If you have read some parts of this article before, take your anger out on Chika Oduah. Her seminal work, “Where the Vagina Counts”http://www.bellanaija.com/2013/03/06/chika-oduah-where-the-vagina-counts/ made me revisit the feminization of African men.
Long before Nigeria had a First Lady who steps out of the plane before the president does; long before Kenya had a First Lady who slaps journalists around; long before men in Lagos start to tattoo their lips pink; long before Charlie Boy took it all off by the poles, I noticed a trend across Africa – the feminization of African men.
Seven years after I first aired my observations, the train moving east has cross paths with the one moving west. Lawmakers in New Jersey are pushing for an end to perpetual alimony for spouses that is driving men to the brink. The AMC series, Mad Men, is what is left of the way the men of the New Hemisphere used to be. It’s clear that the ‘Vagina Monologues’ has veered off Broadway into the boardroom. But we will start this story again from the very beginning.
I will list some names here. Please remember them. They are solely responsible for the feminization of the African man.
Rotimi Oyekanmi Funmi Komolafe; and Yetunde Arebi.
But first, let me start with Susan Lydon.
In 1970, Susan Lydon wrote a landmark essay for Rampart magazine titled, “Politics of Orgasm.” In the essay, she argued that the clitoris was the center of female pleasure and women do not need men to achieve sexual fulfillment. Vaginal orgasm, she wrote, was a male myth aimed at keeping women down and dependent. Her essay struck a chord with an already excited female world in that era of revolution and social changes. It sparked a debate on the nature of female sexuality and further advanced the goal of women liberation.
On January 18, 2005, Rotimi Oyekanmi published an article in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria titled, “Why men cheat on their wives”. As I read the article, I was convinced that a serious debate would follow. It was inevitable because Oyekanmi left a lot of room in his essay for severe counter-arguments. What I wasn’t sure of was the direction that debate would go. A part of me feared that it might be as transformational as the one that followed after Susan Lydon published her article.
As predicted, Funmi Komolafe, the Labor Editor of the Vanguard issued a rejoinder. She punctured the core of Oyekanmi’s argument, seeking a middle ground and redistributing the blame. Then, hell broke loose. The Human Angle column of the Vanguard publish one reaction after another. Yetunde Arebi technically abandoned any attempt at writing her column and left the page for readers’ reactions. And what a reaction she received!
It was a debate that was long overdue especially in the light of AIDS and the impending devastation it is poised to cause in Nigeria. As reactions came from both men and women, I began to see a troubling trend. African men were looking for Oprah to cry to. They were hustling for flowers, shivering at the mention of the word “cheating” and spitting at those who suggested polygamy.
It was official – the feminization of the African man had begun in earnest.
There are many exceptions to the picture of the African man presented below. The exceptions, rather than disprove the assertions, tend to validate them.
But by and large, the African man is one of the rare exceptions of manhood anywhere in the world. He still has his authority, infallibility and strength. He is not afraid to slap his wife. After all, he won’t be charged with physical abuse. Some pour acid on their girlfriends and others get thrown out of the house. A prominent society man in Enugu recently flipped his wife from the second floor of their home to an early death. His children were watching. The African man is not afraid to grope a female subordinate. After all, nobody will accuse him of molestation or sexual harassment. To him, there is nothing like an unwelcome or unsolicited sexual advance. In fact, it is the fringe-benefit of his being “the man”.
The African man still marries as many wives as he wants and chases those who disobey him back to their parents. He bears as many kids as his excited phallus can produce. After all, it is left for his wives to cook and fend for them. The African man must not be caught in the kitchen cooking. And if he has no means to send the hapless children to school, he will send them to relatives who will gladly accept these children as house-helps and maids. How the children are treated, humane or inhumane, is not the problem of the African man. In his calculation, the African man has figured out that when it is all said and done, when you deduct those kids who will die of malnutrition, those who will die for lack of proper healthcare, those who will die in a road accident, those who will die from physical abuse, there is a chance that one day, one of his kids will come home with a big car and knock down the African man’s small hut to erect a huge edifice. An edifice nobody will maintain ten years down the road.
The African man has no time for niceties – like saying “please” before a demand. He does not because he isn’t sharing power with women. Power is firmly in his hand. He builds new things, like huts, hats and haze. He destroys old things, like countries, cultures and confidence. He is the alpha and the omega. Ok, not just him. In times of challenges, he shares that exclusive title with his chi.
The African man is not concerned about health and wellbeing. He drinks ogogoro as much as his stomach can take. He eats red meat whenever available. He stuffs in grounded tobacco into his nose day in day out. When he drives his bicycle, he keeps his helmet under his wooden bed. When he climbs the palm tree, he does so with the sharpest knife in his collection.
