***Note from the Editor: This article was originally published on Medium***
I don’t know how old I was but I recall that even at a young age I was told to stay away from boys because they would hurt me. If a boy touched your boobs they would get bigger. You never played or stayed alone with any male even if they were family. Men were the big bad. But I still don’t know where this fear of men came from. Why do the women I know fear men? When did it start and how? I wish I could say it was the media but there was not that much media around us to begin with? Maybe it started with slavery? I don’t know when it started but I do know that I have PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over or from person to person.
I have some amazing men in my life as relatives, mentors and inspirations. Good men exist but this article is not about them, it is about the scars left behind by the rest of them.
See I grew up to see brilliant women shrivel into mere sacks of bones and skin ravaged by HIV/AIDS, a disease they contracted in their marriages and in the sanctimony of their committed relationships. I have lived to see the same men who infected them continue living. I have known a woman who was beaten to death by her husband, common knowledge yet the husband went on to keep his job remarry and continue living. The tear that was on her eye as she lay there in her coffin for us to view her body for the last time, was ignored by heavens and the earth as she and her unborn baby left this life behind. I know of loved ones who have been raped, molested, sexually harassed yet justice has never risen to the call. Of course these are the big and rare cases most men around me would never do that.
Every woman I heard cry over her husband taking a small house/mistress. Every woman whose self worth and dignity was diminished as she chose the neglect and disrespect of staying with a cheating spouse. Every time the melanated skin of these women hid the bruises left behind by welts from belts and the fury of fists. Every time they justified it and said “Ndozvinoita varume (That is what men do).”Every time my fear and distrust grew. “Ndeupi murume asingahure? (What man does not whore around)”. Every time the women justified and the men concurred through speech and actions, my fear grew.
I thought my generation would do better. I thought those things would end with our mothers. Yet I have been proven wrong I see the same cycles over and over again and I feel hopeless. Everyone says not all men are like that and I so desperately want to believe that but where is the proof? It’s married men that dress me down with their predatory eyes and it’s friends’ boyfriends that still try to pursue other women regardless of their relationship status. It is the brilliant amazing woman giving up on their dreams for the title “Mrs” and the men that expect them to do so. As a rational human being the odds and the stats dissuade me from love and sex.
You have a culture were women entering marriage are taught to not trust their husbands. “Always keep an account he does not know about.” This PTSD is not new to me but it part of the legacies our mothers have passed down to us. It is hard because our mothers also taught us to love these men flaws and all even if loving them killed us. They taught us to value these men above our own happiness and don’t even mention ambition. Mothers who taught to serve our abusers hand and foot… to lay in front of them a red carpet of our bloody tears. To tear ourselves limb by limb for men. I have seen too many women die in the name of love. Too many abused for sex.
Though the stats do not support the existence of true love and intimacy and I do wish you get it. May you be the exception, may you be the trailblazer and may yours be the love that changes the legacy. May women begin to do better in choosing themselves and may we raise better sons and be cautious of the legacies we pass down. To the men who could do better, do better. To the men already doing good keep at it. I hope for healing and love to change the narrative.
Featured image | PTSD | Jesper Sehested | flickr
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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