By Victor Akhidenor
Friends, countrymen and women lend us your ears. As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, we come to bury violence, not to praise it. So, when we say that violence has no gender, we’re not trying to downplay the role of gender in violence. We’re simply acknowledging that violence can affect anyone regardless of their gender.
While women are often the victims of violence, men can be victims too. But a man being battered by his wife is one of the most kept taboos in Nigeria – a country where women are seen as the weaker sex. There seems to be an “unwritten” agreement not to talk about husband battering. Well, it’s hard for a typical, proud Nigerian man to own up to this.
But Austin E.L. (not real name) put pride in the backseat and SOL (spoke out loud)! Here’s a letter he wrote to an Agony Aunt, which appeared on the pages of a popular newspaper in Nigeria.
My wife has always been very possessive and hates me going out without her, even before we got married five years ago. Recently, though, her jealousy has become so bad that the rows have turned violent. If I speak to another woman at a party, she kicks me viciously under the table. And when we get back home, she attacks me.
I have had teeth marks and other bruises and it’s difficult coming up with a story explaining my wounds that my workmates would believe.
I have also had a nasty gash at the back of my neck after she pushed me backwards off my chair. I have tried talking to her but she wouldn’t listen and the violence is getting worse.
I’m afraid she might really hurt me one of these days. What else do you think I can do?
But seems Austin now has a committee of friends on the same sinking sand. In November 2023, the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA), through its executive secretary, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, disclosed that their wives beat about 340 husbands in the previous year.
Vivour-Adeniyi said that the men reported incidences of domestic violence perpetrated against them by their wives between September 2022 and July 2023. She’s concerned over the trend, saying the agency “is currently handling the cases to find an amicable resolution”.
Before the agency “finds an amicable resolution”, let’s find out if it’s a mere myth that men are naturally stronger than women. Let’s put it differently: Are women really the weaker sex?
A 1993 study by Miller AE, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, and Sale DG, Gender Differences in Strength and Muscle fiber characteristics, tried to shed some light on this agelong discourse.
We examined strength and muscle characteristics in the biceps brachii and vastus lateralis of eight men and eight women. The women were approximately 52 percent and 66 percent as strong as the men in the upper and lower body, respectively. The men were also stronger relative to lean body mass.
They found out that the greater strength of the men was due primarily to larger fibres. The greater gender difference in upper body strength can probably be attributed to the fact that women tend to have a lower proportion of their lean tissue distributed in the upper body.
The study concluded that, typically, men are stronger than women. And that leaves us with what Chimamanda Adichie’s tagged The Danger of the Single Story.
“I’m a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call the danger of the single story”.
With those opening remarks, Adichie wowed the audience, the majority who are guilty of the single story being the complete story. We’re not innocent either.
“The tip of the iceberg” is a metaphor that often gets overused. But in the context of a single story, it’s very applicable. Let’s say what lies under the waterline is the deeper meaning and detailed context related to the story as it was told or written. Then we have to engage more deeply in the person or perspective that has a greater awareness of what is actually beneath the waterline. It’s this deeper insight that Adichie seeks to illuminate.
The problem with commonly applied approaches is that they attempt to ascribe meaning from what is visible as the tip of the iceberg or use biases of predominant myths and reinforced “single stories” to infer what is beneath the waterline across many iceberg tips.
Her message, delivered in a story form rich with humour yet deeply thought-provoking, was that our lives, our cultures, are composed of overlapping stories. Adichie told the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warned that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Like men are stronger than women or that women are the weaker vessels. Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell it to Austin E.L. and his 340 “friends”! More Nigerian men in the remaining 35 states and FCT should not die in silence. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you report a rape or physical assault case from a woman to the authorities. The macho man, like the lone wolf, is a myth.
Now, our hearts are in the coffin there with men (and women) who have died through violence. We must pause till our hearts come back to us.