Killing women is a power trip


Men kill women to make them feel they can retain power in a world where all people feel disempowered.

That is just one perfectly feasible explanation of the apparent increase in fatal domestic crimes against women. There are many, many more, and they all have validity.

The big question is, what are we going to do about it and how to do so effectively?

The alarming spike in murders of women by their partners in this country has put us into a tailspin and quickened the debate on domestic violence.

Men beating up on women is nothing new. Since childhood, I have lived with tales of "crimes of passion".

In my extended family, on both paternal and maternal sides, there have been cases of men "loving too much." Back in the 1920 or 30s and 1950s, those men, one of them from a well-known white family,
shot and killed his wife.

I have no proof of its veracity, but family legend has it that since he was the only white man held at her Majesty's pleasure, and for such a crime – his wife's shameful betrayal – he was granted a royal pardon after some royal personage had visited Trinidad.

The other was a handsome fellow, but he would not have been granted any royal pardon, and had the good sense to top himself after blowing off the head of his beautiful Chinese lover, who apparently was cheating on him.

His long-suffering wife was spared, fortunately. Her burden was to bring up her very young sons single-handed. Those children became fatherless, although that may have been a blessing in disguise.

Of course, these are big family secrets and few of us still alive know of them, and those who know no longer even care to remember. But I think it is important for all of us to acknowledge these terrible truths, even if one feels shame. Right now, many families are concealing the violence that exists in their midst, But we must acknowledge that it happens, not only to others but at all levels of society and in all communities.

We must start by trying to understand fully what underpins men's inability to control their anger and their not-new desire to own a woman and fear her independence.

When I was in my mid-twenties and visiting Trinidad from abroad, I was shocked by a young male cousin who thought I was unmarried because I had been passed over, not that I had exercised choice. He warned me that because I was too skinny, too intelligent and too independent, I would not find a husband in TT either.

But he spoke more than a cultural truth; he spoke a universal truth.

There are exceptional men, but, in general, men everywhere have a hard time managing a woman's independence, success or what they perceive as their power. Women-as-property goes back millennia and the chastity belt was all about ownership and containing a woman's ultimate power to procreate for economic and inheritance reasons; it was not about virtue.

A young survivor of an abusive relationship gave witness on a television morning show last week. She was impressive in how she had reflected upon the relationship and attained a level of emotional intelligence that she articulated simply and clearly.

She made a very important observation. Abuse starts with small revelatory signs, such as wanting to know where you are going, who called you, checking out your phone calls. Then the verbal insults follow. She counselled nipping the abuse in the bud, by laying down the rules at that point and ordering that she will not be spoken to in such a way. The woman must have the courage at that point to leave.

I was later told a story by a high-powered female executive of how she had broken off a relationship after noticing that her fiancé was never present when she had had a success, but whenever she had failed, he was at her side to console her. She is now very happily married to a more balanced man, but it shows that women must learn how to spot the danger signs.

The national crisis may well be the tipping point that will hopefully serve to make us all wake up and seize the moment to pull together to make a big, immediate push at staunching the bloodletting. A lot of good work has already taken place but there must be structural changes that influence culture, and that is an ongoing process that requires self-knowledge and awareness, which we must teach our children, male and female, and inculcate in them so that we achieve a generational change in personal values.

But the problem is bigger than us, and it is urgent that in the meantime, we empower women so that they can manage relationships and save themselves. It is the only way to keep them safe while the world experiences the seismic political and societal shifts that will wreak even more havoc in personal lives.


"Killing women is a power trip"

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