Friday, April 1, 2011

Saving Ourselves from the Saviors We Are

I have observed a thing among a certain breed of men (being myself formerly among them? No comment.). As soon as they detect damage on a lady, they take advantage of it. It's like a weak spot, an Achilles Heel on a woman, the easiest way in.

Men have a Savior Complex which, if unexamined, leads them away on crusades that are strictly none of their business. And this Save The Girl mindset permeates in the media and is propagated by popular culture. Here are some hit song lyrics from a tune singing about a guy at a train station meeting a girl who has fled her batterer. Reggae fans will identify the culprit responsible for the song:

“I'm taking you home with me tonight/
Coz I'm a lover, baby, I don't fight...”

Let's not even discuss Nollywood movies and Latin American telenovelas which make mountains of this theme: Good girl (the victim) rescued from bad boyfriend (the villain) by good man (the hero) who she marries (the happily ever after) in the face of great odds (the villain's villainy) oh!

I made my fair share of Miss Takes in life. A Miss Take is somebody you do who you should not have done. A couple of them were misconceived as Superman Missions; the knight in shining armor who rode in, usurped the bad dude and thus saved the wrist-wringing damsel from misery. I know better now – experience teaches Man that certain luggage does not fit in Superman's red cape, and Superman is not a psychiatrist, and Superman is not even real (Oh no!). How often have we heard of saviors who, after liberating the downtrodden, became the oppressors of the saved? Think of it this way: quite apart from my own Savior Complex, the 'distressed damsels' quite likely have a Helplessness Complex of their own, which pissed off the Predecessor and will very quickly get old for the Savior-Incumbent – if the relationship survives the initial gap in logic.

If I may propose a theory: (some) men subconsciously identify signs of vulnerability in women who are fundamentally near-broken at a psychological level (or simply “man issues”), and take advantage of this for their own selfish purposes. It's the law of the jungle. Few men are honest enough to identify that their initiatives are driven primarily by their own self-interest, just like most candidates to political office; they all campaign claiming to have a prosperous vision for the country, constituency, town, etc. telling us how we are in a bad (socioeconomic, developmental) position to be in but they are our redemption mostly because they are not as bad as the previous guy who was just plain rotten. Unfortunate is the man who actually believes relationships to be pro bono charity work.

As individuals, we all have our problems, some more heart-wrenching than others. All I am saying here is that we should separate real problem-solving from chest-thumping self-congratulatory predation upon the vulnerable. And let's be honest about it. Sure, let there be empathy for those in hurtful relationships, but let there be no delusional obligations to make them ours. By examining ourselves, we come to the truth.

In related news, thumbs up to all strong women.


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