Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Michael Abrahams | Don’t blame men for everything

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 12:24 AM

“Menstrual cramps…

Menopause…

Mental breakdowns…

Ever notice that all women’s problems begin with men?”

You have probably seen the quote above before, on memes, cups, T-shirts, and other stuff. Women love quotes like that, because many have been irritated or hurt by members of the opposite sex.

Yes, men can be problematic. For instance, men are more likely to engage in aggressive or criminal behaviour, or abandon their families, than are women.

As a gynaecologist, I have managed many severely traumatized women and I empathize deeply with them. The question is, however, what makes the men who have damaged them behave the way they do?

It is easy to blame men for their follies, and many are to indeed be blamed, held accountable, reprimanded or even punished. But, to be fair, we must take an honest and dispassionate look at the causes for the unsavoury behaviour of these men and how they can be addressed.

The uncomfortable truth is that the solution to the problem does not lie solely with men, and we must examine the roles women play in influencing their sons and other boys under their care.

Fatherlessness affects our boys deeply. There are many men who walk away from their children and never look back, an action that can severely damage a child. But it is a fact that there are women who deny men access to their children.

In some cases, the men are so toxic that their progeny may be better off without them. In other instances, however, the women are simply being vindictive, want to hurt the men, and use the children as pawns in their warped chess games. But it is the children who suffer most. To deny a child a relationship with their father, especially when you know the man will bond with and love the child, is just plain cruel.

This also happens when men are given “jackets”: presented with children who they are led to believe are theirs but are not. This phenomenon is more common than we would like to believe, and happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is done to save face, when a woman is in a relationship with a man but conceives for another. Sometimes it happens because a woman might feel more financially and emotionally secure with the man she gives the “jacket” to. And there are other reasons.

The fact is, however, that if a boy realizes his mother has denied him a relationship with his biological father, the anger and resentment toward her can be severe, and unfortunately, is often directed at women he has intimate relationships with, not uncommonly resulting in emotional and even physical abuse.

Scientific research has found that psychopaths can be born. The genetic makeup of some individuals dictates that no matter what environment they are raised in, they will demonstrate significant psychopathology. But our socialization and childhood experiences play a significant role in determining who we will be as adults.

Childhood trauma contributes to our dysfunctions in adulthood, and it is an unfortunate fact that there are many men walking around who have been severely traumatized by their mothers and other female caregivers, and bear the scars, which can run very deep.

THE CHOICES WE MAKE

A good mom can mould a beautiful young man, but a cold and cruel mother can create a monster.

When women make poor choices in the men they choose to father their children, the children often become collateral damage. When these men walk away, the paternal neglect hurts the children. When the men stick around, but abuse them, the kids suffer from the trauma. And when the men abuse the women and expose the children to dysfunctional behaviour, the toll on the offspring can be devastating.

It is not uncommon for women in these situations to take out their anger and frustration on their children, beating them excessively, emotionally abusing them, neglecting or even abandoning them.

Sometimes boys are told by their mothers that they are worthless like their fathers or will amount to nothing. When a boy’s mother rejects or is cruel to him, the women he encounters are often punished for the mother’s transgressions.

On the other hand, some mothers dote on their sons, and raise them with a sense of entitlement, which also sets up their future girlfriends and wives for grief. Some women are proud of the promiscuity of their sons, while some enable misogynistic and patriarchal behaviour.

I recall a woman telling me once that when her mother-in-law visited her house and saw her husband washing dishes, she reprimanded him and told him that “men are not supposed to do those things”.

This is not victim blaming, but rather, a harsh reality. Yes, many of us men need to look into ourselves and do better. There is enormous room for improvement. However, women also need to introspect.

If we wish to improve the quality of our men, work has to be done by both sexes. We are all accountable.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com or tweet @mikeyabrahams