On Naming Male Violence and Conquering Fear. (CN)

Let’s name the problem: the problem is patriarchy. It is patriarchy which enables, perpetuates and encourages male violence. Over eons, woven through systems political and religious, and whilst sometimes having to give a little ground in order to otherwise resiliently maintain the status quo, it has woven into our cultures, our systems and our communities the entrenched idea that men will always, and can only ever be expected, to ‘give in’ to the dictates of his primal, masculine, violent nature. And most especially of all, in terms of his sexual desires and appetites. 

It’s how White Supremacy took back the White House.

At every occurrence of male violence (in all its forms), society draws on a constant stream of excuses and justifications, and they are repeated ad nauseam –  as an unthinking reflex, because essentially it is: we have been taught to provide the patriarchy with excuses, even trained to perform what is needed so that those who benefit the most from patriarchy, can thrive accordingly.

It’s why all of those excuses blame the victim.

And women over hundreds of years have heard every conceivable variation, in all its forms, of those ‘reasons’, which are excuses. And we internalised all of that.

When you live under a patriarchal structure, you internalise the oppression: and we examine more, or less, of that internalised patriarchy, depending upon our ability to survive it.

 

It was the patriarchy’s choice.

It wasn’t a red mist, or a *loss* of control when he punched and hit out. It was control he was exerting, not losing.

It was his choice.

It wasn’t anything you did, or did not do; or said, or did not say; or wore, or any other  single thing about you.

It was his choice.

He didn’t do it because he felt overcome. He did it because it gave him dominance.

It was his choice.

And he didn’t do it because he had a penis.

He did it because he chose to.

And that was not *your* fault. It was his choice. It was his fault. He chose. And he chose it, because the patriarchy wants him to have those choices.

 

He didn’t do it because he had a penis. A penis is just.. muscle, tissue, blood, nerve endings, skin. A penis doesn’t choose.

We want justice – so we have to start overcoming some of our fear. A penis is just… muscle, tissue, blood, nerve endings, skin. Blaming that won’t give us justice.

Because I want him to take responsibility for his choices. All of them. Because that’s justice. Because they said it was our fault. And it wasn’t. It was theirs.

I want justice.

I want that for my children, for my sons and daughters and my children who are exploring which of those they are; I want that for for my sisters, my brothers, for my ancestors; I want that for a future I will never be a part of.

We dream of building a world where we are safe, free, and have nothing to fear from a man’s choices. 

I know we’ve been taught to make excuses. We’ve been taught to blame ourselves. We’ve been taught to feel sorry, to forgive, and have pity, but not to expect justice. 

Patriarchy is a choice.

It needs to be binary to survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Between A Rock and a Hard Place 2: The Gendered Language of God – Speaking Into The Silenced Pain

Henry_Ossawa_Tanneran_Annunciation

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

God as Mother: She is revealed as such throughout both the Old and New Testament – Her Mother’s love is nurturing and guiding and She is tender in her ministrations as She feeds and comforts Her children. But Her love is not quiet or submissive; indeed it is a love that is roused to ferocious anger in defence of her children, and is as powerfully protective as Mother as it is as Father.

God is She and She is mighty, and she has laboured mightily indeed.

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So often, the mark of the abused is silence – silenced imposed, by the abuser; by a society structured to support the abuser, and by the secretive manner in which abuse is perpetrated. Silence is also internalized: when the abuser is the one with the power, the hope of being heard – of being believed – is as fragile as flame in the path of a tornado, and it is easy for the abuser to manipulate that.

Society enables those who abuse, not simply in upholding the patriarchal, colonial, binary structures which controls human beings and denies them autonomy and voice if they do not conform to the norms imposed. There is a powerful undercurrent of arrogance too: we mock cultures and religions that demand of victims that they produce witnesses to their abuse, because we know very well that it is the secret nature of abuse which protects the perpetrators – yet we too quickly dismiss those who speak up, claiming the word of the victim is not evidence enough.

We paint a picture of abusers as cartoon-like monsters, unable (or unwilling) to comprehend that they are ordinary people living otherwise ordinary lives: when these ordinary people are revealed, rationalisations and justifications then abound. Cloak upon cloak is layered over the abuser, silence upon silence is heaped upon the abused. The innocent become the accused, and myth takes the place of truth.

