Life Notes: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Abusive Cowboys
by Cindy Wyatt

Another young woman was just shot and killed by her husband-in Ruston. I wrote an article recently with some humor about what we teach our youth about romance myths and gender roles. But there is nothing funny about what happens when a person’s thinking gets terribly distorted. Rather, children are exposed to violence, families are torn apart and people die. I should say women die. The reality is that 85% of victimizations by intimate partners were against women. And of all female homicides recorded annually in the last years, 33% were killed by intimate partners. In other words, men are doing the abusing and women are doing the dying.

Why? Why does a man inflict violence and kill the one he supposedly loves? Factors can include the particular pathology of the individual and/or the violent or neglectful home to which he may have been exposed. Alcohol and drugs as well as a whole host of social problems can trigger a violent episode if the person is already predisposed to violence. And sadly … many men are predisposed to violence.

That may sound harsh. After all, my little boy isn’t violent. He has a nurturing father as a role model. Yet, he is exposed to alarming images. It is estimated that by the time most children get out of elementary school, they are exposed to 8,000 murders on television and up to 100,000 acts of violence. Young boys notice that men are glorified for their physical prowess, their ability to fight, the fact that they won’t take any “guff” from anyone. We don’t seem to as openly esteem men who are nurturing, artistic, or not athletic. Sociologists believe that we prepare girls for their eventual roles as mothers by encouraging their expression of feelings and attentiveness to others’ needs. Conversely, we prepare boys for their eventual roles as soldiers by teaching them to suppress their feelings and to value action rather than contemplation. We don’t want the guy in the foxhole next to us to be in touch with his feelings! It makes sense.

The problem with assigning rigid roles to males and females is that they take those ideals into their marriages. And when pressures arise and ideals fail, violence can become the tool to re-fit everyone back into their roles.

I don’t advocate shutting our youth away from the world. Rather we have to balance their exposure, educate, and model healthy male/female roles. Offer them many options–regardless of gender. Girls can be assertive while still caring about others’ feelings. Boys remain manly while expressing a full range of emotions. No one dominates in the relationship. People are allowed to negotiate to get needs met. People are allowed, even, to leave us without our whole worth as a man or woman being devastated. No one has to die.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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