Questioning “Manliness”. A male perspective on VAW.

I’ve said this before, will say it again and again and again. A man who hits a woman is not a man.

I witnessed something horrible, disgusting, heartbreaking the other night. A post performance Yeshi Bunna trip for a “bunna be wetet” at 2am is a pretty regular trip for my colleagues and myself. The closest one being in the “Chechnya” area of town, we sit around over some coffee, gossip about the night’s performance, the audience etc. To explain to those who don’t know, this area is notorious for bars and clubs and women of the night and especially extremely drunk/under something’s influence people walking around.

This particular night though, sitting at our regular table facing the big windows of Yeshi Bunna we see a very young girl running across the street, scared out of her mind and pretty much screaming. A young man, chasing her, grabs her by the hair and throws her down to the ground accusing her of insulting him. She hits the back of her head on the pavement, as if she was a rag doll. We were in shock and by the time we could react to this he had already kicked her in the ribs and tried to stomp on her neck which he missed and ended up stomping on her chest. There were about 6 or 7 guys there who ended up grabbing this non-man while some people tended to the girl who was concussed and bleeding from the back of her head. After most of us were yelling at this “non-man” what we thought of him, and a couple of us even got in some very necessary “words through the fist” the police arrived, took him in with a couple of witnesses and that was that. It ended as quick as it started but the emotional toll on all of us there was overwhelming.

I have never witnessed violence against a woman like this. I could not control my emotions and sat up all night, trying to figure out what would make a man, a so-called man, react that way towards a woman. We all get angry at something or someone, it’s nature but what I don’t really understand is the hate one must have for a fellow human being, for someone else’s life, for them to treat a person who is already hard pressed enough as it is to be selling her body on the streets. To have such disrespect for another human being, who is obviously physically inferior… What’s the motivation? Do they get off on it? Clearly they MUST have a positive feeling about such negative actions. If this was only common in the less educated population then we could associate the mindless behavior to ignorance but what boils me over is that there are very intelligent, educated, well off, seemingly happy men who decide they like to beat on their female counterparts.

I’m not a psychologist but how could this be if the man doesn’t have something short circuiting in the space between his ears? A man who hits a woman is not a man. Yes, I WILL judge, pass judgment, convict, sentence and deem “him” unworthy. Beating up a woman or a child can NEVER be a mistake. If this is a man then I would be embarrassed to be labeled within the same category of humans.

There is no excuse. There is no reason. There is no justification. The only explanation to a man hitting a woman is that he is a sociopath.

We still see the girl sometimes when we go to Yeshi Bunna. She seems to be well, considering the events but what’s made me sad and utterly livid was that the man who was taken into custody went with a smirk on his face saying he won’t even spend the night in jail.
I wondered with tears in my eyes what his mother would feel about his actions.


by Vahe Tilbian

Vahe is a singer/songwriter, dancer and writer attempting to find his voice through his range of talents. He is Armenian by origin, Ethiopian by nationality, living in Addis Ababa. He is currently working on an album, performing with Z Beyaynetus Band, Kenny Allen and the 251 Band and recently with Zeritu Kebede and Zemen Band. His writing is published on Zoma Magazine.


Special thanks to Vahe Tilbian for sharing his first hand account of violence against women (VAW) in the streets of Addis and daring to share his perspective on the issue. I invite more men to share their experience of witnessing such events, reflections of what they feel about such acts perpetrated by men against women and offer suggestions on how other men can get involved in STOPPING VAW.


~ ~

Love & Light

10 thoughts on “Questioning “Manliness”. A male perspective on VAW.

  1. I guess the only thing one can do with that information in the moment is to imagine what you would make you personally behave this way to have insight. We all carry inside of us the capacity, but some people have within them the conditions. Too many do.

    Someone that was close to me in my upbringing carries too this cocky rage that is similar in description – a woman ironically. She raised a son. She treated her son this way. It was no less painful to watch. Everyone is in pain – the person doing it, the person receiving it and anyone who witnesses it.


  2. Thanks for the insight Sabrina. I couldn’t agree with you more…indeed, everyone is in pain. It takes courage to confront that pain and unpack what it contains and begin to question how best to dissolve the falsity of its manifestation.


  3. Pingback: Saying NO to VAW – Follow-up on Aberash Haileay’s Case « EthiopianFeminist

  4. The author’s conclusions are a bit extreme.

    My perspective as a male would have been to say that no PERSON should initiate violence against any other PERSON unless it is in defense of oneself, in defense of one’s property, or in defense of others. And even then, only a REASONABLE amount of force should be used; just enough to end the threat and diffuse the situation. However, no one for any reason is justified in using EXCESSIVE force.

    There are two examples of excessive force in the article above. The first was the horrendous attack on the women. I repeat my original statement; no PERSON should initiate violence against any other PERSON unless it is in defense of oneself, in defense of one’s property, or in defense of others. There was no reason for the offender to brutally batter this woman; no amount of insults can justify using violence and there was obviously no risk to his own physical well being.

