ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
In the early years of learning about courtship with women, most males in my observation
dont seem to have a problem relating to their female counterparts as equals, the regression
starts shortly about the time they start taking relationships more seriously.
Equality in African Relationships: The problem with SOME Men, SOME Women and our Society
By Folasayo Dele-Ogunrinde
Folasayo Dele-Ogunrinde is a New York based Nigerian artiste whose life revolves around her creative endeavors. She writes, performs spoken word to afro-beat folk music, tells stories visually either as a mixed media artist or a filmmaker. Her story didn’t start out that way, she trained formally as a Scientist, earning a graduate degree, but found the flirtatious tango with her muse more appealing. A calling which led to her quitting her job with a major pharmaceutical company to follow her passion. She’s an Award-winning published author (The Woman With a Past and Conversations With The Soul at 3:00AM) and holds a US design patent in Visual Art. Her other interests are: Reading, Interior Design, Traveling, Creative Cooking, Medicine and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. She also enjoys savoring the beauty of other cultures through their cuisine, music and art. She can be found at www.folasayo.com.
Sunday, 19 March 2006
Preface by author: This article deals specifically with the AFRICAN situation, not European, Asian etc. So, I will localize my comments. Also, this it is not about an entire gender or generation, not is it an all out attempt to bash any one group. It is about Some. The some know themselves, they will act in a predictable manner, feathers will be ruffled, and blood vessels will pop. Some, not able to withstand the glare of the mirror in their faces, will even stop reading in disgust, because, how dare she!. But read in entirety I urge. Apologies for lack of brevity.
Is there such a thing as a truly equal heterosexual African relationship? Equal share of power, responsibilities and spousal support? Do they exist?, and if so, what structures in our societies and in marriages do the individuals who chose to follow this path have to surmount. The reasons thrown out there for the inconceivability of such a concept ranges from clichés like: Its in the bible to That is our culture, or There can only be one captain on a ship, while some simply say its a fact that women are incapable of standing toe to toe to a man in a relationship even though that may obtain in other spheres of life such as in the workplace.
An African male author even went as far as to postulate that the problems with marriages these days is not the lack of communication, but that women no longer know their places but want to be equal to men, they want to have opinions regarding decision making in a relationship, that, he proffers the beginning of the end, and of course, he goes into a long diatribe of bible quotations.
Now, understand that Im not speaking here of marriages instituted generations ago. Or among people who are not well versed or world-traveled. This discourse is on relationships among the well educated, 20 to 40-something year old African demography. My opinions are indeed generalizations, and arguably, this syndrome is not a preserve of Africans alone, but it may be disproportionately so.
Ive seen relationships that are based on the premise that each partner has an equal stake in the union, they are best friends and co-pilots in the true sense, they respect each others opinion as esteemed individuals in the relationship. Each bringing whatever they are capable of to the table in a harmonious union. There is no power struggle. These exist, but are indeed very few and far between. That there are innate differences between men and women is not debatable. But does this mean one gender should be treated with unfairness and indignity subjected to the whims and caprices of the other whose ego is so easily bruised thus she must tip-toe on eggshells around him, massaging his ego lest he unleashes his fury in a fit of infantile supremacy?.
The problem with SOME African men:
In the early years of learning about courtship with women, most males in my observation dont seem to have a problem relating to their female counterparts as equals, the regression starts shortly about the time they start taking relationships more seriously. Some will even pretend to go along with the program, until after marriage for their true colors to emerge.
Some are quick to whip out the culture or religious card when it suits them. Selectively quoting the bible that wives should submit to their husbands, and taking it to a whole new level when the need arises to keep the woman in line or when being challenged about unequal power structure in the home; at such times, this breed, bible in hand, is at his sanctimonious best. This ultimately in some situations lead to women being in emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationships. Some wives, to their husbands are no more than glorified hired help who just also happens to share the bosses bed.
I know of several strong women who go into marriage intact, as capable and achieving individuals, only for the insecurity of the man to make him want to put her down, keep her down and deconstruct her psyche. Ive had this discussion with a lot of self-assured, mature guys who themselves cant understand the ways of their fellow men. Why indeed does a man marry a strong woman but once she becomes his wife, he wants her to be as strong as his control permits.
Why take a bird, whose plumage and free-spiritedness you admire, just to break its wings and put it in a cage of perpetual servitude? Why will a man who claims to love his wife want to enslave her, make her feel worthless by breaking her spirit all in the name of some unproductive, archaic aspects of an otherwise beautiful and rich culture (Article: Be all the Oyinbo you wanna be, but be all the African that you are). I know of men whose twisted way of thinking defines a strong woman as the one who every times he beats her down emotionally can get up to take some more.
