Subsequent upon the murder though domestic violence of Zimbabwean Professor Ottilia Chareka, a friend Betty Makoni has asked me to help those who may be in similar dangers of domestic violence. They need to understand the signs of impending violence before it is too late for them.
To successfully defend against becoming one of the ultimate victims of domestic violence, one must grasp a larger fact. That one may be a very successful academic and still not grasp the real danger one is in is understandable. For a start, one moves in hostile waters by necessity. Females swim in a medium of patriarchy. We do not easily escape it any more than a fish can learn to swim on dry land. To speak of “culture” is, in almost every instance, to speak of patriarchal culture. To grow up in a society of almost any sort is to grow up within patriarchal power structures. Patriarchal values and ideas are thus internalised, much in the same way that the chemicals dumped into the ocean will tend to become part of the constitution of marine life. Patriarchy is, as it were “within our systems”.
Well, what is patriarchy? It is a system of values and ideas that proclaims female inferiority in relation to the male. That is how we can understand it on an intellectual level. In saying this, I don’t want to give the impression, by any means, that patriarchy is primarily an intellectual construct. In actual fact, while it has many intellectual justifications, it is actually a psychological construct, first and foremost.
To grasp patriarchy only as an intellectual paradigm can lead to false conclusions, since one would assume that a putatively intellectual perspective could be challenged using logic and good argumentation, describing consequences and so on. One takes the claims of patriarchal philosophies at face value, without understanding that the definition of “good” within patriarchal systems is the exclusion of women. (Conversely, the definition of “bad” is that women are included.) So, “good” logic is definitively logic used by men and “bad” logic is logic used by women.
So, although one may pick up many patriarchal ideas through reading books, patriarchy’s real power is not related to the intellect, but to a particular kind of psychology. It’s the kind of psychology that disarms agency and self-determination in women, through sleight of hand techniques (what Marxists term, “mystification”).
How and why does it do this? The simple answer as to why is that this is an issue of power. To neutralise women’s self-determination is to gain power over them — and to gain power over a living human being is to feel enlarged. The question as to how this is done is psychological once again. The patriarchal man moves to establish a relationship with a woman whereby energies are exchanged. Because he wants to feel powerful, he will use his relationship with the woman to facilitate a sense of being divorced from his emotions. He wants to reduce any sensation of feeling responsive to another’s needs, as this robs him of his sensation of being powerful and in control.
Many patriarchal men have learned the art of psychological projection to facilitate their powerful feelings. They learn to experience their (often very real) vulnerability in the world as if it were something apart from them. The woman in their life — a wife or girlfriend — often becomes a means for these men to create a separate identity for their ‘weakness’ and fear. As men, they wish to embody and represent only powerful characteristics. Yet, being human in the world, rather than angel or spirit, necessarily entails having experiences where one is not always in control. Patriarchal men thus require women who can take on the responsibility for these negative sensations — and to embody them, in fact. That way, the patriarchal man can address the aspects of his life that produce vulnerability, without feeling that his status as a powerful being is in question.
Women, of course, are not simply willing captives to this programme by means of which weak men come to feel like gods. They go along with the agenda because this seems to be just how things are, or because they are looking for some sort of complimentary nature in the man, or because they believe in romantic love and therefore have stars in their eyes, blinding them. The patriarchal man, himself, doesn’t necessarily understand the destructive nature of his own agenda. He just knows he wants to feel strong and he believes a woman can help him feel that way.
Once both parties have bought into the fundamental lie that men and women have two very different but essential natures, there is very little else in place that could stop the relationship from escalating into violence, should one of either party be predisposed to it. In fact, the stage has been set for psychological violence, if nothing worse.
When the patriarchal man looks at the woman in his life, he sees emotions and perhaps very little besides. Since he has projected his own emotions into the woman in his life, the emotions he has when he looks at the woman are a mirror of himself. This female ‘mirror’ will either reflect something pleasing or displeasing. If the emotions he experiences when looking at his woman are pleasing, his sense of self worth will be expanded. If he has negative emotions when looking at her (possibly because the emotions he has projected into her are negative), he will feel deflated — and perhaps very angry.
Living with an angry patriarchal man is like pouring water on a ruptured nuclear power plant. Pleasing and soothing emotions seem to work to keep the system from totally blowing its lid, but one senses that these are but a temporary solution and delaying tactic. Sooner or later, the system is going to blow — You don’t want to be around when that happens!