I was at a famous mall in Dubai. In the same cookies aisle as I was, there was a couple with a toddler. Malls in Dubai are magnanimous and probably the child was tired of walking. He was pestering his parents to buy some cookie and within minutes his words turned into loud screams. Both the parents pinned him by his arm and threw heavy weight palms to smash his face, back and whatever they could hit.
The feminist movement and gender equality protests has brought into the limelight, the most ferocious crimes against women.
The good news is that now, our society has learnt to recognize comments on the street as harassment and forced intercourse as rape.
As more and more women speak of their horror stories, the world consumes that information and translates that as a stereotype.
All women are considered victims and as a general consensus, all men are rapists. Most people know that not all men are really rapists but men do share the infamous reputation created by few fellow members of their community.
The reason why stereotyping all women as victims is deadly is because violence is not about sex or sexual urges. It is about power.
It is the feeling that ‘I am more powerful than you and I can use it to do any damn thing I want.’
We usually see men as criminals or abusers of their power because of their physical stature (which many men do use to intimidate women, sure).
But if you flip the coin and hold women in power, then what?
Would women abuse their power like men?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes, although disproportionately.
Let me explain.
Men are taught/groomed to be aggressive, dominant and emotionless by the patriarch society under the myth of masculinity. The only emotions we allow men to express are anger, disappointment and violence. This certainly plays a huge role. To be approved by fellow men or family/society, men act in a certain way that would qualify them to be called ‘the man of the family’.
However, this is about violence and misuse of power over the less powerful. Women may not be able to exercise their power over men due to various reasons (some do), but they do it on children.
Before I go ahead, let me emphasize it enough that not all women abuse children (just like not all men rape and beat).
However, many evidences have come in the media recently where women were found guilty of battering babies like a dead punching bag. Watch here
Child abuse can be done by nannies, mothers, fathers, step parents, teachers, the list is endless regardless of their gender.
Stereotyping all women as victims eliminates the fear that a woman would ever do such a thing. I, as a woman, cannot imagine such person (man or woman) beating up a child like that but when I see other women do that, I learn that there are all sorts of people in this world.
Power is the crucial element and the culprit of these crimes. The ability to hurt another individual and use intimidation to suppress their voices.
I call this kind of stereotyping deadly because when men suppressed women, women took a stand and stood up for their rights, told their survivor stories and made the world recognize their pain.
I wonder how these babies will ever be able to speak up against these women (or men) who abuse them. They don’t have a voice. If their parents do not find out or if they are orphans, their abusers will hide forever as the oppressed victims of the society and enjoy a place they don’t deserve.
If I have learnt anything from my recent course on Violence at Emory University, it is to stop believing in the stereotypes of violence, stop connecting violence with certain religions, countries or genders.
The truth is that violence is an individual’s ability to exercise power, trust or authority abusively when they know the other person is powerless.