“What about the men?”
What about them?
I grew up in a rural area, and every woman I knew there was stuck in the same life. They’re all trapped in abusive marriages, unwilling to face just how scared they were of their husbands because it hurt too much to acknowledge, but it was present in their behaviours, in nervous smiles and clean houses and overly welcome meals and overwhelming loneliness they went thru. I heard stories of a woman who would run away during the night and spend the night in the forest because she was too scared her husband would kill her. Next morning, she had to go back, fix him breakfast, because there was nowhere else for her to go, her parents dead, her relatives unsympathetic to her suffering. They knew, but they shrugged and decided it’s just how life is like. I’ve heard about a woman running away to a female neighbour, and then being forced to go back because of her children, she couldn’t leave them. I was told she was so scared she only packed a few kitchen rugs.
I’ve seen women work a job and handle entire household, and that is with animals and garden and children and cooking, and in the evening when they were exhausted they would sit down and get yelled at for having the nerve to watch what they liked on tv, because husband wanted to watch something else. I’ve heard them listen over and over how they weren’t good enogh, weren’t doing things the right way, their meals weren’t perfect enough, their shape wasn’t desirable enough. I heard them try talking back, only to be met with violence. Nobody would be on her side even if they tried to talk about what was done to them, so they shut up. They pretend they picked a better husband. They feel ashamed and guilty because it must be their fault. They don’t realize all husbands are just as bad, as long as they have the power.
When we visit another household I see the wife doing all preparations and welcoming, making sure all the guests are satisfied and full and pleased and entertained, even the ones they don’t know, even the ones who are only there for the husband. Husbands are there to get attention from the guests, to be admired and brag about all their accomplishments. Wives are told to get more beer.
I’ve heard about a 14 year old girl in my primary school who was locked in a toilet and forced into a blowjob so violently she ended up in a hospital. I heard men talking about it. Laughing. Commenting on how “she went a bit too far” and writing it off as completely her fault. “Every girl has done it, you have to try it too” they repeated the words of the rapist, laughing smugly. They knew him. They seemed to be proud of him. The girl should have been ashamed for allowing it, for allowing herself to be locked in a toilet and raped. I never learned her name. But after hearing that, I knew I would never admit to anyone there I was raped when I was 7. On top of that to be publically humiliated and have people talk about as if it was all my fault? I was nothing but terrified that anyone would find out. I avoided the school toilets for months.
I’ve heard women pass on tips on how to react when a man is angry, how to pacify him before something happens. Rest of their conversations were about cooking and decorating and they didn’t seem to have enough time or privacy or courage or trust between themselves to talk about how they felt or what they were going thru. My mom once started talking about a case of domestic violence with her friend in the living room, and her husband yelled at her and kicked them both out of the house for daring to voice such a topic. She wasn’t to speak of such things in front of others. I was told not to repeat anywhere things I heard at home. Things he said to her. Things he said to me.
I had my door broken open by his kicks when I was trying to get away from him. He tore the phone out of my hands and smashed it in pieces. Threatened to kill me and started to break my posessions. I ran away to a female neighbour, and took her phone in my hand, wanting to call the police. She took it away from me. “I’ve called before and I know who’d answer your call”, she says. “That man is the same, he does the same thing to his wife and children.” I don’t want to believe her, but I know in my heart it’s true. If I call, I will have two men against me, and not only one. Men stand on men’s side. I put the phone away. There’s no help.
I come to the city, and everyone is proud of being in a state of progress. But the women I know tell me what’s going on. They tell me about their husbands who threw something at them. Who threatened to crash a car with her in it just to scare them. Who fail to do any housework and then accuse women of not doing enough, even tho they both have a job too. Who just somehow can’t seem to control their temper. Who change after beginning of marriage. Who expect constant praise but refuse to even look at her. They tell me how hard it is being married. How unwated, lonely, rejected, ugly and worthless they feel. I hear yelling every few weeks from the flat above. He’s angry, she’s trying to defend herself, a child is crying, terrified. I look up the statistic and in my country about 40 women yearly are killed by their male partner. I’m scared I’ll find out she’s dead too.