    The second example of excessive force in the article above is when even after 6 to 7 guys had ended the violence by grabbing the offender; they felt it was necessary to perform their own acts of violence by beating the offender as well. Their response was most likely due to the very emotional nature of the moment, but I do not read any remorse from the author in the performing of these acts of violence which (while they may have felt good on an emotional level to do) were also wrong to do against an offender that was already subdued.

    To the author’s statement that “The only explanation to a man hitting a woman is that he is a sociopath“, I would remind him that ANY PERSON is capable of violent acts (not just men). Using a REASONALBE amount of force to protect oneself and others IS JUSTIFIED. Would you stand idly by while a woman murdered your children, your family, your friends, or some other innocent people? Would using a reasonable amount of force to save their lives make you a sociopath?

    Taking the Extreme stance that “A man who hits a woman is not a man. There is no excuse. There is no reason. There is no justification” is sexist, wrong, and incredibly naïve. The author could have made the statement not sexist by saying “A person who hits another person is not a person. There is no excuse. There is no reason. There is no justification”, but even then the statement is still wrong and naïve. Perhaps as a male musician he is just making this statement to appeal to women or garner more fans? I can only guess..

    This truth is that no PERSON should initiate violence against any other PERSON unless it is in defense of oneself, in defense of one’s property, or in defense of others. And even then, only a REASONABLE amount of force should be used; just enough to end the threat and diffuse the situation. This definition is far more realistic, not sexist at all, and provides equal protection and equal rights to self defense for both men and women.


  5. I completely agree with Vahe in the harsh judgement being a necessity part but I also see what Jonathan is saying about making a statement that is if not sexist, at least sex based. However saying he’s writing this to “appeal to women” is in itself sexist and a bit of a laughable stretch even though I have no knowledge of this person.
    Getting back to the issue of violence (against men *and women), I think it is a deplorable act altogether and that it only goes on in Ethiopia to such nauseating degrees because let’s face it, they do get away with it. And unfortunately we come from a culture which generally doesn’t consider this to be as taboo as it ought to be.
    Well that’s my two-cents.


    • Melody, the article implies that if you are a man that performs a violent act, it is acceptable as long as your victim is a man that has done something you strongly disagree with; however, under no circumstances can a man do violence to a woman without being called a sociopath. My previous response illustrated why this view is both extreme and sexist.

      That is why I disagree when you say that “writing this to ‘appeal to women’ is in itself sexist and a bit of a laughable stretch”. I found this motive to be a very logical possibility based on the content of the article. The author takes an extreme stance when it comes to violence against women and yet seems to give a tacit approval to violence against men. This suggests that the author is not in favor of equal rights and treatment between the sexes; the article advocates an extreme preferential treatment for women (even if a woman were a violent offender, his extreme stance implies that no force should be used against this woman), yet he completely leaves the door open for acts of violence against men.

      Why then would you find it hard to believe that his purpose in writing the article might not also incorporate this same gender bias? My previous response suggested it as a possibility due to the content of the article; I never claimed to know with certainty that this was the author’s motive as I too do not know the author personally (though I did have the pleasure of hearing him perform before and think he is an incredibly talented musician).

      That being said Melody, I do completely agree with you when it comes to the lack of seriousness being given to acts of violence in Ethiopia and the inexcusable tendency to allow violent offenders to suffer little to no punishment for their actions. As a strong advocate for equal rights and opportunities for all Ethiopian individuals, I hope we can somehow make these horrible actions taboo.


  6. Thanks for your replies… perhaps i can summarize my thoughts as follows
    1) I don’t NEED to appeal to women by voicing my opinion against VAW… it’s what i strongly believe in and i do resent anyone who thinks i wrote this to be more popular.
    2) By deconstructing an author what you are doing is taking away from the actual topic. It’s done all the time through all forms of media and blogs to discredit the author and hence render what one has written useless because the author is deemed unworthy of anyone reading what she/he wrote. Whether I am man, woman, child, black, white, mixed race does not change the fact that i saw what i saw and i decided to write what i felt. Let me, in turn, judge you, Jonathan/Ethiopianfreethinker, that as a man who thinks my conclusion is extreme, you’re allowing yourself and other men to think that there are people out there who have a window, even a crack of a possibility that violence against a woman is allowed. Apologies if i overstep but that is a dangerous and extremely vague conclusion on your part. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t make someone else think their conclusions are flawed. If you hit a woman, you’re not a man, as i would define a man. If, in your definition, that makes me extreme, then so be it. You on the other hand sound like you condone violence against a woman in certain situations… which situations would those be if i may ask? (it’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer it)
    I suggest to all readers to read an article and agree or disagree with what is written and not pass judgment on the author based on sex, race, age, or profession. If you found the article written badly or noticed any untruths then fair enough. But there is no way you can tell me that i didn’t have the feelings that i described. There is no way you can prove that i didn’t go through such EXTREME feelings.
    3) the topic of the post is VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. This isn’t a place to talk about violence against men, women attacking men, women beating up men, or whatever combination you would like to talk about, even violence amongst men (in which case you have to start taking a bite out of the boxing “sport” or any of the martial arts. I don’t need to be politically correct in this particular situation. If time allows me to write about violence against men then i just might write my EXTREME opinion on that too. This wasn’t that time.
    4) thanks for reading and for the feedback on my music. I appreciate that.

    Only together we can change bad and destructive belief systems and create new, powerful ones that benefits all things instead of just a select few.


    • Thank you for your response Vahe. As to your points:

      1) No need to resent anyone. I put it forth as a possibility not a certainty; the two are different. I only suggested the possibly because (as you mentioned) I thought the article’s stance about violence against women was a bit extreme. I know you disagree, but if you can think of other positions that you may have thought were extreme in other individuals, is it really far of a stretch to believe there is an underlying motive behind so strong a stance on any issue?

      2) I disagree with your second point. Deconstructionism is a valid and valuable tool for ascertaining the meaning of what any author has written; both explicitly and implicitly. It used been used on everything for philosophical texts to religious scriptures to fully understand the meaning of the words and the authors’ intentions. It would be wrong to invalidate the practice based on the actions of individuals who attempt to twist words rather than gain a further understanding of them.

      In my original response I made it quite clear what my stance is on violence. I repeat:

      “No PERSON should initiate violence against any other PERSON unless it is in defense of oneself, in defense of one’s property, or in defense of others. And even then, only a REASONABLE amount of force should be used; just enough to end the threat and diffuse the situation. However, no one for any reason is justified in using EXCESSIVE force.”

      If you would like to view this as my saying there is a “crack of a possibility that violence against a woman is allowed” in “certain situations”, then yes I am saying that. I don’t think gender should matter at all when it comes to acts of violence; the action should be judged with the same weight regardless of who the offender is. As an advocate for equal rights and opportunities for man and women, this is only fair.

      3) While I agree that the topic was “VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN”, it does a disservice to that topic to appear to advocate a double standard of absolutely no violence towards women for any reason, but allow tacit approval of violence against men if they do something reprehensible. We should not try to fight sexism with sexism; that’s my opinion on it anyway.

      If I may add, again and again you mention your “feelings”. My response was not directed towards your “feelings” in the article as much as to the “actions” described in the article. As you can see by my previous responses, I believe there are circumstances where violence is justified and circumstances where they are not. The violence against the women in your article was definitely not justified. However, I am also not an advocate for excessive force at any time, regardless of how I may “feel” about what wrong a person did. So, once the offender had been subdued and no longer was a threat, the additional violence done to him was also not justified. This will just have to remain an area where we disagree.

      Thanks again for your reply.

      I do want everyone to know that I do not know the author of this article personally, so any comments I made that tried to guess at the aims of the author were my own opinions and could be completely wrong. ONLY THE AUTHOR can say for sure what he meant or what message he was attempting to send with this article.


      • 1) of course it is far fetched? Why would you question my stance? What’s your reason? If that’s the case let me put my 2 cents worth in here and say, in a very far fetched way that you’re a woman beater and need justify yourself.

        2) So i take it you’re a fan of smear campaigns too? It’s the lowest and most mindless form of putting ones point (or lack thereof) across. No need to further discuss this.

        3) This isn’t about men, it’s about WOMEN!! Honestly, you, by trying to make this into something politically correct, are taking away from the topic, which in itself means you don’t CARE about the topic…

        There is NEVER any justification for violence against a woman or a child. Whoever tires to argue against that will be labeled. Sorry, call em as i see em!



  7. 1) Easy response. I question your stance because it eliminates a person’s rights to self-defense. Period. It allows women to murder or commit any other violent crimes without anyone to stop them because (according to Vahe) there is never any justificaiton to use force to do so.

    2) No, sorry I’m not a fan of smear campains…not even sure where that came from.

    3) Again wrong. The moment you stop making it about equal rights and opportunities between BOTH men and women, you are attempting to fight sexism with sexism which is both wrong and will not work.

    I do hope no one close to you is ever on the recieving end of violence from a woman offender with only you around to save them. As you would not use a reasonable amount of force to save them, although it would be in your power, to me you’d share in the responsibility for what happens to them. There are many examples of women killing their children or others; and with your extreme stance, you’d stand by and let it happen??? And then if someone else stops up and stops it by using a reasonable amout of force you’d label them??? Wow. I just not going to agree with you on this one. All that is neccessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

    My original remains:

    “No PERSON should initiate violence against any other PERSON unless it is in defense of oneself, in defense of one’s property, or in defense of others. And even then, only a REASONABLE amount of force should be used; just enough to end the threat and diffuse the situation. However, no one for any reason is justified in using EXCESSIVE force.”


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