“What Is It?” Part 2

Is it a headdesk?—is it a facepalm?—is it a handcheek? Heck, I don’t know what it is this time. You decide.
– [Read Part 1]
Double Facepalm Diasporadical

I should have just walked out. Except I couldn’t. I was going crazy wondering how much crazier this bunch of people could get. I had to know. So I opened my mouth. Again.

‘But these men who beat up women…what exactly is their problem?’ I asked.

The response was immediate. A dude that has never been bothered to maintain eye contact with the likes of me looked up and glared at me.

‘The problem isn’t ours,’ he clarified. ‘It’s yours. Sometimes you women lack discipline. Every now and then, it becomes necessary to put you in your place.’

I sat there trying to remember when I’d last heard the word ‘discipline’ used with such an tone. Sometime in secondary school, perhaps?

‘And which place is this?!’ a woman that had miraculously began to hiss asked.

‘Yeah. Which place is this? I have a six year old son and I don’t beat him,’ Betty offered. ‘I’m an adult. Why should you discipline me like a child? Can’t we sit down and talk about whatever is bothering you like civilized people?’

‘Know your place in the home and no harm shall come to you,’ another guy added. He might as well have been a pastor berating a few errant members of his flock.

‘When you make more money than your husband, you think you have earned the right to step on his head?’ another guy asked.

‘For heaven’s sake, everything is not about money! Why are you always making it about the money?’ Betty asked.

‘Also,’ the first guy said, as if he hadn’t heard the question, ‘it gets to a point when you just can’t reason with a woman…there are some things women can never be rational about.’

‘So that makes it okay for you to kill her, right? Because she’s being irrational?’

Everyone turned to look at me. So I was forced to tell them about a cousin of a friend that died following a rather brutal episode of ‘discipline’ meted out by her husband. She’d complained about her husband’s abuse before but her mother and mother-in-law had stuck with her with the ‘stay the course—things will eventually get better’ advice.

Everyone went quiet for a while. Then, unbelievably, came the justification.

‘Maybe it was a mistake?’ one woman asked. ‘I don’t think he meant to kill her. You know sometimes you do something in a fit of rage and then…unfortunately…it’s too late.’

‘There must have been something she did to thoroughly piss him off,’ one guy suggested, ‘no sane man can throw his wife down the stairs without a good reason.’

Implied Facepalm

At this point, I thought: I should just get up and leave.

‘I should like to hear what your idea of a good reason is,’ Betty said.

‘Perhaps she’d been misbehaving consistently,’ the guy continued. ‘You women should submit. Adapt yourselves to your man. Steer clear of anything that pisses him off. Stick with the stuff that pleases him. It’s as simple as that.’

‘That’s it?’ Betty asked. ‘That’s your brilliant rationalization. A woman dies…and that’s your explanation?!’

The guy shrugged. It was a shrug that seemed to say, ‘C’est la vie. These things happen.’

Then, without warning, the following:

‘He must have loved her a lot,’ a woman seated next to Betty said.

‘I’m sorry…what?’ I said.

‘They say if a man doesn’t beat you he doesn’t love you,’ Betty’s neighbour continued.

‘I’m sorry…what?’ And for the remaining thirty minutes or so, those were the only three words I could manage. Several times, I tried to say, ‘WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?—and since when is it legal for you to have such a twisted idea of love?’ but the words just wouldn’t come out. I mean, these were supposed to be the reform-minded, university-educated Africans—the ones at the vanguard of progressive and cathartic thought.

‘Who’s they?’ someone asked.

‘I’m sorry…what?’

‘In fact, if your husband doesn’t beat you,’ one of the guys continued, ‘you should go home today and provoke him into doing so.’

‘Some of us are not married,’ someone stated.

‘I’m sorry…what?’

‘Then provoke your boyfriends into beating you.’

I’m sorry…what? (Repeat till fade.)

I was in so much shock about the whole ‘if a man doesn’t beat you he doesn’t love you’ business that I just had to share it with a few friends later. You’ll never believe what one of them said. ‘Yeah. My mother used to say that to me a lot when I was growing up.’


Heaven only knows how many such ‘heirlooms’ parents are passing on to their daughters. NGOs, donors and government organisations are falling all over themselves trying to end violence against women. Yet somewhere, somehow, many such dangerous and perverse thought patterns linger. So, then, how exactly does one go about the task of convincing someone like Betty’s neighbour that a beating from a husband or a boyfriend isn’t, in fact, something she should be boasting about?—even more importantly, how does one ensure that she doesn’t infect her children with such unhealthy ideas, if she hasn’t already?

22 thoughts on ““What Is It?” Part 2

  1. right now i am agitated and don’t know what to say. should come back here when i stop frothing in the mouth at the crazy ‘beating for love’ idea/premise/justification/whatever…

  2. I actually got into that argument once. The guy was explaining how he beat his 8 month pregnant wife out of love and celebration, and she thanked him for it. Ati she complains when she isn’t beaten. I almost beat the guy up myself, and he labelled me a crazy feminist who is ‘clearly not marriage material’.

    But I also heard about this guy who bought a drum skin and placed it in his house. After drinking sprees, he would come home and beat the skin while his wife pretended to wail and scream. His wife-beating pals were sated, and his wife stayed safe and adored. So it IS possible to have your cake and eat it. I guess.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention “What Is It?” Part 2 « Diasporadical -- Topsy.com

  4. I guess the animal instincts still linger in our deeds, coz we don’t seem to realize that we are actually inflicting pain to our own selves, even if that dude beat his chile up, he’ll still go back n look for her. I think that thing abt ‘beating for love’ actually carry some essence in it.

  5. This pervasive, insipid, transient, dominant “Kenyan” culture, with all its half truths and distorted paradigms, should stabilize already. I’m galled that a worldly, urbane section of the population thinks this way. My Grandpa, on his little cattle farm near Mount Kenya, has more current sense than this.

  6. I’ve heard the same rhetoric being pedaled in the gay community where physical abuse is presented as a form of passionate commitment. Clearly, dominance and submission have huge play in such situations and we must understand this. The extreme cases where someone ended up dead are telling of a situation where frustration on weakened masculinity which must be remedied expediently and in ways that ensure that such negation doesn’t take place at all. When it comes to women openly condoning/endorsing physical abuse from men especially in contexts where attachments to men are expected (marriage, relationships etc), it points out to the increasing lack of viable choices women have when it comes to such matters. It’s a catch 22 situation of either existing in a violent sexist and patriarchal relationship or face constant negation of choosing not exist in such.

  7. Ya i’ve heard women say the love/beat thing. It’s paralyzing when u first hear it. Then u realize the mountain of work awaiting those tackling abuse against women and slowly start somewhere.

    • Ali, paralysing doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s like getting a snake-bite and then trying to buy anti-venom at $1000 a vial. People fighting abuse really need all the help they can get.

  8. I’m working on a domestic violence project right now and there are many times when this has come up and I still don’t get it. It is a freaking plague…every women needs to know that it is NOT okay to endure any type of abuse especially physical or sexual from a husband/boyfriend/intimate partner. Off to get a whoo-saa moment.

  9. im tyrna find the words but i keep gagging on…..what kind of misconception is this?…..i know there’s people who are inspired by pain….but i consider such people to be a little too twisted. but for you to sit back and accept this kind of pain to be inflicted, all in the name of love, which by the way should be all that soothes you, leaves me too bitter to comment further.

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