MARCH 8 was not always Women’s Day.
To honor the women of New York who went on strike to protest the working conditions in garment factories, the Socialist Party of America observed the first National Women’s Day on Feb. 29. 1909.
Today’s significance—of women’s long, continuing struggle to uphold their dignity—is eclipsed now by the soap-like staples surrounding a local scandal: yet another eternal triangle involving a government official, his wife, and a former colleague accused of being his paramour. The same official also faces a charge of sexual harassment filed by a former student.
Beleaguered by angry women, who have showed no hesitation to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him—scandal, public opinion, social media, the Law—Ronda Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab may question the irony of Mar. 8.
Are the times too harsh on men? How can anyone shrug off the wide acceptance of the “battered woman syndrome” when men, too, are victims of domestic violence?
For aggrieved machos, public shaming is enough punishment for a fellow who cannot keep his harem happy and harmonious. After all, a baseball bat-swinging spouse and a combative mistress who will not slink off into martyrdom are male nightmares personified. If they can only get past their bruised egos, many battered men will show the scars or empty pockets left by abusive partners, wives or girlfriends.
That kind of reasoning, says sociologist Mildred Daley Pagelow, is the classic O. J. Simpson defense. Simpson wrote in his “farewell letter”: “At times I have felt like a battered husband or boyfriend, but I loved her.” A national sports hero in the United States, Simpson killed his wife Nicole after years of abuse.
Pagelow blames the media for sensationalizing the husband-battering issue when it was first raised in 1977. Thus, the public accepts the myth that “domestic violence is the responsibility of both men and women”. Such thinking is like blaming the victim and the perpetrator for rape, she said.
Pagelow cited U.S. criminal justice statistics: ninety percent of violent crimes are committed by men; 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women; men are the “primary physical abusers” of children; women are the “primary physical neglectors” of children; and the women who kill are “more likely than men to be responding to, rather than initiating, violence”.
Those who feel that the “battered woman syndrome” is sensitive only to Juanas and gender-blind to Juans should scrutinize this form of post-traumatic stress disorder: the woman blames herself for the violence; believes the abuser is “omnipresent” and “omniscient;” and fears for her life and the lives of her children.
Last Mar. 1, the first day of National Women’s Month, Gregorio Caminade nearly decapitated his ex-wife Rhea Mae after she refused to take him back. The crime was witnessed by their sons, aged five and six. Rhea Mae resisted a reconciliation because she did not want to be battered again by Gregorio, reported Sun.Star Cebu’s Kevin A. Lagunda.
The Ungabs of this world have to go through the pain of atonement or whatever approximates accepting responsibility for one’s actions among men who love women a bit too well. The Rhea Maes are beyond pain; their children are not.
That is why we need Mar. 8: “Juana, Ikaw Na”.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s March 8, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”