The man of the house

The Afrika way
Posted February 20, 2009 from Kenya

I recently had a heated discussion with a close friend of mine, who is very vocal in the youth movement. She accused me on focusing too much on the girl child and forgetting about the boy child.

“He too is suffering,” she said.

“I know that, but the girl child is in a worse situation. Women in Africa are in a worse situation, surely you can not disagree with that” I tried to explain.

“Of course I know that, I am a woman…” she retorted. I began getting the feeling that the conversation was taking a more personal tone.

“Then if you know that, what are we arguing about?” I asked.

“I recognize that there is a problem, but by concern is how you are trying to handle the problem. Empowering the girl child and the woman is vital, in fact I think it is a matter of life and death, and I support that. You know I am willing to cut off my foot to prove that,” She said, I rolled my eyes, she was always dramatic when trying to explain her points.

“But I think that the boy child should be empowered as well,” she continued. “Someone needs to change his mentality, let him learn that despite traditions and culture there is nothing different between him and his sister, well, other that the biological details, but you get my point. Let him learn from an early age to respect a woman and not to undermine her. If this is done then we can be sure to win the gender campaign sooner rather than later.”

I looked at her, and she noticed that she had got my attention. She had a strong point. I made a mental note to think more about this.

“Another thing, are you aware that the boy child also experiences hardship. I mean, there are cases where the boy child is really suffering, why is everyone ignoring him?” she asks.

“He is not ignored,” I eventually found my voice. “But you have to understand that the African society is patriarchal in nature. That means that the structures exist in such a manner, that it is easier for the boy-child to survive the different hardships he might be forced to face as opposed to the girl child. In most cases, the boy has the chance to live his dream, it might be hard for him to begin with, but as life goes on, he has a chance of living his life. On the other hand, the girl child does not have this luxury. It is easier to sacrifice her dreams for the sake of what the patriarchal society views to be more important.”

She slowly nodded; she knew I had a point as well. We each turned our attention at the two cups of coffee at the table, which by now had gone cold.

That evening in the comfort of my warm blanket, I thought of the boy child, the man and the gender campaign. Yes, there might be a need for women to redefine the gender campaign. Not in terms of the goal we want to achieve, but in terms of the strategies. Involve the boy from an early age; mould his thinking as opposed to trying to change his thinking after he is already a man. The latter is difficult and takes time. We do not want the next generation to be fighting the same war.

Anyway I decided to write this story for the rural boy child. Just to let him know, that I know what he is going through as well.

He quickly throws down his bundle of books, removes the only pair of uniform he has, and neatly but hurriedly folds it away. He is not going to wash them; washing will only make them wear out faster. The school uniform is only washed once a week, or when it is visibly dirty. He goes out to the shed and picks up his guiding stick. It is a hot afternoon and he has to go out and graze the three cows they have.

He is the first born of the family and the man of the house. His father is dead, died of some disease. He does not know much about this disease; they told him it is called HIV and AIDS. He wonders which killed him.

They told him he is too young to be told more, that he will learn more of this disease when he grew older.

He does not feel the loss of his father, after all he barely knew him. He saw him once a month or sometimes once in three months. Mother told him father is a busy man, he works in the big city and sends them money, but now father is dead, and he is left with five siblings. He is only thirteen but he is the eldest and the man of the house.

He grabs his guiding stick and runs to the field. He has to release his mother from her morning shift. They take turns. His mother grazes the cattle in the morning while he is at school, and in the afternoon he takes over.

He can’t afford to take afternoon classes. His mother has to go and look for food for their evening meal, which will also be their breakfast. See now, they can’t afford to have all three, or four, or five meals in a day. He has a younger sister who is eleven years old, she is in charge of the house and the siblings when the mother and the brother are out, which is, the whole day.

In the evening he guides the cattle back to the worn out shed, battered by the years it has seen and the harsh weather. See, they inherited the farm from his grandparents.

He drags himself into the house. Supper is ready. He makes sure his siblings have eaten first, “they are young,” he says, “They need the food more”. It is only then that he eats. He is a good brother.

After everyone has gone to sleep he grabs the only kerosene lamp they have and goes to a corner. Careful not to disturb his sleeping siblings with the light. He brings it closer to the pages; he has to remind himself what he had been taught that morning.

The boy has a dream and believes in struggling to achieve that dream, he believes he is the only hope for the family; he believes he is the man of the house.

As he blows out the lamp after reading, and crawls on to his bed, a worn out mattress on the floor he considers himself lucky. He knows there are those worse than him.

