by Magdalene Thomas
When I was growing up as a young girl in a family of four, I was taught to believe and have confidence in myself. I managed to have sufficient information and wisdom from my caretakers and mother on how to protect myself.
I recall one afternoon after school hours, playing alone with stones counting one from another, when I received an invitation from one of the neighbors’ houseboys who needed assistance with arranging the clothes in the room. I did not think much of it nor did I refuse as I was showing respect to an elder especially a man. I went. However, I was troubled inside. I sensed something awful about this call; so I took my young brother along with me as a form of distraction. By then he was only eight months old. As we arranged clothes in the closet, the man attempted to rape me. I defended myself by calling onto my young brother out loud who was playing with another baby. I tried to escape and came to find out the man had closed the door. I managed to grab a knife and threatened to stab him if he got closer. I also threatened to scream and the two babies in the house would be my witness. He opened the door and I rushed out immediately, heading straight home. At home I questioned his attempt to rape me. Did he not notice how young I was? I did not report him until later on, when I was grown.. One would ask me why I was quiet for so long? It was the fear of being blamed and or beaten.
The society has existing myths which guide and rule their mindset. That girls are fragile. Boys should not cry; are they not human, don’t they have emotions? Hiding something behind the transcendent laws does not mean it does not exist. The worst part is that some of these myths are being guided by religious scriptures. There once was a lady who was a marriage coach who said “her coaching strategy is being guided by God’s scriptures.” That she is not meant to teach or guide men but women. She went on to give an example of a car and a driver–that men are like cars and women are like the drivers. The car does not change but women do, and women as the drivers should learn how to drive their cars to whatever direction it desires. She went further to say that a husband is like a god to his wife, hence he does not need to change. The wife is supposed to learn how to survive and live with his husband. If the man gets angry the wife is supposed to calm him down and be polite since she is the driver.” When the story was narrated in a group, there were discussions. If this is what is being said by people who claim to give God’s guidance on how to live with a partner; what else is to be expected once a victim of violence,a woman, comes forward.
Most of society has convinced itself into believing that once you have a certain status, you are empowered enough to protect or defend yourself. You cannot be a victim of violence be it emotional, physical or intimate partner violence. They believe you have the power to choose to let go, or hold on. They believe you can make bold decisions. These myths have led many women to end up dead in their relationships, simply because they wanted to maintain status. These myths have missed a certain aspect; the psychological link a human being has from growing up within certain structures and experiences. These experiences might paint a picture into their mindset. The experiences build him or her, mold, bruise, destroy, or alter their personality completely. Each human being has an inner child in her/ him. Our inner child is what deals with the inferiority complex. An inferiority complex can lead to unexplainable action towards others simply because one is trying to defend themselves, or better yet reveal their power.
Another example which highlights the signs of inferiority complex in a relationship is when a woman is more educated or financially stable compared to a man. If the man is not wise or bold, he will try in every way to hurt the woman in the name of love or protection of the children. Governing her finances or denying her to be employed or self-employed in the name of being the head, he should take care of the family. If the woman persists in her dream the man will close all the opportunities which will lead to her earning more, being employed or studying further. And since the woman wants to avoid further confrontation, she might back down or use another approach.
When I was growing up, I came across this term inferiority complex. It is then I understood how everything is structured and why some people do what they do to girls, women, or a person who has no power, or at least they think the person has no power. Most men have been groomed into believing they are powerful, they know it all, they are the heads of the family and so on and so forth. This upbringing culture is structured in the patriarchal system. And challenging it while it has strong roots is like challenging the wind or wave. The system is supposed to be addressed from the core, while it is still young.
While we are trying to challenge the patriarchal system, we should try to improvise different approaches such as empowering the boys into believing in themselves. Better yet we should change the word into coaching and mentoring these boys. This role should not only be left to the parents of the family, it should be a community role and society at large.
Magdalena Thomas is a Tanzanian feminist and gender advisor currently working with Marie Stopes. She advocates for the rights of sexual reproductive health and ensuring quality services on family planning and Cervical Cancer.