I can remember the meaningless bloated feeling of pride as I destroyed her. I took her carefully crayoned picture with the painstakingly curved name written underneath, and tore it up; she’d created something more beautiful than I. I was caught- violence against women is sometimes an immature response to emotion, and so, ill-concealed, and duly punished. I have never forgotten or repeated this kind of aggression to a woman.

You could read this and think I am taking the piss, but I am not. Violence against women starts at age four, or five, like this. It grows and metastasizes, and becomes an all-consuming force, which finds release in adulthood. I was a child. I tore up a girl’s picture in the first grade. I could have cultivated that and become like other men, my brother men, whose violence was nurtured in classrooms just like mine. Some men do not develop control mechanisms. Some men are raw emotion, shambling children who respond to life as ids- Life for them is about food, sex and satisfaction. I am barely better.

So. I will respect women. I will teach my sons to do it, too. I’ll teach my daughter to demand it. The most important lessons learned in school are often not the ones graded in black (or swathes of red, in my case), but the ones you carry with you beyond the ‘I can drink smoke get a job be a grown-up’ day of graduation

Watch your children. They learn, they absorb. They are the ones whose ley lines are still malleable, whose continents and oceans have yet to settle.

*16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is a United Nations campaign. It takes place annually from the 25th November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to the 10th December (International Human Rights Day). Since 1999 the South African Government has run a parallel campaign that includes issues relating to violence against children. This campaign focuses primarily on generating an increased awareness of the negative impact of violence on women and children as well as society as a whole.


  1. Love this post. You are so right! Violence and abuse starts from early on and it is reinforced or not as the children grow older!

    It all begins with us!

  2. @Laura- yeah, I think so- thanks for your vote of confidence :)

  3. I like the bit... "I’ll teach my daughter to demand it"

  4. Very well written and so true...
    Children learn from an early age, I will certainly make sure my son knows how to respect women!

  5. @GvdieS: Assertiveness is not just a random skill in a daughter, it's a necessity. IMHO.
    @gnati: I hope he grows up to make you swell with pride.

  6. I do hope I've taught my knucklehead to respect the women in his life...


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