Today’s Man with Toba Aboyeji: Who Is Teaching Our Boys to Become Good Men?
Everyday, especially with the rise of social media, the menfolk are bashed and branded “evil”. We often make generalisations about the whole “specie” based on isolated experiences.
Recently, a Nollywood actress wrote that “all men cheat”. My intention is not to write a rejoinder to the referenced article, neither is it an attempt to repudiate the assertion. However, in my moment of solitude, I asked if truly something is wrong with us as men.
Before making my case, please permit me to share three independent events that will help connect the dots with you.
Recently, at a party, I was having a conversation with a group of childhood girlfriends. One of them, Omolara, was deeply concerned about the posture her nine-year-old son is beginning to assume in life. According to her, he is becoming too “SWEET” for a man, (Sweetness in her dictionary is a lovey-dovey, soft, simple and good man). She was actually seeking my opinion on how to help him ‘toughen up’. As I struggled to make sense of her request, I asked why she wanted to alter the poor boy’s personality and to my utmost bewilderment, Bidemi, Shewa and Zainab, all other three ladies sitting with us attacked me with an intense “Jezebelic” venom. I left the party wondering to myself if I was some sort of a novice, probably naïve or worse still, archaic in my thinking.
A few months ago, I got a phone call from a very dear friend. She asked if I could recommend the service of a good lawyer for her. Since she worked in my former constituency (i.e. the Nigerian banking industry), I erroneously assumed that she was about to resign her job to register and start a new business, Alas, my very good-natured, homely gentle and caring Bolanle wants to get a divorce. The reason: Bros has been cheating on her with two of his ex-es and a new kid on the block in his office.
Disturbed at the distraught sound of her voice, we agreed to meet up at a nearby restaurant on my invitation. As she walked towards me, the pain from her countenance would best be described as the percussion to the symphony of a shattered heart; in one word: BROKEN.
I watched as she broke down in tears whilst she narrated her experience. She had led a chaste and responsible life as a single chic and had been a faithful and dutiful wife. Her world was tearing apart not only because she caught Le-boo red-handed, but, because he rubbed his affairs in her face and was too prideful to show any form of remorse.
Secondly, because NOBODY was in support of her divorce. Everyone, including her darling mum and numero uno confidante, encouraged her to her stay on in the marriage and their unanimous reason is that, all over the world and particularly in Africa, philandering is in the DNA of men.
As I listened to the societal justification for her to remain in the marriage, I realised that, somehow in our social construct, we may have bought into an unconscious “conspiracy theory” that has no empirical, cognitive, scriptural, or moral validation.
The first time I saw Iyanya’s ‘Oreo’ music video, (no disrespect to the talented dude) my first instinct was fear for the ‘boy child’. I reckoned that excessive exposure to those sort of videos in his formative years can catalyse his inclination towards a ‘vulgar’ future expressed in poor character traits such as objectifying women, multiple dating, infidelity, lack of respect for women, cheating, polygamy et al. You can then imagine the emotion I felt when I walked into a friend’s house as the video was playing on one of the music channels on DSTV and right before Daddy and Mummy, was their six-year-old son watching and singing along without parental check.
Here’s my pain:
In most cases, all through her life, the girl child was trained to be contrite, to be meek, to cook, to serve the king as a queen, she was generally prepared for life. The question is, who prepared the boy child for life? Who bothered to help him discover his theme and guide him on how to navigate his way through the tides of life? Who spent time to teach him how to care for a pregnant wife? Who counselled him on how to be a gentleman?
As a teenager, I recall listening to a conversation about the girl child losing her innocence. For the girl child it is a taboo, but in most cases, for the boy child it is acceptable. I have seen where an African mother defended her boy child in a case of fornication gone wrong, but the girl child was stigmatized for the same “crime”.
In some homes, the boy child finished eating his meals and the Mother ensured that the girl child packed up his plate and washed them. It was forbidden for him to do the dishes because he was either the only son, the last boy or the first boy (as some Yoruba mothers will say, “Baba yin ni”).
All his life, the boy child has been told that he is the champion and that it is a sign of weakness to be vulnerable. In some parts of Africa, he is the preferred gender, the one to carry on the family name (‘o ma se o’). There is nothing wrong with building up a child’s self-esteem but there must be a balanced approach to it, the sad effect of these alpha-male doctrines and masculine philosophies is that it messes up the child’s belief system and often times he loses the power of believing right. (The Bible says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word).
The world tells the boy child that he is the VICTOR whereas he is actually the VICTIM.
He is the victim of a society that lied to him that he is superior to the girl child (that is probably why some men may never be able to handle a super successful, upwardly- mobile woman).
He is the victim of a system that deceived him; that it is a sign of weakness for a man to cry.
He is the victim of a system that gave him a false sense of dominance over his female counterpart.
He is the victim of a system where his own mother concurred to the sinister doctrine that polygamist tendencies is an innate trait of the masculine gender.
He is the victim of a system that had no strict boundaries for his social conduct and contriteness whereas the girl was prepared for life and marriage.
He is the victim of our cultural flaws and idiosyncrasies.
He is the victim of a faulty foundation of a failed society.
Here’s how I see it:
It is our responsibility to show him (the boy child) the masterplan of his creator.
To be strong at heart yet not afraid to admit his weaknesses and cry if need be
To be a leader yet with the humility to be a servant and have control over himself
To be courageous yet not afraid to open to his errors in the days of adversity
To be strong yet meek
To be swift yet patient
To be sweet yet wise
To be kind yet firm
To be wise, prudent, caring and focused
To be honourable in the place of chastity
To build the capacity to commit to his words and not renege on his promise of love
To respect the WOMAN, her GOD, her will and her body
To demonize feminine abuse and revere her emotions, her spirit and her essence
To own his story, his will, his calling, his purpose, his family and his life
A man who will treat all women with dignity and not exploit her vulnerabilities even when the latter so easily give in.
Let’s help develop a breed of perfect gentlemen
Let’s help the boys grow to become Men after God’s heart!
To young mothers with growing boys, teach them how to handle the needs of a woman from a woman’s perspective, it is obvious that men don’t get it as much……(Family Customer Service 101)
We may not be able to change the global stock of men, but in our little corner, with our sons, our nephews, our cousins, our protégées, our godsons, our neighbour’s sons. We can build ONE man that will affect a nation.
A sage once told me: it is easier to build up growing children than to repair broken adults.
Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng