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Male Violence through their eyes Featured

Despite it being the aim of my research, it’s a topic difficult to address. For me, it is due to the respect they instill, I’m terrified of them seeing me as a teacher who comes to give moral lessons. However, I think it is a topic that has to be talked about and addressed without fear.

The starting point to talk about violence is to not separate the public sphere from the private sphere, which means not to treat violence cases as ‘domestic’ cases that happen to some people at home and as something not to talk about, but as a consequence of men wanting to maintain their position of power and that women all over the world suffer socially.

Therefore, we started talking about who has the power. We are all clear about the answer, men. But, after one of the women said in the interview that they had more power “because they are the ones who bring the food”, I felt it was necessary to talk about how in the past male superiority was acquired by fighting wars, hunting, working, etc. But nowadays they have power because of tradition, not because of their actual situation. Since the women are the ones who work and run the household, they are the protagonists of this new reality in which both men and women work, but men still have more power.

And, once we manage to reach an agreement on it, I bring myself to talk about violence. But in order to talk about violence, first we need to talk about what we understand by violence. Women start to talk about different types of violence: taking all your money not even leaving you some for medicine is violence, hitting you is violence, forcing you to do all the housework and threatening to hit you if you don’t do it is violence, etc.

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From there, we started to look at the types of violence one by one. We started with physical violence, what it is and who is affected by it. When I ask if all men resort to violence, some answer all of them, others say the majority. One of the hardest moments was when we decided to ask the opposite: Who has experienced physical violence? And all of them started to raise their hand until one of them clarified: “all of us have experienced physical violence".

It was comforting to see how some women encouraged other women from the same tribe to talk, to not be silent, because later would be too late. I took the opportunity to tell them that the same happened in Spain, people said that these things must be solved at home, saying the phrase: “you shouldn’t wash your dirty linen in public”. I explained that only in recent years, people have started to stop accepting it as commonplace, and are starting to criticize it and take action, at least against physical violence.

The problem is that when we talk about Spain, they picture a very resourceful place with many possibilities, and it is true that, compared to their situation, it probably is. However, they find it very difficult to get out of the situation of violence in which they have to break religious, cultural, moral and economic rules in order to choose to report it and start a new life.

It was very complex to tackle the issue of sexual violence and to tell them that having sex against their will is violence, even with their husbands. It is very difficult to address this subject, in Spain people recently have started to talk about it with the No means No campaigns. I believe the fact that they hear it lays the first stone in the foundations of change. When we talk about sexuality many of them laugh and others make jokes about how to avoid having sex with their husbands when they don’t want to. In the end, they say that they have to defend themselves; when I mention that we are starting to give self-defense classes at the University, they ask me to teach them how to defend themselves. They say it while sharing jokes and knowing looks, but the step has been taken, they know it is wrong, they know their lack of power does not allow them to fight the battle right now, but they want to defend themselves in the future.

Another complex issue was economic violence. As I said at the beginning, some of them recognised the denial of their right to dispose of their own salary as a form of violence. But later, when we talked about salary, many acknowledged that their husbands have their account numbers and that they manage to hide some of the money, but not all of it. Then, they start a very interesting debate on what they should do, if it is right or wrong that their husbands know it, and how some of them manage to dispose of their own salary. The picture of this moment could not describe better what the creation of women’s support networks is.

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I could tell word for word how everything unfolded and I wouldn’t be able to transmit the power I felt in that room. Women listened to us, got the message and were willing to talk, that was a gift that will be with me for the rest of my life.

Change won’t happen overnight, change will be pole pole, brick by brick. I have no doubt that these brave women who have experienced all kinds of violence throughout their lives are resilient, they know what they have been through and they don’t want that for their daughters. This will make them pass on a different kind of values that will be a shift towards a more equal society.


Author: Ana Fernández | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Read 598 times Last modified on Saturday, 11 November 2017 18:43


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