As a Christmas gift, a thoughtful friend arranged for my car to be washed and polished at my home by a couple who have a lucrative side business.
On Sunday they turned up on time and efficiently got on with the job. I gave the tall, well built, confident but gentle man a cloth that is supposed to rid metal surfaces of scratches. Last January, early one Saturday morning, I had parked my car in a quiet Woodbrook/Newtown street for an hour and had come back to find the bonnet and driver’s door scored. It was not an accident. Someone had taken a sharp metal object to it. A purely malicious act.
Alas, the cloth could not help. I was told, yet again, that the scratches had cut through the paint and that the car would need repainting. It was not what I wanted to hear.
I remarked that the man who damaged the car was obviously a violent and spiteful person, to which my erstwhile service provider responded that maybe it was a woman, given the relative shallowness of the scratches. It was his guess that a man would have inflicted more damage. Women today do all the bad things men do, he asserted. There is little difference between us. There are some real bad women.
It was a casual remark, but said a lot. I half-heartedly protested and asked his girlfriend if she agreed that women were just as bad as men. No! was her own assertive reply.
It was the only time she had spoken, although she had been listening to the free tuition in where not to street-park and how to spot cameras. It turned out he was a policeman, and so I listened to the advice that if I had gone to the nearby police station the culprit would have been found.
Are women as bad as men?
Obviously, we have the same capacity for wickedness, but there has been a shattering of the idyll of the woman as a safe haven, a carer and nurturer, a mother, someone needing to be defended. Literature is littered with stories of wicked witches , but it seems the wickedness is of a new order in the eyes of men. We have lost our special status as we challenge men in every sphere of life and are deemed to have lost our unique value. We are no longer considered defenceless; rather usurpers, combatants, opponents and, even, enemies, and we better get smart.
I felt that strongly when our Commissioner of Police recently encouraged women to train in the use of firearms and advocated the use of pepper spray in order to protect ourselves from the violence that stalks us.
I do not agree with the use of firearms by anyone, as they clearly escalate violence. If there is a gun, someone will definitely get shot and it will probably be the weaker, less experienced person or the one caught unawares. A gun makes one feel erroneously secure and powerful.
I also object to the use of firearms for cultural reasons. We are no longer, if we ever were, a pioneering society where we have to defend our homesteads and animals from marauding wild animals and poison-arrowed natives. To a large extent we have imported that vision of our society from the USA, yet another unfortunate influence from the north, alas!
I grew up with my father’s rifle always being on hand in the country areas where he worked and hunted, and my relatives who own cocoa estates do have rifles that they use only when out in the deepest parts of the forest. If my brother had been carrying his weapon a few years ago he would be dead now, since the three men who came out of nowhere to attack him on his lonely way back from his land would surely have overpowered him and wrested the gun from him. There would have been no escape.
As for pepper spray, it should definitely not be available for us to keep in homes or handbags. It is a powerful weapon that could easily fall into the wrong hands, even young ones. There are good reasons why other countries do not legalise its widespread use.
How do we reset the clock? Can we salvage the situation our society has got itself into? Women are no angels, but are we really so irredeemable that we deserve the inordinate violence being meted out to us? We have a new mythology of our time that harks back to us as fallen versions of God’s Eve, to the Judaeo-Christian classification of good and bad, pure and impure, even black and white as in biblical representations of the demonic and the godly? We seem to have clutched the serpent of the Garden of Eden as our soulmate and fallen from grace in the eyes of men, or at least, some men.
Violence against women is a complicated business and it won't go away any time soon.