These are indeed deep symptoms of major complexes, immaturity and sometimes undiagnosed mental illnesses. What happens in a lot of cases, then, is when the man has accomplished this feat of reducing his wife to rubbish, the hunter goes out in search of another woman outside who will challenge him, as the one whose spirit hes broken at home now bores him.
I know an Ivy League trained 30-something year old physician who has spent most of his adult life in several countries around the world, got the best education money can buy, yet asserts that if his wife who also happens to be in the same professional field ever makes more money than he does, she would have to quit the job. He also maintains that if her career ever interferes with her ability to fix dinner before he gets home, shell have to be a stay-at- home spouse.
In short, give up all the years shes toiled in med school just so he can have his African palate satiated. I say, this one needs some serious intervention. So, even with the self-professed cosmopolite who may be wearing the Armani suit, and donning a Dior façade, sometimes, if you just peel the layers off, what you get is a man in loin clothes holding a spear. Like they say, it has nothing to do with education or exposure, some men get it, and some are forever lost in the haze of pre-dawn.
Some will not let the woman in their lives fulfill her dreams under some pretext or the other while the true underlying problem is that he really feels she will better him and become uncontrollable by him, so he stands in her way. When a man feels threatened by a womans achievements and thus tries to be a stumbling block to her success and the full utilization of her talents for selfish reasons, maybe he is the one indeed breaking Gods law, because, this same God who these men claim want a woman to be in beneath them will not give a woman her talents if He doesnt intend for her to use it.
He will ask of her So my dear daughter, what did you do with your talents to which her reply would be My husband was feeling very insecure, so I had to bury my talents to protect his ego and of course, I had to be home every night to cook from scratch because he wont lift a finger till I get home, and since my night MBA classes got in the way of feeding my hubby, he asked me to give that up too.
In a group of so-called Professional Africans in NY the other day, the conversation naturally turned to relationships, and the men discussed the types of women they would like to date .most basically want a woman who is sophisticated and strong, but humble enough to be traditional in the African way. Which judging from earlier inputs in the conversation basically translates to A woman who can pound yam with a mortar and pestle while wearing high heels and mini skirt, can take emotional abuse with a smile all day, and at night turn into a ferocious sex kitten in the bedroom.
And oh, someone who will not embarrass them when they go to those professional meetings. Of course they want a traditional woman. It suits them. In a culture where they rule the roost, why give up your throne? Keep them down, pregnant and barefoot. Power intoxicates, even in the microcosm of a mans castle. It takes a secure man to realize the unfairness of the system, and do something in his universe to make a difference. But what you see in most cases are those who will die first, splitting every single hair on their heads than see the system dismantled.
In utter frustration, some men will go as far to ascribe the African Woman who is assertive as too westernized, resort to labeling her a lesbian or a frustrated old maid. Some go back to their countries or villages to bring wives in the hopes that shes tamer than their lost sisters abroad who have thrown away everything African. Excuse me sir? Yes sir, em, yes you .I have a question if culture was that important, all aspects of it, why are you naming that your true-blood African bambino Ian or Debra, why arent you worshipping the gods of your forefathers?
Why indeed are you not participating in rituals of human sacrifice? or digging that chic with tribal marks of the Ondo or Ogbomosho variety? After all, these were cultural phenomenon in our recent history. My point exactly!, culture is dynamic, you borrow, lend, discard and retain what is useful (Article: Custodians of the African Culture). Putting women beneath men in a society to serve the selfish purpose of some is only useful to those who benefit from the tyranny.
Within African marriages, women have an obligation to have children. If a couple is infertile, its always the womans fault. African men never believe they could have fertility problems, you see them avoiding the issue of a gynecological check up.
Goodness, how can they, the most virile men on earth be subjected to such indignity? and if the problem is eventually diagnosed as theirs, they still have their wives take the fall to save their egos. A distant cousin of mine divorced his wife because they couldnt conceive after what seems like a reasonable time due to a botched abortion procedure he was as much a part of as she was while they were dating. Today, hes remarried with three kids. I dont know what became of her. This is one of the reasons I strongly believe abortion is a disservice to women (and unborn children) contrary to what the feminist movement advocates.
If these points bring you to the brink of suffering an emotional aneurysm, maybe it hits a little too close to home. There needs to be a major paradigm shift in our culture to raise men to treat women with dignity and mutual respect.
Are there terrible, conniving, wish you had never crossed paths with types of women who bring out the worst in men? You bet!.
