In today’s post, Common Good volunteer Roger Wood has something to say to the men of our country and the role they need to play in making a change.
For too long men have left the fight against violence and the abuse of women and children to the women in our communities. Women have been the mouth piece, because it is the women who have borne the brunt of the pain and injustice. Men have stepped back perhaps because they feel overwhelmed by the problem or perhaps they feel inadequate in providing a solution. Jesus was not afraid to tackle the injustices of the society of His day. He reached out to the hurting and marginalised, bringing compassion and healing.
So how can we help?
I believe it starts with our own attitude to the people who cross our path every day. The people at the train station or bus stop, the teller in the supermarket , the receptionist at work, the secretaries, cleaners, telephonist, bank clerks and a whole host of others with whom we interact. How do we treat these people? Do we greet them and acknowledge their contribution to our lives? Do we take an interest in their lives and their opinions? Do we push in front of them to get our place on the train? Do we offer them our seat when the train is full or do we make them stand? Do we ask the cleaner at work about her child’s education or encourage your own child’s teacher as she seeks to control and discipline a whole classroom full of children?
If we drive to work do we criticise others driving as being ‘typical of a women’. At work do we pass on the stereotypical blonde joke or do we mix with the ‘boys’ rating the attractiveness of the new female assistant? It’s all a matter of how much we respect one another across the gender line. We live in a society where words are often used to put women down. We treat them as inferior and when we see them that way we treat them with less respect. Younger men are looking for role models and they will follow our example. We therefore need to look at the example we are setting. We need to have the courage to speak out and challenge others who adopt these wrong attitudes.
When we see films and programmes on TV which portray sexual harassment, we should write to the relevant authorities or the newspapers to complain. When we see the magazines on the shelves in our supermarket that portray women as sex objects for men, we should have the courage to complain to the management. We need to speak out about advertising that is offensive and portrays women in the wrong way.
We need also to look for practical ways of helping those NGO’s and church groups seeking to help women caught in the web of violence and abuse. As men, we may not be the best ones to go out onto the streets to talk to the prostitutes but we can support organisations such as Staatwerk, by coming alongside the women who go out to talk to these ladies. We can help not just with money but with encouragement, time and transport.
When we do come across others who we feel are being abused we need to treat them with great sensitivity. Befriend them where we can, show empathy and understanding. Encourage them not to remain silent. Urge them to seek help. The abuse is not their fault; no one asks to be abused.
Lastly, married men need to be the role models in their homes, honouring and treating their wives as equals. Men need to talk to their children educating boys in the correct attitudes towards masculinity, as well as teaching their daughters about their rights. Men have a crucial role to play as fathers, friends and leaders. They need to be the voice of the oppressed and the hurting. They need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Over the past week, we’ve been posting articles in an attempt to facilitate conversation around domestic abuse in South Africa. We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment, share and get people talking! This is too important an issue for silence.