Did You Know Its International Men’s Day?

Did you know? That there is such a thing as International Men’s Day?  I didn’t know till I saw a post on my friends FB page this morning.

Their website says this about what its all about.

The 6 Pillars of International Men’s Day

1. To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sports men but everyday, working class men who are living decent, honest lives.

2. To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.

3. To focus on men’s health and well being; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.

4. To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law

5. To improve gender relations and promote gender equality

6. To create a safer, better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential..

Seems noble enough. I guess I have no problem celebrating men once a year outside Father’s Day. I have nothing against men, I like them very much as a matter of fact and I would like to see more positive male role models and a safer better world etc  etc etc.

I gave birth to and raised two men myself and I would like to encourage them and reinforce all the good stuff I taught them about being good, caring, responsible and loving men. One of them is even a father himself now, of two daughters no less. I had to raise two modern men and I expect him to raise two modern women (with help of course, we all have lots of help).

While I ‘get it’ and I almost shared the good news blindly without a caveat or a critique, further consideration made me pause and look into it some more.

Apparently we need to feel sorry for men because, you know what, they are committing suicide in record high numbers according to a UK report that came out to coincide with IMD. Four thousand five hundred suicides were recorded in England and Wales last year, 78% of them were men. In India the National Crime Records Bureau report for 2013, said 64,098 married men committed suicide as against 29,491 married women. The underlying assumption is that they are suffering a crisis of masculinity. 

While men remain the major perpetrators and victims of violence especially male on male violence , women are predominantly victims of male violence. And most of the violence against women is perpetrated in the home while most of the violence against men is perpetrated outside the home. So whats the conclusion? Men are inherently violent? Or just misunderstood?

I’m not man bashing. I raised two sensitive and caring men and I know a lot of other men that are great role models of strength, purpose and compassion. These are the men that I can and will celebrate.  The awesome men that aren’t in a ‘crisis of masculinity’, the wonderful men that aren’t wingeing about the gains women have made and are doing something about  being better men.

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Living Under the Patriarchy II

‘Your father is dead.” Did he say my father wants to speak to me? Sometimes the old man uses other people’s phones to call me because he thinks I won’t take his calls.

“What did you say?” I ask.

“Your father is dead. Your father is dead” the caller, Mmuta my uncle, replies.

I feel a cold rush run through my body and sink into a nearby chair. He can’t be, I think to myself. I haven’t built him that house yet. Besides, he’s too mean to die, he enjoys tormenting us, his family, too much.

“Should we bury him today?” Mmuta asks me over the phone.

“What?”

“Should we bury him immediately?”

I feel a spark of irritation. How can he ask me such a thing? I haven’t even processed news of my fathers death and he wants to make me responsible for the decision to bury him immediately or not? He didn’t even ask me if I was sitting down when he broke the news. How callous. But that is the way of the village. Men don’t do sentimental although some are more compassionate than others. Mmuta is of the practical school of thought.

I wonder why he’s asking me anyway. I’m a woman, there is no way in hell they will let a woman decide the conduct of an Igbo man’s funeral even if she is his oldest daughter. When he was alive my father said he wanted to be buried the same day he died, rolled up in a mat like a Muslim. He said he wanted no monuments, just a tree to grow over his bones. Simple, inexpensive, no fanfare. He was a committed communist, he abhorred all obscene consumption and crass materialism.

I gather my reeling senses – “Yes, bury him immediately.” I reply and hang up. Who knows, it just might work.  My concern shifted to how I would break  the news to my sons. In a daze I went to tell them their grand father was dead.

I call Mmuta several hours later.

“Have you buried him?”

“The family met and decided that he is too important to bury him just like that.They said they will meet and inform you when and how he will be buried.” Mmuta replies.

A couple days later my younger brother calls. He is my fathers first son and he is younger than my youngest son.

“We have decided that we have to complete his house before we bury him.”

My father the communist and idealist lived his whole life in a suit of rooms in his fathers ancient house and didn’t start building his own till after he retired with his gratuity. It was less than 60% complete.

“Really? Do you have the money to complete it?” I ask.

“What do you mean? That is the decision we have taken, all you need to do is tell us is how much you are contributing” he snarled.

The hyena’s had gathered. My father wasn’t there to protect me anymore.

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Living Under the Patriarchy I

My father took me to the market in Owerri once when I was 12 or 13. I didn’t want to go with him. I was at that age when parents embarrassed the hell out of a teenager. And by this time I was finding my father a bloody embarrassment all the time.

He made me walk ahead of him. As usual the traders in the market started groping me and pulling me and appreciating God’s work in rather lewd Igbo grammar. Usually I pushed them away and told them off  and shopped with the least offensive and quietest of the lot.

I tried to brush them off and ignore them in my usual manner but my father pounced on each and everyone of them.

“What are you looking at? Why are you touching her? Are you mad?”

The wise ones slunk away, the brash ones tried to stand up to him. Big mistake. No one stood up to my father. When he used that tone of voice he expected complete and immediate compliance. And he didn’t hesitate to use his fists to enforce compliance.

I don’t remember much else about that day except wanting the ground to open up and swallow me while he argued and fought his way through the market. I must have bought something but I can’t remember what it was.

Most of the male members of his extended family behaved in a similar manner when we were out together.

“What you looking at?” they would demand aggressively of any poor sod that happened to look my way with more than appropriate interest.

My fathers family were well known in the village for their quick temper and quick fists. It was well known that a fight with one of them would bring the entire family coming to the rescue and support of their own. It was a large family. They didn’t ask what happened till the threat was eliminated and everyone at home and accounted for. They were like the marines or the army like that.

One guy got beat to a pulp for calling me names. One of my cousins still has an impressive facial scar to remind me of the incident. He uses it to manipulate me regularly.

“Ah ah. I took a knife for you nah. See, sixteen stitches, because of you” he would say pointing to the scar that dragged the line of his lips into a perpetual half frown. It didn’t feel right to remind him that I hadn’t asked or even expected him to fight for me much less take a a nasty cut to his once handsome face although he is still handsome in a rakish beat up way.

I didn’t appreciate my violent protectors back in those days. I didn’t even know that I needed them. I was clueless, it didn’t occur to me that something bad could happen or that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself if it did. After all I knew how to use a knife.

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Adam Nico – Living Like A Professional in the UK

I met a Kenyan acrobat in Brighton. He used to work for Zippo Circus. He even showed me the pictures. Circus jobs don’t usually come with a pension. He’s old and works in construction now. He is also homeless. His British wife kicked him out he says. They have two kids. A son who is in university and a daughter that got 5 A’s in her O’levels. He’s so proud.

I asked him the last time he visited Kenya. He tells a rambling story of taking his children and step children there and showing them where he was born but he doesn’t say when it was. Before the missus kicked him out is the best guess so thats like 10 years ago. He’s been in the UK since 1992. He was born in Mombasa. He boasts of the land he has in Kenya, given to him by his fathers lineage. I ask if he has a native wife in Kenya. He pretends to look shocked.

He recalls how Tip Top Entertainment (owners/managers of Zippo) used to send him and his team to Germany, Netherlands, France etc. Its sad to see him nearly destitute. The way he insists that he is a ‘professional’ betrays the memory of a life of dreams and hopes.

 

Adam Nico (Copyright Lesley Agams)
Adam Nico (Copyright Lesley Agams)