Sexism, misogyny, and raising awareness of domestic violence

“Control is so often exacted upon a victim through passive aggressive “good guy”/”good person” techniques under the guise of concern and a so called well meaning desire to urge caution.” This statement was said by fellow blogger betternotbroken. I could not have said it better myself.

Mike is always trying to tell me that his controlling tactics are really just out of his “concern” for me and my well-being: don’t go running, don’t go to the gym, don’t go out with your friends, don’t go to that bar, don’t wear that without me around, don’t go anywhere without me on your arm etc etc…all because it’s “not safe.” Meaning, I am viewed as his property, and as inferior because I am a woman, and as such I should not be exercising a will of my own, especially in a public space. A male-dominated space. Because as an inferior woman I must be controlled or “protected” from other men since I am incapable of standing on my own two feet. Because without a man on my arm I will not be respected. And of course, when I am not respected it is more of an insult to Mike than it is to me, the victim of any disrespectful behaviour I may be subject to as a woman on my own. And of course, as a woman I am not capable of standing up for myself and earning the respect I deserve; I am not capable of warding off any perpetrators. I am only capable of attracting unwanted male attention, and when I do it is most certainly my fault because of what I am wearing, or because of how I have my hair or makeup or because I was ‘too friendly.’ I am Mike’s property; I am his possession, and as such I shouldn’t be making myself attractive to other men–this is a direct insult to him as a man. I shouldn’t be asserting my own identity and exercising my own free will by going out on my own and doing things for myself because this puts me in a position to be approached.

This display of sexism and misogyny is infuriating. It is detrimental to my well-being, not good for it, as he would have me believe. It’s all part of a collective disrespect for women that is so prevalent in our society and only perpetuates abuse further. I am so glad that more awareness is being brought to the surface and more public attention is being given regarding domestic violence and the ever-present lack of respect for women. I can’t begin to explain how much relief and hope this gives me that maybe one day, we will finally experience true equality and respect and abuse rates will drop dramatically.

Mike and I watched the Grammys a couple weekends ago. I was both surprised and elated that the issue of domestic violence was given a brief spotlight. Despite criticisms that if they were truly fully supportive then they wouldn’t feature artists like Chris Brown, who famously beat then-girlfriend Rhianna 6 years ago, nor would they feature artists who’s mysogynistic lyrics favour violence against women, I nonetheless thought that it was a huge step forward. And I will explain why.

As Mike and I watched Obama’s PSA followed by domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell’s speech, an incredibly uncomfortable and very awkward silence fell between us. My body went completely still, anxiety rose up inside me with each word Brooke spoke, my throat went dry and I held my breath. Most importantly, I could feel this awkwardness reverberating off Mike. He cleared his throat. Brooke spoke:

“My name is Brooke Axtell and I am a survivor of domestic violence.
After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me.
I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help.
I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship.
My empathy was used against me.
I was terrified of him. Ashamed I was in this position.
What bound me to him was my desire to heal him.
My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me.
When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter.
This conversation saved my life.
Authentic love does not devalue another human being.
Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse.
If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honour and respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love.
Please reach out for help.
Your voice will save you.
Let it extend into the night, let it part the darkness, let it set you free to know who you truly are.
Valuable.
Beautiful.
Loved.”

I loved her speech. I had to hold back tears.

It was like a giant “Fuck you!” to Mike because the behaviour, tactics and abuse of men like him was being publicized to 25.3 million viewers (variety.com, 2015). While I was ridden with anxiety, I was smiling inside, too, because Mike was being made aware that not only was abusiveness being brought to light in the public sphere, but it was being brought to my attention as well. And public knowledge of their abuse is arguably an abuser’s greatest fear. They want it to remain hidden behind closed doors and secretly embedded within the societal structure. They don’t want it made evident that it exists because then they will not be able to continue to get away with it. That is why I viewed Obama’s PSA and Brooke’s speech as a small victory. It was almost like I was telling Mike, without even saying a word, that I KNOW. I know exactly what he’s doing and even though I may not have found the strength to leave just yet, I will.

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