“It’s a world gone crazy keeps a woman in chains.”
(Lyrics from A song called Woman in chains by Tears for Fears)
Today, I’m broken.
My heart is crying out for justice for every woman and girl who has suffered trauma at the hands of a man.
I looked around me today and all I saw were “good men” passing me by. Those men looked like my husband, my brother, my son, my friend. They didn’t look like monsters nor did they wear an E (for Evil) on their foreheads so we can clearly distinguish between the good guy and the evil one.
I encountered the friendly petrol attendant who wished me well, the man at the hardware store that patiently explained the difference between the nails I needed, the bank manager who politely shook my hand, the security guard who respectfully called me ma’am and the car guard who walked alongside me to help pack my groceries into the car.
All of these men were polite and friendly but I couldn’t help thinking if one or two or maybe all of them had some time or another abused a woman or girl child. Nothing struck me as suspicious or heightened my sixth sense when I dealt with them and it finally dawned on me why.
Abusers, rapists, and murderers all look like the men described above. On the surface, there is no distinction so I have to be suspicious of all men. Much like if you were thrown into a pit with various snakes unless you have studied snakes, you would not know which ones to avoid so you are cautious and avoid all. To safeguard yourself you view them all with suspicion and trepidation until you get to know them.
This curtails women’s freedom of movement.
I’m a woman in chains because men have placed those chains around me.
As a baby, I am given my first set of chains because I can’t be around men without my diaper lest they are filled with lust for my little body. My freedom is curtailed from the moment I am born.
As a child, I am given a thicker set of chains because I can’t stray too far from home, innocently and joyfully playing with my friends because I could be abducted, raped or murdered. The onus is on 5 year old me not to stray too far to keep my body safe.
As a teen, I am in tighter chains (though it’s a time to explore the world), I am unable to because I don’t have the freedom to decide what to wear lest I invoke the lust of men who can’t control themselves when they see me. I can’t experiment with drink because if anything should happen to me while I had alcohol in my system, it’s my fault.
As an adult, I finally receive my last set of chains and this will see me through until I die. I can’t be too friendly with men, it may be misconstrued. I can’t walk or drive into places that are isolated when I want peace or solitude because I may never make it out alive. I can’t have my shirt open revealing even a hint of cleavage lest my employer or co-workers can’t concentrate and I may face attacks in the photocopy room.
There is a list of what I can’t do or am not allowed to do because I may just awaken the predator inside the priest, the doctor, the lecturer, the friend, etc. The list is endless and at the bottom of that list is the stranger too.
My chains are not self-imposed but placed upon my body from the moment I am born. The responsibility lies solely in my hands to keep me safe from harm. This includes having to be aware that the partner I choose may violate me and my trust irrespective of how decent he looks.
There is a weariness, a wariness, a weight that drags me and every woman down from the moment we utter our first cry and it hasn’t been placed there by us.
A woman in chains is responsible for managing her own safety and managing a man’s physical, verbal and mental responses to us.
The weight of responsibility is unequally distributed.
But boys will be boys isn’t it.