The Church, with its dominant structural patriarchy and language, repeatedly makes the same mistakes: the focus on the abuser and the lazy theologies fall prey to ‘we are all sinners’, giving rise to a culture that blames the victims because the abuser ‘couldn’t control’ themselves; over and over again, the abuse is minimised (or worse, swept under the carpet) as reputations are prioritised before the victims.

Justice, which should roll down like a river, is stoppered at its source, and the communities of those who are already the most vulnerable and marginalized are silenced by the deafness of those who have not ears to listen; their wounds are left untended and their tears left unheeded.

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Make no mistake – the inability of the Church to confront the systemic culture that leads to this debilitating and ever decreasing spiral will not, in and of itself, be solved simply by confronting the reality that God is revealed as Mother as well as Father. Culture and attitudes do not change over night.

But changing the language we use – the language of prayer, the liturgical language that dominates the rhythms of the daily life of the Church – will help to create a space in which both the silenced can speak and be heard, and the reflection and prayer can start to move and evolve thoughts and – by consequence – actions.

The voices of straight white men dominate in the Church – a Church which fails to recognise abuse, fails to stop it, fails to protect the abused – but succeeds in protecting the abuser.  But God is not only a straight white man.

God is the terrified child being abused, whose abuse is photographed for the gratification of others; God is the black transgender woman who was murdered for being black and transgender; God is the woman who shakes when you touch her, because her husband or father beat her all the time; God is that gender fluid, bi-sexual person who asks you to respect their pronouns, and are weary to the bone of the endless mocking they get for being themselves. God is the girl with the ‘troubled’ past who wasn’t believed when she said that ‘nice’ man was abusing her, whose past was measured against that ‘nice’ man and found her wanting.

We need a church where a victim can speak up and the church will say ‘I believe you’. We need a faith to which creates a space that will provide the abused and oppressed with the liberation and redemption promised to them. We need a church that remembers that Christ condemned those who abuse children. We need a church that remembers its calling is not to protect the powerful, but the weak.

We need a revolution.

Our Mother in Heaven

Hallowed be your name…..

Dear William Hague: about that ‘Gender Justice’ T-Shirt… An Open Letter to @WilliamJHague

Dear Mr Hague

I was watching Channel 4 News the other night as I was eating my tea, and I was interested to see the coverage of your recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with Angelia Jolie, part your commitment to make tackling war zone rape a G8 priority.

You know the figures better than I, I am sure. The 400,000 women and girls raped in Rwanda; the 200,000 in the Congo, 50,000 in Bosnia and 64,000 in Sierra Leone. On their own these figures fail to convey the horror, trauma, devastation and brutality of war zone rape or the generations of women for whom life is made a shattered, fragmented nightmare.

You’ve pledged money to this, which is brilliant, because money talks so I can be pretty confident that you are taking this seriously. That money, I know, will help those on the ground – including those who are doing what they can to help these women piece together their shattered lives.

I think it was when I saw you wearing the ‘Gender Justice’ t-shirt that I wondered if you might consider applying that same commitment to gender justice right here in the UK. The 2011 CPS report on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) showed a 38% rise from 2006/7 to 2010-11 in prosecutions of rape and domestic violence cases: up from 68,930 (of reported incidents) to 95, 257 (of reported incidents).  It is, of course, a positive thing that the CPS are taking more of these cases seriously: in a culture where victims of rape and sexual assaults are so often blamed, the further CPS report on the rarity of false rape accusations I hope will go some way (as Keir Starmer said) to dispel the ‘damaging myths and stereotypes’ that make reporting rape so difficult for victims in this country.

Services here in the UK which support women and girls who have endured rape and domestic violence have, however, come under serious threat recently. Between 2010 and 2012, 31% of local government funding to VAWG services was cut – and when taken in the context of the overall local authority budget cuts of 27%, that’s staggering.  Womens Aid report turning away 230 women in 2011 due to lack of resources, and there is every indication that this number will increase.

Those few figures on their own do nothing to convey the reality on the ground for the women and girls affected: who, when at their most vulnerable, are left without the proper professional support they need to begin to heal from rape and violence.

It is impossible to convey to you what it feels like to be raped: to be so utterly invaded, to be abused in a way that so strips you of your value and identity. It is hard to describe what it is like to feel so isolated, and so ashamed. So I am not sure I can convey how important it is to have that help, and those services, there.

Gender justice is needed everywhere. It is needed here in the UK too.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Mr Hague.

Yours sincerely

Ali.