The Coward Conspiracy
Today, I read in the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle the front page story of the domestic homicide of a Ms. Rivera. Who had apparently warned her family of the threats and violence that she had been living with for over one year prior to her murder. Many advised her to be careful and probably encouraged her to end the relationship in light of his proclivity towards violence. Headlines like these are no longer strange or uncommon. The battering of pop singer Rihanna by teen icon Chris Brown made news, but barely two month later, they are regularly seen together. Celebrities such as Oprah have made public statements, urging Rihanna to leave this toxic, and potentially life threatening relationship.
Jackson Katz, in his wonderfully provocative book "The Macho Paradox", asks why domestic violence in all of its ugly shades, is considered a "women's issue". Women are certainly the victims and their is also true that pathological co-dependent behavior with abusive men can and often does contribute to the cycle of violence. However, over 96% of all domestic violence is perpetrated by men. Focusing preventative efforts on women is practical, but akin to teaching 19th century Afircan-Americans strategies to identify and avoid racist Whites in America. Yes, there is utility in that, but it does not correct the problem.
The problem here is that we men are often cowards. I am not talking about the cowardice of hitting a women or trying to dominate someone physically smaller. I am speaking of the fear that men experience when considering confronting other men. Men head violence protection programs that target women because it is too frightening to develop programs that target violent men. Men are being socialized to be violent (look at American violence statistics and you will see that not only are we among the most violent nations on the planet, but that most violence is perpetuated by men). Peer male networks reinforce stereotypes of masculinity that includes the objectification and dehumanization of women. I know that I am being overly simplistic, but the point remains that men learn masucline ques from other men. The fact that we (men) refuse to develop male networks that speak out against violence shows our complicity with the conspiracy to "empower women" in order to divert our responsibility to be "empowered men" who influence and shape the expectations and directions of millions of our sons, brothers, cousins, classmates, church members, and neighborhood men.
The Democrat-Chronicle article focuses on the life of Ms. Rivera. My heart goes out to her family as the mourn her tragic loss. However, I would love to hear something about the man in the life of Mr. Canty, the perpetrator who would go on to take his own life. Who was talking with him. Is his father still alive? Did he have a man in his face, or better yet, touching his heart?
Lets get out of this conspiracy of cowardice. Its time that men take the responsibility to change the way men see domestic violence. This is not only a "women issue", but a "man issue". It goes deep into the meaning of manhood.
Let me know what you think. May God bless you all,
Pastor M Traylor