RESPONSE TO A CRITIC: Sorry if I sounded chauvinistic By Jude Serbeh-Boateng

A few days ago, my article was published on the LSU blog. In the post, titled “How provoked can I be when someone sleeps with my wife?”. It can be read here: 

How ‘PROVOKED’ can I be when someone sleeps with my wife ? By Jude Serbeh-Boateng

 I made the point that men are more susceptible to anger of the kind that can lead them to take the life of other men they find sleeping with their wives. I proceeded to conjecture that it may be the result of the fragile egos of some men that stem from a toxic hyper masculinity. So that in such situations the woman appears to be the inactive person, a minion, who is at the mercy of men because of their money or sexual prowess—the two things such men associate with their masculinity. The men in this picture are therefore thrown into a pissing contest, as though the woman could not have had her own reasons other than sex or money. Or that she could not have been the active party in initiating what happened. It is tendencies like these, I argued, that put men in the state of mind where killing the other man seems almost like the natural thing to do. However, when such crimes are committed they are referred to as crimes of passion and I proceeded to point out that perpetrators of such crimes are usually cut some slack under the law because of the idea that they may have lost their power of self-control. As a defence in law this is called provocation.

While I did not set out to write a strict legal paper, I was certainly writing on the backdrop of case law. In my study of provocation in Criminal Law, I noticed that in all the cases on homicide, no woman had killed a person because they had seen them in the act of adultery with their husband. In other words, no woman was the subject of a provocation as it pertained to finding one’s spouse in the act of sexual intercourse with another person. Could that be because no woman has ever caught her husband in bed with another woman? That will be a naïve thing to think.  Could that also be because women are incapable of killing? That is perhaps an even more naïve thing to suggest. It was at the back of this reality that I attempted to theorize why this is predominantly seen in men.

When the post came out, I got the usual thumbs up emojis from people who may not have read it but still felt the political need to congratulate me on writing it. There were also a few that said in not so many words what they thought of the post. One of them stood out. Not just because it was particularly lengthy or that it came from a very good friend. It was because it stung, badly. She said, after commending the writing, that my topic and tone were misogynistic. Before I could type a reply, she said I should scratch misogynistic, chauvinistic describes it better.

Like I said, it stung. Being accused of misogyny or chauvinism is similar to being accused of racism in the sense that even the worst racists do not want to be called racist. Therefore I knew how bad the comment made me feel was no indication of my innocence. I wanted to tell her two ‘woke’ women had edited the work and didn’t say anything like that. But I wondered how that will make me different from the racist who claimed he had black nephews and nieces. So instead of defending myself, I decided to assess myself and see where I fell short. I looked up the word misogynistic. The entry read: hatred for women. I wondered how my topic or the tone of the post had propagated hate towards women. And then I remembered it was replaced with chauvinistic. So I looked that up too and it read: of or relating to persons convinced of the superiority of their own gender or kind. My kind being male, what that meant was that my topic and tone suggested that men were somehow superior to women. I wondered how my post had done this; because it represented a male perspective (as I thought, not superiority) in response to a question that was asked by a man. But she said tone, too. That was something to grapple with. Because if there is anything I know about prejudice it is the fact that it may manifest itself in seemingly innocent ways. Like how my white friend had asked, rather politely, what my favourite tribal song was.

That is how I know it is possible for me to read over my work and still be unable to tell if the tone is indeed one that rings with male superiority. And that is the sense in which I would appreciate feedback on aspects of my post which may have been chauvinistic because I am still in the business of unlearning.