From where I’m standing, it seems that the relatively small number of men who abuse women either don’t realise what harm they cause, or have shut down their feelings to the extent that they don’t care. Whatever the reason, these men remind me of zombies – with dead hearts and a hunger to feed on the emotionally alive.
Surely some damage must have happened to such men for them to be infected with this zombie-ness; but, whatever the reason, it seems important to learn how to identify, and then neutralise or avoid them – especially for any women they may come into contact with – until a cure is found.
In the past, I unconsciously tried to avoid hearing or learning more about zombie attacks, because the statistics were too depressing. But finally, I had to do something to release the pressure of sickly shame that built up in my gut whenever I read the latest news story about gender abuse, or heard from women friends about the damage that had been done to them by a zombie that they’d encountered.
That’s why I joined the U.K.-based White Ribbon campaign to end male violence against women, and I’ve recently been volunteering with the Good Lad Initiative in London going into schools to work with groups of teenage boys to get them to think about the gender stereotypes of men and women which affect how they feel about themselves and each other as males. Including all their fears of falling short in the masculinity stakes, and the distorted ideas about girls which they might have absorbed from the media, from other boys, or – increasingly – from the pornography that almost all boys seem to have regular and easy access to on their tablets and smartphones these days.
Thankfully, most men are strong enough to be supportive and kind to the more vulnerable. But if it’s statistically correct that one in three women are victims of gender violence at some point in their lives, even accounting for the possibility that zombies harm multiple partners as they move from one destroyed relationship the next, there’s no escaping how tragically common male abuse of women continues to be. Gender violence is also the number one health risk to women word wide – much greater than war, disease and accidents combined!
My guess is that fear is at the root of the male urge to become zombified and to lose any feelings of tenderness or vulnerability – and maybe this is some throwback to the early days of human existence, when everything in nature was a threat, and our instinct was to protect ourselves even in response to women with their ability to reproduce and give birth.
On top of that, because we were all dependant on a woman for the first years of our lives, it seems that some men cannot forget or forgive the vulnerability and dependence they felt, or their pain and anger when her adored breast was taken from them, and they spend the rest of their lives in terror of ever feeling so dependant or so betrayed again, becoming zombie-men who have no feelings except a buried need to get some kind of revenge?
Men have traditionally felt shame about displaying any feminine qualities, and have tried to deny and destroy them in themselves, and because females are seen to embody those qualities, and to be closely identified with ‘nature’, insecure men project their fear onto women, and have a need to ‘punish’ or control them.
Perhaps this is why a culture of masculinity evolved that venerates power and disdains vulnerability; and a mind-set that prioritises finding ways to dominate and control nature, and the women who embody her, rather than living and working in harmony.
On top of all this, it’s harder now for men to find work which requires innately male qualities. So perhaps because there are fewer ways for men to ‘prove’ and experience their masculinity, some resort to harming women to feel a sense of power – a drug-like substitute for a rooted sense of self-worth, that ultimately fails to fill that gap.
As more women reclaim their power and demanding equal rights, this is yet another threat to fearful men, whose backlash results in more sexual harassment, abuse and violence. Zombies are often hard to spot because they know how to pretend to be the kind of ‘good’ man most women want to meet. But sooner or later their mask falls off, and their zombie nature is revealed with all its heartless selfishness and endless hunger for devouring a living person’s life.
We urgently need to find an effective antidote to the emotional dis-ease of zombification that seems to be afflicting so many men – and to offer “treatment“ that men will actually accept, to help them become human again? The way forward has to be one chosen by men – with the support and respect of women.
Men who have escaped from the ‘man box’, and have avoided becoming zombies, must stand up and become vocal advocates for how men and masculinity can manifest in the world in life-enhancing ways. And women need to let men know that those zombies are a turn-off but sensitivity is sexy; and that they will support, and be attracted to, men who are trying to make the transition from one to the other!
This will be enough motivation for most men to risk learning to be a feeling human being who can live and love to the full.
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