Comments 10

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Lisa Hinton
Feb 20, 2009
Feb 20, 2009

Your writing illustrates some very compelling, very intertwined ideas. I have heard a similar conversation in regards to gender based violence. On one hand, how can we support the survivor? On the other hand, how can we support those who are committing acts of violence so that it can be stopped? Thank you for sharing your story about the boy. I think there are so many stories yet be told about all of our struggles. May your pen (or keyboard!) illuminate the world with rays of hope and change our future.

All my best,

Lisa

JuliaH
Feb 21, 2009
Feb 21, 2009

Thank you for this story and for bringing up this important question:

How can we develop a global respect for children without exclusive emphasis on girl or boy? Maybe we first need to focus on the girls and bring to them the same ammount of respect as the boys in their communities recieve at birth. Maybe we need to recognize that the boy children cannot be blamed for the patriarch of today. Perhaps we do need to consider the burden that this places on the little boys’ shoulders and give them the option to stop the cycle.

How do we untangle the messy ties of gender and childhood? It may take many generations to erase the separation and opposition of boy and girl, leading to inequality between men and women. I feel that by recognizing and discussing these sorts of questions we are on the way to adressing the inequalities. I hope our youth will soon be nurtured and challenged on a level playing field. Imagine no predefined image behind 'boy' or 'girl' but a learning and growing 'child'. The oppressive gender roles lived out by adults will only equalize when we can teach all our children to become caring, creative and contributing global citizens.

Cheers to the Afrika way!

Julia.

Kagwii
Feb 22, 2009
Feb 22, 2009

I think the reversal has to start with our ways of socialisation. We have to stop making huge parties when a boy is born, giving him the largest share of everything just because he is a boy, giving him the easiest things to do, we also have to see the truth that gender campaigns are not just about women, but about women and men. I think actually this is where it all begins.

I think the fight for the girl child is the obvious realisation of the double workload girls experience from very early which shapes their lives. Women and girls have the highest percentage of uneducated people in the world and have the highest chances of being malnourished, and are victims of war and diseases including HIV/AIDS among other issues. The need to change this is what makes me wake up every morning, knowing the little work I engage in does make a difference in a girl/woman's life.

Navalayo
Feb 22, 2009
Feb 22, 2009

Hi.....loved this piece. And I must say that we are not fighting for the girl child and forgetting the boys. It is unfortunate that the efforts being made are made to seem one-sided, but nevertheless there are still a lot of disadvantages faced by girls more than boys.....I think that should be made clear.

Consolata Waithaka
Feb 23, 2009
Feb 23, 2009

You have reminded me of what has been regularly asked to me several times. What is in girls we seem to dwell so much on? People asks. The answer is always ready for them. The boy child is born carrying with him the mightiness. The society recognizes a boy child more than girl child. The girl child is the one to fetch water, firewood and cook for the brothers even at a tender age. The girl has to endure the hardships more than BOY! How i wish i can be publishing some of this stories. Kindly let me know. Consolata, Womans Hope

Feb 23, 2009
Feb 23, 2009

The old Saying is indeed true: "You are too kind."

Women make me smile sometimes. Not in a truly amused way; this reaction tends to be more along the line of an exasperated physical response to their self-defeating reluctance to commit to the battle to re-claim their own Human, Social and Economic Rights, as deliberately, incessantly and relentlessly appropriated by Men.

A half-hearted approach to psycho-physical empowerment, which I would dearly love for Women to re-think, and instead gear themselves up fo this Fight with the same kind of (necessary!) wholeheartedness and singlemindedness, that has underscored all of the diabolical machinations deployed by Men in placing Women in the Boy-Toy, Rape-Victim, Beating-Victim, Half-Paid, Vote-Robbed, Sex-Joke, House-Slave....HALF-HUMAN BEING THAT MEN HAVE RENDERED HER THROUGHOUT HISTORY, RIGHT DOWN TO TODAY.

If Women are still vacillating uselessly about whether or not they truly want - or even deserve to RE-CLAIM ALL THAT WAS, AND IS STILL BEING STOLEN FROM THEM BY MEN, let me share a bit of MALE-CREATED Law that I reading up on today. It has to do with a Woman's Right as a widow to inherit under Law. This devolution of the Law of Man's Land however, has OBVIOUSLY been seen, and therefore duly constructed by MEN with one hand protectively stroking their PENIS! For this male-conceptualised and male-constructed LAW should in no way be confused with HUMAN JUSTICE, since setting out as it calculatedly and deliberately has, to privilege Men at every turn, and at the callous expense of Women. An UN-JUST, TYPICALLY SELFISH MALE-LAW, under which Men flourish as benefactors, while Women remain Victims under separately-privileged Lives.