So, what about the men? I see them outside, they’re grouping up and laughing about the game and complaining about their wives, passing on advice on how to “make them obey”, what to tell them, how to trick them into getting more. They bond over how much they hate us. I see them getting out of their jobs early and organizing barbecues and parties, spending time in cafes and bars, drinking to their heart’s content. I see them relaxed, thinking up how to have more fun, how to humiliate someone, how to trick someone, how to get more amusement out of life. I see them ordering women around as if they’re servants and maids, and demanding better even when women are sick, exhausted, grieving and scared. I end up catching glimpses of porn as they don’t even try to hide it anymore, laughing as they enjoy seeing women teared up and violated in every possible way. I hear them joking in the car how ridiculous it is that you can get jailed for beating up their wife. They avoided being caught and they’re laughing about that too. I don’t get into that car anymore.
“We’re the ones who actually have to work!” they say. I haven’t seen my mom resting in years. I haven’t stopped working at home since I was 6. I’ve been told over and over how men have it tough because they have to work tougher jobs, they have to provide, they’re responsible for their families. I haven’t seen them take their work more seriously than they have to, I haven’t seen them lacking in praise or acknowledgment or money. They’re nowhere to be found when there’s heavy bags to carry, when someone needs to be taken to the doctor, when firewood needs to be restocked, when my sister in the wheelchair needs to be lifted, when heavy physical labour is required. I’m there for all of that. I was spending weekends working in fields, scrubbing the stairs and caring for the animals, alongside other women, while boys my age were partying and chattering excitedly about the newest video games in brand new white sneakers. How did they earn those, I wonder. I go back to work. I haven’t earned anything yet. No matter how exhausted I got.
So what about the men? What about their problems? Who is going to tell me that women struggling to keep their bare lives should focus on anything else but themselves? Who’s going to tell me to focus on how men have to earn money as they use that very money to blackmail and financially trap women into doing three times more labour for them for free? Who is going to tell me that women have it better? Who is going to tell me to shut up and to not care about my life and life of every woman I ever met, and to forget all their pain and trauma, all their labour and abuse they suffered? Who’s going to tell me that all of them living in fear and pain is insignificant in comparison to problems of men?
I’m only from a small, small place, but there are rural areas like this all over my country, all over the world. So many women having their life reduced to nothing but convenience of men. So many young girls get sexually abused before they even start high school. I don’t even know what to start doing to help them. They’ve already been learning all their lives that this is what life is like, for women. That it’s only right. That they have to go thru it all if they want to live. That it’s their fault for not being enough. That they should have been better wives. I don’t even know how to start telling them they deserve better. That it’s not fair. That they’ve been lied to. That their pain is real. That they’re not crazy. That they didn’t overreact. That the system is turned against them all.
The more women are oppressed, the more men benefit from it. Situation did not reverse from this, not anywhere in the world. There is nowhere where men are being terrified, beaten, raped and killed by women. Men don’t have entire lives of brainwashing that they only exist as women’s property, and that their only sense is to serve and please them. They aren’t forced to choose between marriage and being a reject from society and living in poverty and homelessnes. It varies in degree, but men are always taking from women and giving to themselves, weather it be confidence, money, credit for accomplishments, ownership of their bodies, awareness of their value and rights, psychological health, body autonomy, reproductive rights, sexual freedom, culture, humanity, emotional labor, skills, creativity, even language and right and wrong are defined by men. Women get villanized and accused of being oppressive just by fighting to keep their rights, just by trying to disallow men to take everything from them, just for insisting they’re human beings as well. But the truth is there, it’s written in our hearts and our minds and our bodies, we were born whole and then we were taken apart into little pieces which someone else wanted to use.