It’s international men’s day on Sunday, 19 November 2023, and the theme for this year’s celebration “Zero Male Suicide”is very apt. It is no surprise that there are more male suicides than female suicides and the reason for that cannot be far-fetched.
Unlike women, most men do not have close social connections with other men and find it very difficult to open up to their friends about their pains and the burdens they bear and live with, day in and day out.
Hitherto a man was a very powerful person in the society, his words meant much, his carriage was commanding but it is not so now and although the degradation of men started subtly years ago with cartoons such as The Simpsons which portrayed men as simple and stupid, needing the strong hand of the women in their lives to guide them, it is now the rhetoric by many that they don’t need men as they point to the readily available replacements of men in the workplace, home and behind closed doors.
I define myself as a refined feminist and although I sincerely believe in the equality of both sexes, I know for a fact, that the place of a man in a woman’s life and in the society as a whole is very important. If the woman’s hand is said to rock the cradle, it is undisputed that it is the hand of the man that steadies it. A good example is seen in the way a word or look from daddy will pass the message across or call the children to order than the shouts, threats and beating by mummy.
I was speaking with a younger man sometime this week and as he spoke, telling me about the state of his marriage and business, I could feel his pain and anger, his bewilderment and disillusionment and how he felt unloved and used. He spoke long about his wife’s attitude towards him, how she didn’t care about what happened to him or in his career, about how he loved his children, took care of them and was practically still in the marriage because of them ( I know he was saying the truth because I have watched from afar his interactions with his children), how in the long run he had concluded that he was only as good as the color of his money.
He is not the only one, I have spoken to several men, who feel that they are loved only for what they bring to the table, who have accepted that their needs would always be second to that of their wives and children and therefore justify their philandering or bad behavior as looking out for themselves and their sanity.
Many women may not always admit it, but men are a covering. The first time I went to a function after Mr Aisi died, even though I had gone to many functions without him whilst he was alive, I felt somewhat naked and exposed, I am yet to fully comprehend why I felt that way, as it could be because I had been with him for a longer time than I had been alone, but there was something about his presence that had made feel safe and secure even when he wasn’t with me.
The second time I would feel naked was when I decided to downsize and went house hunting. I had never house hunted before in my life, Mr Aisi always looked for the houses, sorted out the agents and my job was to look the apartments over to see whether I liked it before he concluded. It was a very unpleasant experience and for the first time in my life I understood what single women go through. I was told to my face by agents that most Landlords would not rent to Single women. My age and the fact that my mother would be living with me did not make any difference. My being a lawyer and self-employed made it worse. I was so frustrated after being rejected by two landlords that I was on the fringe of getting my brother to stand in as my husband, when I got where I eventually took and even then, my friend’s husband put in a good word for me and acted informally as my guarantor.
Until Mr A died, I didn’t know how the electricity bill was paid, how to change bulbs, how to fuel or put on the generator, as far as I am concerned there are things that women shouldn’t concern themselves about because they fall squarely in the domain of men but that doesn’t mean also that we should leave all things for them to do. I am strongly opposed to a man carrying all the burdens, particularly the financial burdens in the house especially in this time and age when every family needs at least two sources of income to make ends meet. I can never understand why, especially in situations where the man is hardworking and responsible, a woman will refuse to help out in the home even if it is just for a while.
Good men may be an endangered species, but they exist.
There are many men out there who have been scarred for life by the women they loved. Men who have been lied to, cheated upon, abused emotionally and physically by their spouses. Men who may or may not have had good role models to look up to but who have told themselves they would change the narrative. Men who do not have savings because all they have is being thrown into the family purse, men who though agile and working are dreading the latter years of their lives because they have nothing set aside for the future and cannot trust that their children will take care of them like they would do for their mothers, men who dare not ask for help because to do so will expose them to ridicule and disrespect. Men who cannot unburden themselves to their significant other even though they take the pain of others. Men who have been forced to choose between their wives and female relations for the sake of peace. Men who have been told it’s not manly- to cry, to talk about their feelings and emotions, to be depressed, to be broke, to be easily content and not be ambitious.
It is those men that I celebrate today. Those men who have held their head high and sought to do right by everyone. It is also to those men that I speak to today and say even as we say to women “CHOOSE YOU”, do the things that will make you happy without hurting anyone, spend on yourself as you spend for your family, curate a close social relationship with like-minded men, take care of your health especially your emotions, ignore the high placed societal expectations and live your life without regrets.
Happy international men’s day.