Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Epitome of Empathy #unboundeq

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Yesterday, a colleague here at AUC who is from Mozambique, Jose Coassa (@zeca72) shared with me a poem he wrote that is possibly one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read on domestic abuse of women… and he wrote it switching from the point of view of the man and the woman. I will teach this poem in future iterations of my class inshallah. It’s that good. This taking female and male perspectives… and the epitome of empathy to take both sides. I wonder if I could encourage my students to write a poem or story from two perspectives like this, doing so maybe by interviewing other people, or by just reflecting deep within themselves. It is so hard to write about something like this without experiencing it, and I don’t know how Jose (a wonderful person with a deep soul and heart) managed it, wonderful as he is… without being a woman in a past life :))

You can read it here, and it was presented orally at a conference with a female reading the female part and him reading the male part. The male part is really powerful but difficult to quote because if you see it out of context, you’ll think he’s intending to say these awful things… but they reflect the deep thoughts that many men have on their rights over their women, and how they perceive the role of women in their relationships and in society.

Quotes from the female side (this combination of love and abuse is often used as a cycle to keep the woman in the relationship. If it were abuse all the way through, I suspect many women would be able to leave. But it’s this combination and cycling that makes it so hard, especially if society sees the love side or the patriarchal control as a sign of love….)

Filled with dehumanizing efforts in the name of love

Filled with abuse and occasional soothing

Filled with beatings, gifts, insults, pampering

Filled with body humiliation and shaming

Amidst body worship and caressing

I felt loved and cared for

While feeling hated and despised, viciously

I felt wanted and desired

Yet rejected, neglected, and brutalized…

Quotes from the male side – this resonates so much with what I feel society does, placing the success/failure of a marriage on the shoulders of the woman… and bell hooks in her book The Will to Change where men are discouraged in their upbringing from being emotional, empathetic, etc. You will see similar in the next male quote I include.

You.. only you were responsible

You, the girl

You, the young lady

You, the woman

You feel me?! You… THE WOMAN!

You, only you, were responsible to love

And another part from the female side:

I cried for help, but no one could hear me

You heard me, but my hurting pleasured your narcissistic self

Your demonic spirit felt nourished by my helplessness

Another part from the male side: (These statements apply beyond relationships, I feel, even in the workplace and in other contexts where men feel the necessity to assert their power and masculinity with microaggressions and more)

I’m a man… and real men… real men aren’t weak

Real men teach their girls a lesson with harshness

Real men affirm their girls‘ obedience through pain

Real men buy their ladies silence and conformity with money, jewelry, and collars

Real men affirm their ladies’ passivity with ‘good girl’ statements

Real men control their women’s mobility and action through bondage and restraints

Real men affirm their women’s subordination with ‘branding’

2 Comments

  1. You could have your students work in pairs – each providing the different perspective …

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