How are boys to do what it takes to be called a man?

Thursday August 9 2018

Father and son

Father and son: Boys and young men somehow suffer from neglect and are expected to magically transform into fine upstanding adult citizens: Fathers and providers and fountains of wisdom and masculine strength. FOTOSEARCH 

By ELSIE EYAKUZE
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Here is the fundamental irony of patriarchy as we practise it here: Boys and young men somehow suffer from neglect and are expected to magically transform into fine upstanding adult citizens: Fathers and providers and fountains of wisdom and masculine strength.

These are the same youth and boys who are constantly being accused of being lazy because our labour market can’t absorb them.

These are the ones we expect to become strong fathers and pillars of the community. These are the ones we recruit as child soldiers and extremist warriors of all faiths that stray from the path of peace.

I call bullpoop on us. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Next time some bloviating so-called Africanist windbag tells me that "it takes a village" while simultaneously denigrating our young men's apparent lack of moral character, so help me Mother Earth, I'll...

Of course it takes a village. But this modern village, the 21st century global village, isn’t like your grandma taught you.

It may be that in finally respecting the rights of girls and women and giving them their due as humans with unalienable rights and intrinsic dignity, we forgot about our sons. Like people who cannot chew gum and walk at the same time.

And so here I am to defend our boys and our young men because of feminism.

Some basics: Sex is a physical expression of your chromosomes, and even that isn’t as simple as boy and girl because there are in-betweens like Castor Semenya. Gender is a social construct that codifies relations of power...

With all due respect to those who think men are just men and women are just women, remember: Nature only does so much. Nurture is our responsibility. So yes, I worry about and want our boys to grow into fulfilled and productive people.

Folks, the rate of male domestic violence towards women and children is rising.

We are going to chew this beef.

Let us at the very least talk about the new challenges of contemporary manhood. I am a tomboy and an androphile.

Over decades of studying and appreciating men in all their glorious diversity, and now aunting some wonderful youth, I‘ve come to see that we fuss too much with rigid conservative definitions.

I don’t want to brag or anything but let me highlight Tanzania’s attempts to get this well-adjusted manhood thing right. To steal a phrase on Twitter – sadly unattributed – “Utanzania ni Utu.”’

Utu emphasises humility and gentleness. It asks that we practise patience and compassion. And that we let our softer emotions, especially avoiding anger and choosing forgiveness and restraint, guide our conflict resolutions.

Being unabashedly affectionate and romantic are prized, as are cheerfulness and the ability to treat all with respect regardless of status. Oh, and of course generosity: Give time, share food, contribute in times of trouble and of joy.

As you can see, this is a tall order! The truly rounded and socially accomplished Tanzanian male is a man of culture and refinement irrespective of education levels and other superficial measures of success.

So, I will issue a challenge to you my fathers and uncles and peer parents: What is the measure of a man? Our leadership and hence the health of our republics depends on how we answer that question.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]