The part that caught my attention, and sickened my stomach afresh therefore, was where the "solemn edict" declared that, for a prospective Woman-benefactor of her married, or common-law husband's inherited property, she MUST FIRST NEED TO PROVIDE PROOF OF HAVING FULFILLED HER CONJUGAL RESPONSIBILITIES DURING THE PERIOD DIRECTLY PRIOR TO HER HUSBAND'S DEATH! Can you imagine this ARRANT CRAP finding its way piously and solemnly into LAW? That little piece of sexually-greedy MALE-MACHINATION is nothing more than an undisguised attemtp - nay, SAFEGUARD by-MEN, for-MEN, to ensure that "their" Women - even after their demise, must have "paid-them Sexually, to get-paid by them, Financially."

THIS, Dear, Doubtfully Self-Honouring Ladies, is but one small example of the GREAT LENGTHS that Men - around the Globe, have gone to historically and even now, in furthering their PENIS-FIRST LIFE's AGENDA.

Consequently, for Women to continue to effectively indulge themselves in this uselessly-nice, and futilely-self destructive reticence about EXERCISING A SIMILARLY THOROUGHGOING MENTALITY AND ATTITURE TO RE-CLAIMING WOMEN'S STOLEN HUMAN-HOOD, is disengenuous - to say the least.

Look at it this way, Ladies: if you REALLY don't think you can bring yourself to battle - tooth and nail (JUST LIKE A MAN!) to claw back your STOLEN HUMAN RIGHTS for your own deserving selves....do it for the MILLIONS OF GIRL-CHILDREN TO WHOM YOU WOULD - EFFECTIVELY THEREFORE, HAVE DONE SHAMEFULLY LITTLE TO MAKE A BETTER PLACE THAN ITS PRESENT DE-HUMANISED, VIOLATED, EXPLOITED FEMININE-WASTELAND.

CHILDREN, MIGHT I REMIND YOU, THAT MEN THEMSELVES WOULD HAVE ARROGANTLY DEMANDED YOU RETAIN IN YOUR WOMB - EVEN AFTER RAPE, OR MERELY BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO WEAR A CONDOM CLAIMING THAT IT DIMINISHES THEIR FULL SENSORIAL ENJOYMENT OF "THEIR" MANLY SEXUAL PLEASURE.

There is no "THIRD GENDER" to blame for WOMEN'S HORRENDOUS, AND HORRENDOUSLY-UNCHANGED LIVES. NO LITTLE GREEN MEN FROM MARS. MERELY BLACK, WHITE AND BROWN MEN...RIGHT HERE FROM THE PLANET EARTH ORIGINALLY CREATED TO BE SHARED WITH WOMEN, BUT CO-OPTED BY MEN AS THEIR - SOLE - "MEN'S WORLD."

MEN REMAIN THE LIVING, BREATHING CULPRITS OF THE PIECE. For Women to wring PITY out of their own BATTERED AND BLEEDING HEARTS...WHILE WOMAN-BLOOD IS FLOWING FASTER AND FASTER ALL AROUND THE GLOBE, would be the ULTIMATE EXPRESSION OF WASTEFUL BAD FAITH. A Soft Heart should never mean a SOFT HEAD.

I mean - just think about it.... Please?

Ayobami Olusola
Feb 24, 2009
Feb 24, 2009

I really do not believe that men are totally to blame for the lot of women. I have had experiences at the hand of women, who in their attempts to achieve their own selfish desires have made my life miserable. In some cultures in my country, when a man dies, it is his female relatives that inflict physical [pain on his widow. I can even say that in many instances, I have observed that a mother in law often has more unrealistic expectations of a wife than even the husband. The truth is that society is made up of men and women and we must all share the responsibility for where we have found ourselves. The responsibility may however fall more on men than women. The truth is that there are good men. I must refer to my grandfather who slaved to send my mother to medical school against the advice of his family and never took a second wife all his life and my former lecturer who supports his wife relentlessly in her business pursuit despite tongues that keep wagging that she has given birth to no son. I have also known wife beaters and rapists. Most importantly to say women have no responsibility at all in the course society has taken would be to say that women are totally powerless. I do not believe this. Women are powerful.

Feb 25, 2009
Feb 25, 2009

Hi, Olakitike;

I appreciate your response. However, I don't think anything in my own post suggested, far less categorically stated in so many words, that " women have no responsibility at all in the course society has taken." That would be to agree with Men's mental and social construction of Woman as a "thing-ified" sub-human nonentity, to be controlled/abused under the guise of being "cared" for.

