I am not qualified to speak on this matter. I am a man. I acknowledge that I am part of the problem. I acknowledge that being a man gives me privilege.
I am writing this so that I can use my voice as a force for good.

a man nears his partner with a clenched fist to beat her

Dear men,

Let’s be honest.

Abuse is our most fluent language. We speak it, translate it, and teach it better than any other language. We use it to communicate hurt, love & desire. We have been shown to think that a “No” from a woman is not her final decision, but an invitation to use force and convince her.

The only shared experience across suburbia and rural South Africa is abuse.
Whether you are watching Real Housewives or Isibaya, you know abuse.
Whether you frequent the golf course or the local shebeen, you know abuse.

Physical hurt. Verbal harm. Emotional scars. Psychological traumas.
Name it. We are un-graduated doctors in the administration of this vile medicine.

The truth is that MANY of us think that abuse is a form of love language.

a young black female protesting against gender-based violence

So, here is the uncomfortable truth.
We have been taught abuse so well that we ourselves have become professors in the school of violence.
Our entire culture is filled with expressions that perpetuate this idea of “the man” as a dominator.
Our society teaches us to “Man Up” when dealing with life’s stresses.
We speak about “our women” in a toxic possessive reflex.
Our uncles teach us to “Be a man” when your partner challenges “your authority.”
Our churches teach us that the man is the “head of the home” without showing that the head of the house must build that home, not destroy it.

We are taught that if your partner is not doing as she is told, you have the right to beat her.

Everything we are has been taught to us. Guided by our friends, our communities, our elders & sometimes even by women in our lives who themselves believe abuse is love.

But using this crutch as an excuse is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Its time that we change ourselves.

crying me beloved African sisters

Our parents are complicit too:

Our mothers are often the first to tell, “Tigers, don’t cry!”
Our fathers teach us never to show fear, never show hurt, never show weakness & meet all situations of conflict with violence & senseless mental depravity.
Heck, if you want to trend on Twitter, threaten another man with violence as you peacock your testosterone in the theatre of the commons, and both men & women will celebrate you.

The tragic irony of social media outrage is that many of those that rightfully stand against gender-based violence ignorantly encourage violence amongst men, not realizing that normalized violence is the first step to gender-based violence.

We cannot deal with the scourge of gender-based violence until we deal with our society’s obsession with violence as a conflict resolution mechanism.

Ladies the painful truth is this:

All men are abusers. All of us.
Even if we haven’t abused a woman ourselves, we know a man that has & we did not correct nor did we report the abuse.

All men enjoy the financial & career privilege of being a man in a society that stands on the talents & ambitions of women. Women who have been “put in her place” but other men.

We are all guilty.
To deal with this guilt, we must name & shame the abuser and his supporters. We name and shame the ecosystem of complicity that allows abuse to continue.

We must name and shame the family members, aunts and uncles, friends & colleagues that negotiate women back into abusive relationships.
Abuse only exists when society allows it to hide in the shadows.
Today, Shine a light wherever you find that abuse.

… now, do not go back to your regular scheduled program.

Vusi Thembekwayo
Global Speaker | Venture Investor | Leader