What are We Teaching Our Kids About Relationships?

On the blog, by Denise Mills.

“You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.” – Joseph Brodsky. 

Having come from a childhood full of verbal abuse by my father towards my mother, I’m all too aware that we, as a society, tackle problems at a surface level rather than looking to the root cause. It has been drummed into us time and time again that male violence against women is unacceptable. But how often do we look at where it all starts?

We live in a society where a “successful” relationship is a long one. Even when we drift apart from our partner spiritually and emotionally, the message society tells us is that we should just keep working through it. We congratulate those who “stick it out,” never stopping to consider if their many years together have been peaceful, respect-filled and supportive.

The only time you should really walk away, says society, is if you’re being hit – then all of a sudden you’re courageous for leaving. Until that point, you just haven’t worked at it hard enough.

The fact is, violence does not manifest out of thin air. It begins with the language. It begins with the objectification of women and a sense of entitlement that women should behave a certain way – meet men’s needs, not argue back, barely exist. This is the culture we need to address – not just the violence.

And yes, even though the “not all men” argument is certainly true, it’s a counterproductive one. The fact that two women are killed by partners or ex partners in Australia each week is an epidemic, and it’s one we need to address regardless of the “not all men” tribe (which sadly does include women), who take it personally and would prefer not to discuss a problem which they’re not directly a part of.

So, where to start? I strongly believe the answer is not to keep hammering home more messages that domestic violence is bad and unacceptable. We have to go deeper and look to the core of the problem, not just its effects.

We need men to be having conversations about respecting women, with each other and their boys (check out @acalltomen who are already doing this). We need women to start redefining what constitutes “success” within a relationship and to love themselves more (yes, more) than their partner; to care for the well-being of their own soul first and foremost.  

It isn’t good enough to teach our girls not to stay with men who are violent. They deserve so much more.


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