To the contrary, it is my unshakeable belief that Women have a responsibility FIRST - to themselves, by dint of the sub-humanised lives that Men have forced them to live within this same society, and only thereafter to anyone, or anything else.

It is quite simple, really: when engaged in any War (at least any that one hopes to win, and not merely tediously go-through the motions of fighting!) the Warrior must concentrate their whole focus and energies on the complete scope and ambit which informs that particular battle. For example, Women in Africa and their empathetic sisters the world over, cannot - sensibly, try to fight against the continued atrocities committed by African militants in the Congo, without DE-COMPARTMENTALIZING THE MALE FROM THE MALE-WARRIOR. The MAN FROM THE HUMAN BEING.

To elucidate further: Whether it would have been through eagerly signing up for service, or reprehensibly being kidnapped as children and forced into service, let us HONESTLY examine what EXACTLY determines HOW, WHAT and WHY - for example, the Congolese Militant will commit the atrocities that he has been so callously engaged in, and - to date, appears to show no sign of ceasing - certainly NOT OF HIS OWN FREE WILL, but only if/when stopped by a bullet.

And I use the CONGOLESE MILITANT here as my example, in exactly the SAME DENUNCIATORY MANNER that I would cite the actions of EUROPEAN BRUTES such as: the atrocities committed by the BOSNIAN-SERB under the guise of fighting Balkanist-state wars, where the first order of business appeared to be the seizure of former Hotels, Schools, Churches and subsequent make-over into sex dungeons within which their once former sisters/wives/daughters/mothers were sexually savaged. In much the same way as the WORLD'S BLACK & WHITE MEN temporarily suspend - if not dispel altogether, their individual racial, national or other ideological differences to become JOINED-AT-THE-LOINS when it comes to controlling and brutalising the World's Women, so too we can add the ASIAN JAPANESE, who similarly used/abused the Bodies of their own female citizenry as "Comfort Women" during the Brute-Beast Happy Hour that is - really - all that Men DELIBERATELY CREATE THEIR WARS TO BE.

Hence, when I cite the SUB-HUMAN, SHAMEFUL, BRUTISH ACTS of the African Congolese, they are in fact LITERALLY KINDRED-BRUTISH ACTS OF A RACIAL BRUTE-BROTHERHOOD AROUND THE GLOBE. Acts focussed upon UNIVERSALLY SELECTING WOMEN AND HER CHILDREN AS PRIME VICTIM. Acts committed by MEN wearing, or more factually HIDING-BEHIND THE UNIFORM/MASK OF THE WARRIOR, in a CALCULATED BID to protect THEIR OWN LIVES AND FUTURES! TO RE-ENTER "CIVILIZATION" WITHOUT BLAME OR SHAME, AFTER THEIR BESTIAL BEHAVIOURS!

But WHY should either MAN or WARRIOR expect such a rarified existence? WHAT rationale can he submit to benefit thus? After all, was he NOT - BEFORE HE CHOOSE TO BECOME A WARRIOR - FIRST - A HUMAN BEING, LIVING AMONG OTHER HUMAN BEINGS? FIRST - A CHERISHED BOY-CHILD? FIRST - A, FAITHFUL FRIEND? FIRST - A CARING NEIGHBOUR...LOVING HUSBAND....ALL REAL AND VIABLE MODES OF LIVING AND BEING, BEFORE HE DELIBERATELY TOOK-UP ARMS, AND IN SO DOING, DELIBERATELY LET-GO OF HIS OWN HUMANITY, AND RESPONSIBILITIES AND EXPECTATIONS AS A HUMAN BEING?!?

So, Olakitike, when you say: [QUOTE:] "...The truth is that there are good men..." [UN-QUOTE], you speak - as you are entitled to, MERELY of OTHER, NON-ABUSIVE MEN that you know. Hence, I do not accept that these - real and honourable examples though they are, ARE or SHOULD IN ANY WAY NEGATE THE VAST MAJORITY THAT CHOOSE TO LIVE THEIR LIVES IN WAYS THAT HORRIFICALLY IMPACT ON THESE SAME FEW GOOD MEN, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, ALL OF THE MANY WOMEN AFFECTED FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL TO NOW.

To accept your implied contention, that because a (very!) few Humane men exist, rightful-blame and shame should somehow be suspended from falling upon the heads of those who conversely - and deliberately - DO ALL IN THEIR POWER TO DESERVE SUCH CENSURE, IS TO CONCUR UNWITTINGLY WITH EVERY VILLAIN - BLACK, WHITE & BROWN, MALE OR FEMALE, who deliberately sets out to COMMIT A CRIME, but nonetheless expects to fall back on THE EXPECTED/DEMANDED-FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS WITHIN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION.

