Gender based violence is everybody’s business

Over the weeks I have been trying to understand a few things in relation to gender based violence in Grenada. For instance I am trying to understand the criticism towards Grenada National Organisation of Women (GNOW) for standing up and against the soca song  ‘Kick in She Back Door’ (a song that promotes violence against women) and why some people think it is a waste of time for GNOW to pursue this issue. I am also trying to understand those who recognise gender based violence as a serious problem in Grenada and yet continue to criticise the work of GNOW, and I am trying to understand why many people believe gender based violence is a women’s issue and therefore the responsibility of women and women’s organisations alone.

I write in order to understand. For example if people believe violence against women is wrong; if you as man or woman would be enraged, frightened, shamed to have your daughter, mother, sister, auntie, grandmother’s back door kicked in by a man who is trying to get in when he is not welcomed, then you too should be speaking out against this song. This is not an issue of freedom of speech; this is an issue of violent lyrics that are promoting violence against women. Whether you believe it should come off the radio or not, you should be speaking out. Many critics of GNOW say, why this song and not all the other violent songs. This I believe is a question that must be asked and reflected upon by all of us. Along with, why are we waiting for GNOW to do the work? Gender based violence is not a women’s issue — it is a social, health, political, economic, environmental, spiritual issue, it is a ‘we’ issue, a man and woman’s issue. So why aren’t churches, government ministries, non-government and community organisations, businesses, speaking out against this song and other violent songs?

People question why focus on songs when there are many other urgent issues to deal with related to gender based violence, and this too is true. However, I believe without getting at a deeper and more critical understanding of the root causes of gender based violence, then the more urgent issues will be treated at a surface level without   understanding where violence comes from. There are many of us who don’t understand that violence is a learned behaviour. We learn how to be violent through various socialization processes. Music is one of them. Music is a huge part of our culture, so why not make this song and other violent songs a place where we begin to bring attention to one of the ways violence is learned and reinforced. I agree there is no escaping what many people defend as freedom of speech. However what are we teaching our children and youth if we are not questioning and critically analysing these forms of socialisation but rather defending them.

I believe we need to begin critically analysing violence in all its forms in order to understand how violence is learned and how violence is reinforced, normalised, glamorised and internalized. We need to teach our kids and youth critical thinking so they can analyse these songs themselves and come up with their own means of understanding the negative and violent effects of songs like ‘Kick Down She Back Door’. Perhaps then it won’t only be women’s organisations like GNOW speaking out, but also men, women, youth, radio announcers, teachers, ministers of parliament, and church people.

I make a special plea to the men of our society, gender based violence is your problem too! The major victims of violence are not women alone, it is men too. Men and boys are being murdered, imprisoned, assaulted, raped, by other men. Check out the statistics for yourselves. I believe it is in everyone’s interest to examine the concept of masculinity and the socialization of masculinity. Violence is no longer recognized as deviant behaviour but an accepted form of masculinity. This must change in order for changes to take place at a personal, community, institutional and cultural level.

We are all responsible for the violence in our society. We are all responsible for the violence perpetuated by and against men, women, children and youth. Before you criticise the work of GNOW, please ask yourself what are you doing to stop the violence? Every one of us must ask ourselves what we are doing to resist, reduce, eliminate violence in our children, youth, men, and women’s lives. Gender based violence affects all of us. Gender based violence is everybody’s business.

Martin Luther King once said, ‘It is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends that will hurt us in the end.” We need to break that silence.

Maureen St. Clair is an artist, peace educator, and social activist. She holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education with a focus on women’s self and community empowerment through participatory education. St. Clair paints and coordinates/facilitates peace programs in Grenada and Canada. You can check her peace and artwork out at www.maureenstclair.com and her writing at www.maureenstclair.blogspot.com

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