The problem with SOME African women:
What boggles my mind is this: Why do African women allow men who have not been proven to be wiser or more intelligent than they are treat them with so much contempt as if they were less human. Why has brute force superseded emotional intelligence for so long? And more importantly and most worrisome, why are women complicit in this abusive paternalistic system. I have gotten a lot of flack from women who dont want me to rock the boat. They prefer to acquire power in a relationship by means of manipulation. They know how the mind of a man works, so they would rather cajole and play games with him to get what they want. Some are such that they put Delilah to shame. In some cases though, its not with malicious intent, but these women have been conditioned to be so, usually a trait passed down by older females relatives who inculcate in them that the only way to get through to a man is by tricking him. They exhibit a dog and pony show for their future husbands and in-laws before marriage pretending to be what theyre not, hoping to impress so they can get their foot in the door, and then expect a different set of rules after marriage. How can?
Women need to work on their self-esteem issues. They need to see themselves not only as an extension of their marriages or their husbands, but as fully functioning individuals who have a voice in their relationships. They need to trust their own judgment, and know that they too have as much to contribute to the intellectual, emotional, physical and financial stability of their unions. I have been to social gatherings among my peers, and noticed most times, that the women gather in the kitchen and focus on the cooking, cleaning etc, while the men sit down guzzling beer and wait to be waited upon while discussing how to solve all the worlds political problems, and of course sports. Im usually the only female sitting among these men engaging them in these discussions. I feel that women relegate themselves into roles of those to be seen but not heard. A male friend once commented to me that I see my friends wives, but I dont really think I know them. They never contribute to discussions. Is it that they lack opinions on matters? Hardly so. But they are subconsciously used to being behind the veil even though many of these women will claim to be liberated and modern.
Women by nature tend to be nurturing, and this indeed is a virtue unless it becomes a vice. Some give until their heart bleeds, even when the man treats them like dirt in the hopes that he will change. Unfortunately, this wisdom that has been handed down through the ages does backfire. The truth is that the more you give an abusive husband, the less he will appreciate you. Sometimes, one needs to go crazy to see change effected (Film: Diary of a Mad Black Woman).
Some women, men who treat them with respect and chivalry bring out the worst in them. They would rather deal with the bad boys. These women obviously confuse drama and pain with love. This of course is a situation best analyzed by a shrink. There is a popular opinion held by African men that most African women will rather you give them money and buy them things than do simple things that show you care. This is true in a lot of cases. I once heard a Nigerian woman say My love dies in three days as the roses wilt, but ticks forever with a Tiffany watch. Yes, it is true that the romantic touch is not for everyone to appreciate, but I know that there are women who will rather be in an abusive relationship as long as they can afford an ostentatious lifestyle. Some too believe that they dont have to earn their way in life. Please note here that Im not talking about stay at home moms, or women with realistic needs because of their particular circumstances, but those who want to be kept or at the very least expect a man to pay for everything even while they earn significantly. They shouldnt be surprised then, if the man starts to treat them like a piece of silverware. These, I shed no tears for.
Some women too want to eat their cake plus jara. They believe that My money is my money, and his money is our money. They refuse to pull any financial muscle in the home even if the mans purse is stained beyond capacity. They expect him to take care of all the major financial responsibilities while they spend theirs on a new Manolo Blahnik shoes and would in their benevolence loan him some money that has to be paid back when hes about to lose the shirt on his back. Then they turn around and complain that he doesnt help around the house and he treats them like crap (Article: Gender Roles In African Relationships) This is where unfairness on the part of some women gall me. You dont give a sack of coal and expect a bag of diamonds.
There are men, who not satisfied with having just female children, want a son, you see their wives going out of their minds desperately trying to satisfy their husbands genealogical needs to carry the family name forth among other reasons for the coveted male child. Some of these women fear that if they do not give him a son, he will stray outside the marriage to satisfy that need. I know a woman on her 5th pregnancy, two more than they had planned, in the hopes of having a male child for her husband. It is mind-boggling at least for me, that in this age, this is still an issue sometimes solely blamed on the woman, when it is a scientific fact that the sex of a child is determined by the mans bullets. So these women keep on having more children than they should. In this era, when a woman sees providing a male heir as a virtue, it goes to show that innately they themselves place more value on the male child than a female and they wonder why their husbands place less value on them as a woman. There is nothing wrong in and of itself in desiring a particular sex for a child, but when that need is solely based on the perceived greater value of one sex over the other, that, is a problem. Given our culture of generational welfare system, my dad could never understand why African men preferred male children to female anyway. He noted that the female child usually have more empathy for the welfare of their parents as they age while the men would just rather drop off money to take care of problems But then, my dad for his time may be alone in his observations.
The problem with society:
A woman’s role in society changes greatly once she marries since she becomes a possession with little or no rights in her husband’s family (Yes, even in the so called modern marriages). In fact, the husband’s mother and sisters have much more of an influence over him than his own wife (Article: Mothers-in-law and the cycle of Abuse). If the wife resents this lack of control or respect within her marriage, the family may threatens to send her packing.
