Saturday, June 27, 2009

Violence against women:the vicious cycle

Many young women, especially in low income groups in rural Africa, get married to escape poverty at home. They believe anything is better than staying at home. Such women usually endure extreme physical and mental abuse, especially if the husband realizes that she has nowhere else she can go for help.

Most of these women have, at best the most basic level of formal education and at worst none at all. This means, therefore, that they are unemployable. They bring forth children who grow up in these poor conditions and receive minimum formal education. These children pray for the day they will move away from home and they latch on to the first person who proposes marriage, even in jest. They do not realize they are moving from the frying pan into the fire.

Incidentally, the same obtains in the case of families with abusive parents. The lack of parental love at home pushes the young girls into the arms of the first vagabond who promises them love. Most of these girls do not even finish school. Most of such unions end up even before they start (use and dump), and the girl ends up stuck with a few kids from the relationship.

Such children hardly ever see the inside of a formal education institution. They are raised amidst all the poverty with the dreams of ‘marriage the savior’ swirling through their na├»ve minds. They fall prey to the first person who promises them marriage and riches. And the rest is history.

Other girls will run away from home to get married in order to escape rules and regulations at school and at home. In other words looking for freedom and fun- pretty much like a young man running away from parental rules, and joining the army.

We need to exhort the queens in our lives to realize that marriage is probably worse than hell as a haven. Marriage should be a preserve for the strong and not for the weak, economically or otherwise.

Women should always make sure they have a fallback plan before they engage in the marriage business. The fallback position should include at least adequate formal education, and preferably should already be employed when getting married.

This would ensure that one can opt out of an abusive relationship and be able to take care of herself and the kids if the worst comes to the worst.

This is not about blaming the victim, its about exhorting the potential victims to take control of their lives.

Why most women-managers are cruel

News of elevation to a position of power is usually greeted with jubilation. But a woman, like all weak men, receives such news with jubilation mixed with trepidation.

This is because of two conflicting emotions: She believes she deserves it, and yet at the same time she fears she might disappoint in her new position. People have told her that she’s weak so often that she had internalized it and made it her reality.

In general weak people –reality or illusion- tend to make up for the weakness by being cruel, bitchy and heartless in the mistaken belief that that will make them be feared and, therefore, respected. In essence they confuse fear and respect. Nothing could be, even remotely, further from the truth!

What women managers overlook is one important fact: once you have executive power your subordinates know it. Trying to prove it to them by bludgeoning them on the head with it will just create fear rather than respect. In most cases, fear breeds resentment which later develops into resistance culminating in non- compliance and _sabotage.

This notion of weakness in women is so pervasive that even Connie Glaser, a “leading expert in gender diversity” in the US falls in it’s trap. In her article “get comfortable in your management skin” advices women: “as a new boss, it’s better to start out abit more tough than accommodating”. This gets one wondering, with friends like these do women really need enemies?! Connie Glaser should read about the experiences of one Julie Culwell. While manager of the editorial services at the coca cola company, she started of by distancing herself from the staff and keeping her relationship with them strictly professional. And she admits “in fact I was miserable and so was my @staff”, until she decided to become close friends with the team members.

Having served as a teacher and a boarding master, I can attest to the veracity of Julie’s facts. It is easier to even control a student who respects and considers you a friend, rather than one who merely fears you.

Most weak managers pull rank because in their heart of hearts they believe the subordinates are aware and therefore they won’t obey her/him. They see coercion or force as the only way out of the non-compliance dilemma. Such managers end up being concerned with position rather than in the efficacy of their management. It’s common to come across a principal who would expel a student who don’t fear her rather than a really rotten one who sees her and scrams!

This women’s “weakness theory” ends up, in the long run, affecting both males and females directly or indirectly. The people suffering the brunt of such a manager, as well as the other bosses conclude that women cannot be good managers. In short it’s a vicious cycle.

This women’s ‘weakness theory’ stems from socialization since childhood. That’s where we need to start addressing it. You have a daughter, a niece, a sister or any other young girl; it’s time to tell her she’s not that weak. She reports to you that another kid hit her, tell her what you’d tell a boy: if the kid hits you again, hit back. This is a good starting point. You can check out the rest in strength of a woman.