Devon Dick | Her story vs his story
Last week Thursday, the day before International Women’s Day, a fellow columnist said, “ I had a five-year separation from my wife, and it nearly drove me over the edge”. From that sentence, his story was told, but the readers were not told how the separation affected his wife. His story was about how deeply affected he was by the separation. Obviously, this is a man for whom a marital break-up was not to be taken lightly. He is a man who has feelings and cares about family life.
Out of his horror story, he was able to help Cabinet minister Daryl Vaz: “ More than a few years ago, when Daryl Vaz and his first wife were going through a painful break-up, I received a call from one . . . who suggested that we . . . do our best to bring him some good cheer.” His story was that he was helping a fallen brother. Also, Daryl is displayed as a male who cares about marriage. But the ex-wife’s story is conspicuously absent.
So there are two stories about marital difficulties, and in both cases, the feelings and effects on the males are highlighted. These men will be seen as caring, compassionate, loving and concerned about marriage. The readers are no wiser about these women, their feelings, possible trauma, etc. In addition, the first name of Vaz’s first wife is not mentioned, and the first name of the columnist’s wife is not mentioned. These women are nameless and voiceless. It can, however, be speculated that these women were not similarly affected as the men that neither was driven to the edge of a ‘cliff’.
The only name that can be ascribed to them is Mrs So-and-So. It is a feature of the dominance of men that most women take the surname of the male they marry and that even after divorce, they often carry the baggage of the man’s surname. It is still a chauvinistic society.
The only female whose first name was mentioned was Vaz’s current wife: “ I saw his (Daryl’s) return to happiness when he met and married Ann-Marie . . . .” This other wife is no longer nameless and voiceless, but she is praised for bringing happiness to her husband. Apparently, the role of a wife is to bring happiness to the husband. However, there is a school of thought that the role of the wife is not to make the man happy, but rather, that the man should be a happy person first and marry a woman who is also happy, with both making a lifelong commitment of love for better for worse, in sickness and in health.
Too often, women have been voiceless and nameless. Even in the Bible, there are such instances, and this is not surprising, since the Bible was scripted by mainly men. In the gospel of John, there is another nameless woman popularly called the ‘woman at the well’. She was an outstanding Christian who established the work in Ephesus, but her name is not known.
There needs to be balance, fairness and equality when a story about a couple is written. There are two sides to a couple and two sides to a story. Women involved in marital breakdown should have their stories appreciated and affirmed. In addition, if an ex-wife does not want the story to be aired publicly, then that should also be respected. Sometimes, for the children’s sake, an ex-wife does not want public airing of her story, or even his story.
What is good for the goose should also be good for the gander so that his story and her story are told fairly.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’ and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.