Diary of a mothering worker
DR GABRIELLE JAMELA HOSEIN
IT SEEMS an ability to identify true love will best protect women from murder. It doesn’t matter that women don’t smother or chop themselves, and that the only one responsible for their death, as a result of partner violence, is the man himself.
His responsibility for his own actions is irrelevant. It appears nowhere in the story. We focus on Mary the battered woman, and conversation becomes about her, her choices and her mistakes. In this case, her failure at one thing at which women should be best, which is love.
As Jackson Katz outlines, John kills Mary gets represented as Mary was killed by John. Mary becomes the subject and poor John becomes a passive character with no power who was merely responding to Mary’s provocation or trying to restore a lost sense of order and control or couldn’t help himself when he felt sad and angry or was the victim of Mary’s disrespect when she exercised her right to find a better man.
Then, it simply becomes Mary was killed (because of some mysterious sequence of events for which she holds responsibility). John as the problem, along with the other Johns who cause so much harm and fear that thousands of protection orders are sought each year, becomes invisible entirely. So do the social beliefs and state failures that produce them in the first place. Finally, in the public eye, Mary becomes remembered as an abused woman who got and kept herself in this situation when she should have known better.
John, who killed Mary, escapes analysis and blame. Did he have a history of violence? Did he stop her or promise to change when she tried to leave? Did he refuse advice and help? Did he stalk and harass? Did he coldly choose violence and homicide when he didn’t get his way? Why did John feel any right to so dominate another person? Did he also dominate other men or was this a sense of power he only wanted to wield over women?
Shouldn’t John have avoided getting into a relationship or left when he became violent, knowing he was putting a woman and mother he supposedly loved at risk? John chose to show his ultimate control over Mary by killing her. Is it considered a right of manhood to kill those women who men cannot control? These and other questions about domination and violence, and even masculinity, require critical spotlight on John.
Yet, public talk about women’s murder misses this mark. On Monday, an Express piece titled “Where is Susan’s killer?” interviewed Susan Ramphal’s brother. He described his sister, mother of a seven-year-old girl at the time of her death, as “unable to identify true love.” Ramphal was being compared to Neisha Cyleane Sanker.
Neisha Sankar, only 20 years old when she had her son, had been preyed on as a teenager by a violent man 15 years older who became her husband and killer. The Express story on Neisha Sankar on September 6 had drawn the quote and headline from her eulogy: “She couldn’t identify true love.” Also drawing from the eulogy, Guardian’s headline added, “Let Cyleane’s life be a lesson.”
A lesson to whom? To Mary or to John? Should some men exercise greater care and responsibility in their relationships? Should all men collectively change the masculine ideals that produce such deaths worldwide? Whose choices and behaviour are meant to improve? Our daughters or controlling men? Is the lesson that men are violent, and like the National Security Minister says, there is nothing we can do?
In a third story, the Express headline, “Fatal Love,” documented the Florida killing of 20-year-old Kiara Alleyne, mother of a one-year-old girl, at the hands of her partner and baby’s father. She too was trying to leave. Was it Mary’s love that was fatal? Or was it John’s? And, if it was ultimately John’s, is such homicidal behaviour really love at all?
From the press to the Prime Minister who infamously said, “I am not in your bedroom, I am not in your choice of men,” we must stop blaming both women and love for men’s murder of women.
Women die for loving, for standing up for themselves, for staying, for leaving, and for just being. One out of five women in TT report one experience of non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Ironically, this is predominantly male violence from men they didn’t even choose.
Make John visible and accountable when women’s murder makes news.