For this is EXACTLY the kind of HYPOCRITCAL PHILOSOPHY that Criminals deploy: "TO FORGIVE ME, IS TO PLACE YOUR OWN MORALITY AT ITS HUMANE OPTIMUM. TO FAIL TO FORGIVE ME, IS TO BE JUST LIKE ME." However, to intellectually buy into that claim made to one's ego or Pride in Self, has little to do with HONEST, RATIONALE JUDGEMENT, but EVERYTHING to do with SATISFYING ONE'S EGO AS A "GOOD" HUMAN BEING, BEFORE SOCIETY'S - NOT HUMANITY'S, NOR LAW'S - WATCHFUL AND DISCRIMINATORY COURT-OF-THE-PEOPLE. In short: to be considered a "bad," or "unfeeling" person by other persons within one's social sphere.

So that when you say [QUOTE: "....I really do not believe that men are totally to blame for the lot of women...." I [UN-QUOTE], you in FACT SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE of the Congolese Militiaman. A Man who, THOUGH BORN A HUMAN BEING, chooses by dint of the relentness callous of his wartime atrocities committed, to be basically asking of his own countryfolk and of a watching and horrified World, to accept as FACT, some self-serving and selective Moral Thesis under which HE BE JUDGED AND/OR FORGIVEN - NOT AS CALLOUSLY-ACTING HUMAN BEING that he really is, but instead as some MINDLESS, UNFEELING WAR-MACHINE while engaged in WAR. (..A "MINDLESS, UNFEELING MACHINE" WHO NONETHELESS STILL MATERIALLY COVETS STOLEN LOOT AND ALL THAT IT CAN BUY, AND PHYSICALLY LUSTS AFTER IINHUMANE AND SAVAGE CARNAL PURSUITS ...!) So that, according to his PARTICULARISED CALCULATIONS - and brutality is a particularly calcuated act, the world should however look away while he performs the following horrific ACTS OF INHUMANITY WHILE MASKED IN HIS SOLDIER-GARB: loots the property of his once-former neighbours FOR HIS OWN PERSONAL GAIN NOW THAT HE HAS "MIGHT" - NOT RIGHT, ON HIS SIDE..., terrorizes his former elderly school teacher or ancient village pastor FOR HIS OWN EGOTISTICAL LUST NOW THAT HE HAS "MIGHT" - NOT RIGHT, ON HIS SIDE; .... physically rapes and psychologically tortures the half-formed bodies of baby girls, of other persons' sister, their mothers, other men's wives and our revered grandmothers....ALL FOR THE SATISFACTION OF HIS OWN PHYSICAL LUST AND EGOTISTICAL HUNGER FOR BRUTE-CONTROL...WHILE MASKED IN HIS SOLDIER'S GARB.

For make no doubt about it: Women are engaged in a Gender War. Irrespective of whether the term "war" is too strong for delicate, ladylike mental-palates to digest and contemplate, it nonetheless remains a HARD, BRUTAL FACH OF THEIR'S AND OTHERS' LIVES. And for WOMEN, at least, this is no minor skirmish: this War as CREATED, PERPETUATED AND SUSTAINED BY MEN, continues to be waged for the HIGHEST OF STAKES, namely: for WOMAN'S HUMANITY! No matter how facile and/or pragmatic the terminology used by society to couch this battle as mere Reclamation of Women's Social and Economic Rights.

The Afrika way
Feb 24, 2009
Feb 24, 2009

I love your comments. I hear you loud and clear. You have all got me to think hard.

With love,

Ayobami Olusola
Feb 24, 2009
Feb 24, 2009

I really do not believe that men are totally to blame for the lot of women. I have had experiences at the hand of women, who in their attempts to achieve their own selfish desires have made my life miserable. In some cultures in my country, when a man dies, it is his female relatives that inflict physical [pain on his widow. I can even say that in many instances, I have observed that a mother in law often has more unrealistic expectations of a wife than even the husband. The truth is that society is made up of men and women and we must all share the responsibility for where we have found ourselves. The responsibility may however fall more on men than women. The truth is that there are good men. I must refer to my grandfather who slaved to send my mother to medical school against the advice of his family and never took a second wife all his life and my former lecturer who supports his wife relentlessly in her business pursuit despite tongues that keep wagging that she has given birth to no son. I have also known wife beaters and rapists. Most importantly to say women have no responsibility at all in the course society has taken would be to say that women are totally powerless. I do not believe this. Women are powerful.