…a slap in my face!

This post was originally written for and appeared in The Sunday News Leisure Magazine, in the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. (Issue of 6-12 November, 2011)

I spent the last two weeks proof-reading and editing a book on marriage and had it been written by anyone other than my best friend Talema’s dad – I would not have consented.

For one thing, the book is lengthy and I have a crazy schedule without adding anything else, for another – I was certain that my views on the subject of marriage clashed completely with whatever his were (generation gap and all that).

I approached the book with a respectful attitude, prepared to keep my prejudices on a tight leash and also unwilling to contradict the author – after all he’s been a distant father figure to me for nearly 15 years.

I read the book and it left me feeling like I had been walking around with shit in my shoes.

Reverend Levy Moyo’s soon-to-be published book, The Woman in White – is a blunt, relentless and devastatingly written book – brutal in its honesty and frank in its castigation.

I did not expect to encounter such a frontal onslaught to all my ideas around marriage; never mind the fact that each chapter made me want to dig a deep hole and shove my feminism in there like some dirty secret!

The book is engaging and reads like an invasion – drawing in the reader, ruthlessly tugging, pulling and testing every idea or notion one has of marriage.

Proverbs 31: "1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. 2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? 3 Give not thy strength unto (loose) women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink..."

The book is like an armpit check; it makes you want to keep sniffing at your own life or ideas to see whether you’re the one that’s being written about and it forces you to take stock of your life.

Like a sober parent, Reverend Levy Moyo’s book spanks foolishness out of the mind; firmly asserts wisdom, discipline and the stinging slap of reality.

And here’s the twist – he wrote the book for MEN!

The woman in white is premised on Proverbs 31 in the bible and it is the Reverend’s contention that although that scripture is always quoted to women and sermons are crafted with the intention of ministering to women through it – that Chapter is a mother’s letter to her son.

It was written by a woman to her son, for her son, and in order to help her son find and marry a good woman.

Reverend Levy Moyo redirects the message back to the audience it was originally written for – men.

He points out that behind every great man there is a great woman – only that woman is not his wife; that woman is his mother!

One of the things that left me frazzled is how he demonstrated the devastating effects of verbal abuse in a manner that I have tried, unsuccessfully to express in my own writing.

Perhaps it was because I too, was of the opinion that verbal abuse was bad but not that bad; I used to compare verbal abuse to physical abuse and sub-consciously classify verbal abuse as a ‘lesser evil’.

But Reverend Levy Moyo draws an intriguing parallel between verbal abuse and The Chinese Water Torture technique.

In this one paragraph, he encapsulates the undesirability of a contentious woman.

Chinese water torture is the popular name for a method of water torture in which water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead, allegedly driving the restrained victim insane.

The Discovery Channel investigated Chinese water torture and found that dripping water on the forehead, by itself, was not particularly stressful.

Immobilizing the subject along with a variable water drop schedule proved the most stressful of the methods they tried, and cold water intensified the effect.

The key part of this is that the water drop was made to be randomly timed. Thus, the victim would not know when the next drop would come. I think there are many men that live in dread of when the nagging, yelling, shouting and quarreling will start or what will trigger it.

Some women are accomplished Chinese Torturers and some men live in perpetual torture…because what some women fail to appreciate is that they fail to the long-term consequences of short-term repetitive actions.

The mouth is hard to restrain and many men live on the receiving end of what is arguably the greatest weapon of mass destruction known to human kind – the undisciplined tongue.

As a mother to a young boy; I fervently hope my precious son does not fall into such captivity and endure a lifetime of having to put up with a Chinese torturer of a woman!

I’m keeping a copy of that book and like, Lemuel who remembered the words of his mother; may my own son remember my words as I too point out life’s endless follies.

Parting shot: “Victims were strapped down so that they could not move, and cold water was then dripped slowly on to a small area of the body. The forehead was found to be the most suitable point for this form of torture: prisoners could see each drop coming, and after long durations were gradually driven frantic as a perceived hollow would form in the centre of the forehead. Many of the people that were being tortured suffered a great deal of mental retardation.” – Wikipedia (describing Chinese Water Torture)

SHUT UP! No more violence!

A while ago, a certain woman suspected that her husband was having an affair and decided to confront him in order to lay the matter to rest.

The woman decided to enlist the aid of a female friend or relative (I don’t remember) to assist her in interrogating her husband over the allegations and so the pair took the man to task.

...if it burns you on the inside - what makes you think it won't hurt the person you say it to?

They questioned; interrogated, yelled, shouted, hurled insults; screamed at the top of their voices and generally caused a horrible racket as profanities and obscenities spewed out of their mouths.

The man decided to walk out of the room and the wife followed him pelting him with vulgar words and bludgeoning his ears with a constant stream of raw and abusive vocabulary.

He didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer.

In the face of this verbal onslaught – the man was rendered a mute, defenceless victim of the worst kind of demeaning, degrading and abusive attacks – the effects of verbal abuse have been known to render some men impotent.

He walked away because he knew that he was no match for his wife in the shouting stakes; that he was not equipped with the ability to wield his tongue as a lethal weapon to maliciously strip another person of any shred of human dignity they possessed.

That is the power of verbal abuse; the power to reduce a grown man into a dithering, cowering and fleeing fool.

As the verbal violence escalated, as the woman persisted in her attack, as the insults rained like an avalanche of blows on that man he kept walking and she kept following – then to defend himself he turned around and hit her.

Retaliating to the verbal violence through means he thought would be most effective – physical violence.

For the shredding of his sense of dignity – that man chose to attack his wife and with the rage, anger and emotion that had built up in him throughout the verbally induced assailing of his space, person and dignity – he beat her very hard.

Weeks later he was arraigned before the courts facing charges of contravening certain sections of the Domestic Violence Act; his wife was the complainant and she had a doctor’s report to back her up, some bruises and a few tears on standby should she need to invoke pity.

..words pack a punch just like a fist! Shut up if what you have to say is meant to hurt

Yet, in all fairness, she was the aggressor, she had been the attacker, she had been the violent, malicious and vengeful provoker of a man who tried everything to avoid a confrontation, including walking the hell away!

If we are to apportion blame in the incidents of violence in homes and in society – women need to bear their fair share of it because so many of them just won’t shut up when it matters most.

Some months ago a dear friend and fellow blogger, Natasha Msonza blasted the Big Brother Africa All Stars show for what she perceived as the condoning of violence against men citing the eviction of Uganda’s Hannington Kuteesa after a physical scuffle with South Africa’s Lerato Sengadi.

Although the show has ended and although this opinion Big-brother-condones-violence-against-men was made in reference to an incident that has since escaped the minds of many – this blog post has haunted me since then because it rightfully puts women in positions of culpability both in initiating and deliberately provoking violent reactions from men through verbal abuse.

To me the only; silver lining in this unpleasant discovery is the knowledge that if women can accept part of the blame for the violence that our societies are immersed in – then they can claim the right to become part of the solution.

...women have been known to turn their lips into weapons of mass (male) destruction!!

In acknowledging the blame worthiness of their own verbally abusive conduct; women can play a huge role in reducing incidents of violence and the surprising remedy is to learn to shut up unless they can communicate in a manner that does not demean, disrespect and disregard the sense of dignity of the people they are addressing.

Words hurt!

Let’s not downplay the severity of verbal abuse. Some women have perfected the vicious art of verbally undressing their men to a fine art and sometimes they actually push and keep pushing – well stop it!

Shut up! No more verbal abuse, no more verbal violence!