June is traditionally known as the month dedicated to men, the one and only day set apart to celebrate men-Father’s Day, falls in the month of June and it is only appropriate that my writings this month address the male gender. There has been a silent revolution going on in the society, there is the welcomed emancipation of the female folk who is finding her foot and voice in every sector and industry, however on the other hand, there seems to be an enslaving of the male folk especially with the rise of feminism and the bashing of men. As it seems, both genders cannot be on equal footing at the same time and for one to rise, the other must take the back seat but it ought not to be so. Both genders are important and have their place and worth in society.
I must admit that men intrigue me. I look at them and wonder what makes them tick, why they do the things they do? I admire their sense of cordiality and objectivity that is sometimes lacking amongst women, their sense of adventure and recklessness at times. I bemoan their love for sports – till date I can’t fathom why normal emotionally deficient men will weep, cry, fight and even die seeing 22 men running after a small leather ball on a field. I wonder how they can be so cavalier about sex, about how they can be ignorant about details around them, how they obsess over their work and ego and demand their respect.
So what makes a man a man?
- Is it his sex organs? – those bits of flesh that makes him (a) pliable in the hands of the woman that knows how to get the best reactions out of it, (b) leads him down many a rabbit hole with sometimes severe consequences.
- Is it his mind – the ability to be detached and objective when looking at situations?
- Is it his ability to keep a stiff upper lip and maintain a façade of strength without betraying the turmoil that is within when faced with adverse situations?
It used to be that, and still is, though less more than before, that what made a man was his physical strength, capacity to take up and shoulder responsibilities, provision and protection of his loved ones and his sexual proclivities and adventures.
I dare say the male folk have it harder than the female folk because of the societal expectations demanded from them and sometimes I wonder if all the stories one hears nowadays about men being irresponsible is not a revolt in some way against the society.
I think however that our children are changing the narrative of what it means to be a man and it is worth considering what their outlook on life is. Today’s man is concerned about many things that his father was not concerned about. Male fashion for one has gone through a revolution. Our men are turning up well groomed and breaking the fashion rules as to what a man should or should not wear. I recently saw a picture of D’banj in a crop top and trousers and Burna Boy in an outfit that consisted of a shirt and flared trousers under a pleated skirt. Men of all ages are beginning to pay a lot of attention to how their bodies look, their skincare routine – hair, beard, nails, massage and pedicure. They are also in touch with their emotions and feelings as they give and accept public displays of affection amongst their peers and share their vulnerabilities with friends and strangers alike.
So what makes a man a man?
For me the attributes of a man are varied and it includes
- Confidence. The lion is the king of the jungle for a reason, his carriage and mien speak of royalty and an acknowledgement of his headship of the jungle hierarchy. However a man can only be confident if he knows who he is, is not competing with others, walking his path and living on his terms.
- The ability to ask for help. It is a common joke that men get lost when driving because they refuse to ask for directions and to ask for it on time. Many men think that to be a real man they have to know it all but forget that they are not perfect. Many times, things get to a point of irreversible damage because men refuse to ask for help on time in all areas of life especially concerning (a) their health – prostate cancer and high blood pressure are the killers because many men willfully ignore the early symptoms and refuse to get help on time. (b) relationships – because they find it difficult to open up about their needs, insecurities and so their partners do not know what is going on with them and can’t even help them even though they might want to. (c) work or business – because for most men they can’t be seen as helpless in the very thing that defines their masculinity.
- The ability to be vulnerable yet manly. Vulnerability is a very touchy subject for men mainly because of societal conditioning and it is only a man who is confident in himself, has found a safe place that opens up about the going ones in his life. The truth is many men refuse to consider being vulnerable in admitting their need for affection, touch, contact or even sex from their partners because of the fear of rejection and disrespect but it’s a real man who finds the right balance between being needy and fulfilling his desires.
- Responsibility. The ability to take responsibility, be in charge and be present. A lot of men shoulder their responsibilities without the recognition of the weight they carry by their partners. It is an irony for many men that when they do the things society expects of them, it is not celebrated whereas when the same is done by a woman she demands recognition and veneration.
Today’s man is a mix of the old and new and in so many ways it is refreshing to see men being more vulnerable and in touch with their emotions and feelings and at the same time, disheartening to see many shirking their responsibilities especially to their families and abdicating same to the women either because they can’t or don’t want to handle them.
It is my feeling, and I stand to be corrected that most men feel used and by this I mean that when they look back at their lives they discover, that, but for the laurels they gather in their work and achievements in society, they work primarily to create a good life for their families and when they grow old they receive little of the expected returns of care and companionship from their children and wives. I believe that it is that feeling that makes many men throw caution to the winds to enjoy their lives sometimes with disastrous consequences because after all “problem no dey finish ”
Does today’s man have what it takes to be a man? I believe so because toxic masculinity is being eroded by many factors least of all the economic realities of our world today but it behoves men to find a way to blend the positives of yesterday with today – the ability to be true to himself, understand his place, master himself, be vulnerable, provide, protect and lead his tribe. Maybe then we will see a reduction in the suicide rates and the dependence on drugs, sex and alcohol we are seeing amongst men.