I grew up in a traditional home where my brother was assigned manly chores while my sisters and I, were expected to carry out ‘womanly’ chores. The irony in this is, we were raised in town by modern and educated parents. I had a problem with that. I thought education would have changed such a chauvinistic mindset! But no, it didn’t.
My life changed some years later when I had gone home for two weeks of school holiday. I was all alone at home with my brother and I was the one shouldering all the housework meant to be handled by two people. The only manly thing my brother did was slashing grass, which was once every three weeks. At times, my mum would rent the compound to cattle herders for the animals to feed on the grass or sell out the grass to businessmen who bundled them up into stacks for transport. Bottom line is, my brother never did anything until the grass grew.
I was angry at this unfairness. Waking up by 6:00am every day at age 11 just to prepare breakfast for a family of five, all who are above 25years. I confronted my mum about it and this is what she said, ” Gloria, your brother cannot do housework because he is a man.”
I have never been so broken in my life. More than ever, i wished i was born a boy so i wouldn’t work day and night like a donkey.
Many African households follow this type of layout where opposite genders don’t share chores. You will find that boys are groomed from a young age into family leaders while girls are taught servitude and family care.
Young boys, after circumcision, are told that they are men and they should not allow being sent into errands by women like little boys; that their duties are now to lead and protect their family. They are taught to be leaders without serving.
However, houses blessed with boys only have to do away with such practices. The boys are taught how to clean after themselves, cook for the family, run kitchen errands and at the same time, fulfill their duties as men i.e slashing grass, trimming, herding. Some families, are forced to hire house helps to spare their sons from carrying out feminine chores.
In the spirit of ‘being a man’, boys view of women is warped.
Boys raised in such backgrounds – where the man is the head and the woman is forced to submit to authority without a voice- are accustomed to being served and their orders followed with no opposition. These boys grow into men who can not handle rejection by women they desire. Their response to rejection is aggressiveness, verbal or physical abuse, stalking, rape, revenge porn and in extremes, murder.
Cases have been reported of such men harassing and stalking independent women, for they believe it is not right for a woman to be totally out of their control. They view such women as untamed, lacking manners, respect and honor. They see women like children who need male supervision to live right.
According to them, womanizing is not an issue. African tradition gives men power to marry more than one wife and in the eyes of the society, it is ok for a man to have numerous one night stands while for a woman, she is labeled a ‘whore’. Women are expected to retain a high moral standard when it comes to dating compared to their male counterparts.
Modern bachelors have a mind that registers what a girlfriend should be:
- Be able to cook
- Can wash his clothes without complaints
- Clean his house
- Do his shopping
- Be available, always on call
- Does not go out too much
- Satisfy all his sexual desires
- Does not nag
This criteria clearly describes partly a maid and partly a slave.
Being a girlfriend is not the same as being a wife. It is not obvious he will marry you.
Financially well off, chauvinistic men are known to entice women with the promise of a comfortable life in exchange for sexual services. Others prowl in offices looking for vulnerable young women to coerce into sex for favors and blackmail. To them, women are nothing but merchandise that can be purchased as long as you name the right price.
Men whose veins pulse with traditional ways will never be found taking care of kids or in the kitchen cooking for all that is a woman’s duty. These men also frown to their idea of being present in the delivery room as their wives give birth in the name of, ” not wanting to be seen as a sissy” by other men. Over their own bodies will they be seen carrying babies as they go shopping for supplies. They are the men who raise hell when asked to change the diaper or feed the baby.
As a father, never be ashamed to be actively involved in raising your kids.
It doesn’t matter if traditional laws forbid a man to cook or take paternity leave. Being present in every step your children take is what makes you more than a man. It makes you a father.
Helping out in house chores, taking care of children and pampering your wife does not chip away manliness. Instead, it makes you more exceptional and attractive.
Let’s not divide gender based on the tradition that hurts one and exults the other. Let’s aim for equity.