Our societies have conditioned us to see and accept women in this subservient roles. The few women who chose to assert their roles as equal partners in marriages are quickly castigated as wayward individuals who seek to destabilize the system and they are to be checked. They have to overcome pressures from their in-laws, society, friends and even their own families to conform. The story of a certain type of crabs come to mind. If one wayward crab chooses to stray too far from the group, the rest of the colony will decapitate and tear it to bits until it dies. (Article: Custodians of the African Culture) Sometimes this is what happens to the spirit of the African woman who decides she wants to have a voice in her marriage. She is pressured to the point where she is striped of her self-esteem and her will is to be broken. She cannot be an individual, she follows where her husband goes, she is defined by his success, his whims and needs. We often hear the term Behind every successful man is a woman? What happens if a women wants to be successful pursuing her own dreams, will she have her man championing her cause and standing firmly behind her as well? I dont understand why as an intelligent, articulate woman, my ambitions and dreams should take a backseat to that of my equally intelligent male counterpart. In a marriage, if one of the pair has to give up a job, that responsibility by default falls to the woman. If one of the two has to give up religion its usually the woman who has to pledge allegiance to her husbands. Same goes for culture in mixed marriages. These things are structured such that the womans needs, identity and success always comes secondary to the mans. Who says its a womans world? My position on relationship has always been compromise for the common good of all involved, not favoring one gender or the other.
I dont like labels, so I dont want to be called a feminist. I actually have problems with some of the issues that fall under the general umbrella of feminism. A more appropriate term I choose for myself is a wo/man-ist, a term inclusive of both men and women (Article: Women who abuse men, The judicial system, Feminism vs. Wo/man-ism). The same way I dont advocate male dominance is the same way Im opposed to female dominance which is sometimes what Ive seen in some aspect of the feminist movement. I believe in fairness for all. I prefer myself in a relationship with another as partners who may from time to time play a dominant role in one area of the relationship or the other because of our respective abilities, but will seek balance of power and respect for all involved. Power in relationships should be dynamic. It should not be the preserve of one gender. And generally, its men who do not want to share power.
Do I hate men? Absolutely not. I grew up in a family of five males, my mom and I being the only females, with a father who loves and respects his wife as she does him – as equally partners. I also cant boast of a female best friend, as most of my close buddies are male. So, no, I dont hate men. And when appropriate, I side with them. What I hate is the attitude of the subset of African men who feel they have to put a woman in her place: beneath them. These are the men who equate the willy hanging between their legs with a brain. (Seriously guys, it is not an extra brain, and it doesnt make you smarter than women). For some, the erroneous assumption that their willy counts as a brain, makes it the only one they use. Go figure!.
Do I think the majority of women are saints? Hardly. The downfall of a lot of men have been gotten in the hands of women. But to think men have ruled the world for so long simply because of brute force and physical strength, and that women have been so docile for so long befuddles me. African women have allowed men who are most times less perceptive in matters of life than they are call the shots. Why they have bought into this farce is an age-old question that will probably not be resolved in my own time or in this medium, but its certainly time for African women to lay claim to their respect and honor in our societies and especially within their marriages. Remember, Well behaved women never make history.
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Folasayo, a multi-talented and self-taught artist, has the ability to express her creativity in several genres like the visual arts, drama, writing, and in almost any creative endeavor. She is the author of Conversations With The Soul At 3:00am, a collection of love poems and art photography ( Home of African Concepts, 2000) and the British Council/ANA award winning play The Woman with a Past (Heinemann books, 1989).
Folasayo has a US patent (2004) pending on a framing concept she designed for presenting some of her artwork. She performs and tours with a dramatization of her poems to African drums and jazz music and organizes a monthly “poetry by candle light dinner”© series. She’s also the founder of CONAA – a collective of Nigerian Artists Abroad (April, 2000). A graduate of Animal Nutrition, (B. Sc, 1989, University of Ibadan, and Iowa State University, M. Sc, 1994). Folasayo currently lives in Seattle, WA., and enjoys in her spare time, music, traveling, interior design, creative cooking, experiencing other cultures and charitable work.
posted 13 May 2006
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
By Ngugi wa Thiong’o
This is a powerful, moving story that details the effects of the infamous Mau Mau war, the African nationalist revolt against colonial oppression in Kenya, on the lives of ordinary men and women, and on one family in particular. Two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, stand on a rubbish heap and look into their futures. Njoroge is excited; his family has decided that he will attend school, while Kamau will train to be a carpenter. Together they will serve their countrythe teacher and the craftsman. But this is Kenya and the times are against them. In the forests, the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government, and the two brothers and their family need to decide where their loyalties lie. For the practical Kamau the choice is simple, but for Njoroge the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up.Penguin
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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updated 11 October 2007