One March morning, a man recently was said no to when he proposed getting married to a school-teacher in her 20s, walked into her place of work, a government primary school in Dengapara, Patiya, Chittagong.
Some accounts say he was carrying an iron rod, some say it was a shovel, others that it was a spud, or a small narrow spade used for cutting roots of plants.
He started hitting her in a classroom full of primary school children. She tried to resist, raising her hands to protect herself. He kept hitting her. She ran to the headmaster’s room to protect herself.
He followed and kept hitting her. Her co-workers and people living in houses near the school rushed to the scene. He fled immediately, but only after having broken both her hands and her left leg.
Ahsan Ullah Tutul had been stalking the schoolteacher Misfa Sultana prior to this brutal attack. A formal complaint had been lodged against him to the school committee. Tutul was an angry man.
A banker was approached by her ex-husband on a street. He had with him a knife, which he insisted she should keep, or he might kill her with it.
We do not know what happened to this particular knife, but one March morning, the banker was stabbed in the neck by the former husband, and died from excessive blood loss on her way to the hospital.
Khan Firobin, aka Robin, had abused Arifun Nesa Arifa while they were married, and had harassed and threatened her after their divorce. Arifa had filed a General Diary with the Kalabagan Police Station. Robin was an angry man.
Conversations with men
Angry men. We see them on the front, middle, and back pages of our newspapers, on our television screens, on the road, inside our homes. We need to have a conversation surrounding this anger epidemic.
Male engagement in reducing violence against women, in reducing violence in general, needs to begin with conversations not just about men, but with men.
I asked some men I know: Why are there so many angry men around us?
“I fight. I get hit. Rage actually helps. I can think better because it makes me focus,” said Samee, 29, a businessman and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. Anger, in his case, is helpful.
When the social, political, economic, moral or religious authorities of men in power are challenged, outbursts of emotion can take the form of extreme anger
Everyone experiences anger here and now. Some channel it into exercise, sports, and the arts. Some can express their anger calmly and articulately. Anger in itself is not the problem.
However, the epidemic of anger we have been experiencing is one that frequently leads to abuse and violence, be it physical, sexual, or emotional, through hurtful words and actions, intruding into the spaces and well-being of others, maiming and killing individuals, and leaving lasting effects of trauma on those both directly and indirectly involved.
Some cited frustrations around income as fuel for anger. Poverty and cash problems. This is largely true, though not without exceptions.
Faisal, 29, who works in arts management, countered: “I know people who are aware of how things should be regardless of their income and status in society. And even their level of education. It’s not illiteracy that causes someone to be violent.”
Tensions related to not having enough money are a perpetual background noise in many lives. There is evidence that lower social status leads to exposure to adversities in life that induce frustration, such as blocked personal goals, culminating in expressions of anger.
There is also evidence that those in positions of power and authority, with higher social status, are more likely to be able to express anger. Money motivates much anger-induced violence, but the problem of anger is not confined to those of low socio-economic status.
Income still remains a sensitive issue. “Families are still reluctant about marriages between a woman and a man who earns less than her. The tacit rules are that the man must be older than the woman, finish his studies first, and earn more. These norms are a reason behind much frustration and anger,” said Sakib, 27, a marketing professional on the topic.
“Testosterone and the tenuous nature of male privilege,” said Anshul, 30, a cultural theory graduate currently working in construction. “Patriarchal structures nurture aggression. Normative gender roles embody a dynamic of dominance and submission,” he continued.
The authority of men
These gender norms hurt both women and men. Most men are conditioned to not share their vulnerability, to not talk about feelings or cry. There is tremendous stigma around seeking professional help for issues relating to one’s mental and emotional health, which in itself is a privilege confined to the very few who, along with those close to them, have acknowledged the need for help.
When the social, political, economic, moral or religious authorities of men in power are challenged, outbursts of emotion can take the form of extreme anger. In the instances of Tutul and Robin, it led them to rage-fuelled violence.
“Any kind of violence can be directly associated with one’s environment,” Faisal added. “There is the aspect of nurture -- cues picked up based on what people see and learn.”
Studies support that many abusers have themselves been abused in childhood. The silence around issues of abuse often leads to unresolved anger.
“It is an absolute taboo to talk about childhood sexual abuse among men. Many people never talk about it with their families, but men will not even talk about it with their friends,” said Sakib.
“There is no place to just relax,” said a 35-year-old man in the corporate sector, choosing to remain anonymous. This stifled social environment is further compounded by the environmental pollution that releases neurotoxins, like lead, which have been documented to cause behavioural problems.
“My hypothesis is that these men are extremely unhappy in their own lives. All they see is failure in their world,” Rathin, 35, working in market research, told me.
“Sometimes they’re so preoccupied with failure and regret that they fail to recognise the good. The human brain finds it easier to blame others for an issue than do some soul searching.”
Some soul searching may not be a bad idea.
Maliha Bassam is a freelance contributor.