The African man likes vanities – like titles, colorful attire and beautiful cars. When he is well off, he will acquire four wives – one for Afor, one for Nkwo, one for Eke and one for Oye.
Oh, the African man wants wars. He needs war to show off his skills. How else will he get the opportunity to chop off hands of little children? How else will he get the chance to slice open a pregnant woman’s womb and pull out the unborn child for onward slaughter?
Yes, I also watched “Liberia: The Uncivil Wars”.
Oh, what a man! The African man!
This is the African man some abhor while others love and cherish. It is also the African man that is on his way to extinction. Thanks to Rotimi Oyekanmi, Funmi Komolafe and Yetunde Arebi.
In America and most of Western Europe, the feminization of man is complete. The day it was sealed and delivered was the day a female psychologist convinced thousands of American women to write to NBC’s Today’s Show to complain that their men were having emotional relationships with other women.
Many have wondered how the White man from the West fell. How did the children, grand children and great grand children of the Almighty Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Ivan the Terrible, and Theodore Roosevelt, all end up looking like sissies? It wasn’t an overnight transformation. It was a systematic overturn.
Until the beginning of the Second World War, men everywhere were in control of everything. They were the Popes and presidents. They were the providers as well as the procreators. The Second World War changed all that. Men went out to war and women, in legions, snuck out of the kitchen and into the exalted palaces men once occupied. By the time the men returned, women had begun to wear trousers. Attempts to revert roles back to where they were before the war failed because another group- blacks were screaming to be accepted as human beings.
The nauseating and irritating demands from blacks consumed the white men in the West. Men channeled all their resistance towards stopping these black people. In the process, they ignored the push by women. For every “no” the white men said to blacks, they instinctively gave a nonchalant “yes” to the demands of their women. Blacks persisted, and Whites resisted strongly. By the time the dust settled, blacks had won the fight to count and women had gotten all they asked for and even more. In fact, women were not only wearing trousers everywhere, they had begun to burn their bras. Exhausted and defeated, the men threw their hands up in the air and said, “Whatever!” It was the first of such whatevers and it has been reverberating ever since.
With an unprecedented aggressiveness, women swarm into schools like water from a busted dam. After school, they invaded every profession like locusts. At each juncture, they still preached the message of liberation and shed the tears of oppression. The roar women made was deafening. It intimidated the remnants of the old male into permanent silence. In positions of authority, women began to wield power and to change things. They began to recreate the world in their own image. Like women, that they are, they opted for a nicer and caring world – one in which they, the weaker sex – will be taken care of before any other group, while at the same time intensifying the demand for equality.
The result was the emergence of the metrosexual man.
The Western man is at a loss as to what happened to him. He has been squeezed out of the space that used to be his. In the family, he has been demoted to just an ordinary floor member. With roles in disarray, domestic disputes escalated. In time of grave crisis, the government and the wife will form a veto-wielding clique and the man gets kicked out, if he is lucky, or kicked into jail only on the word of a scorned woman.
More divorces, more day care centers, more unwed mothers, more baby-daddies and the dysfunctional circle is enlarged. He has little to do with the conception of his children and much less with their upbringing. In fact, he has just been told that his sperm-count is drying up. Very soon, he will be of no use to the family structure.
The work place has become a minefield for the man of the West. He has to be caring and gentle, else he hurts an ant. He fears being accused of verbal abuse. He fears being charged with sexual abuse. He thinks standards are being lowered to accommodate those affirmative action says must be brought in. But he cannot complain else he is called a sexist and a racist – two of the most horrible tags anyone could get. He fears competition less he breaks the sixth habit of most successful executive. He is bored. He is subdued to the point that he watches machines do the things his forefathers used to do. And recently, he watches as even these machines that used to remind him of who he was are carted away to far- away countries where men are still men. Wal-Mart beckons him to come. Government, as substitute father, goes after him in wild pursuit for child support. A good reason for man to stay at home, play video games, try methamphetamine or meth and when the weather is good, go fishing.
He just became too scared for his gender. To find out what happened, he looked at the school; he saw that women have taken over from preschool to graduate school. They are the students and the teachers. The boys who will be men tomorrow are either on drugs they gave themselves or the ones female psychiatrists gave them for acting like yesterday’s men. Outside the walls of school, tomorrow’s men sell and smoke crack. Inside the walls of the school, Prozac, Ritalin, Buspar, Celexa are the drugs of choice.
He wants to run to the court system for help. He sees a bunch of women judges writing judgments that will be tomorrow’s precedents. He is asked to pay alimony and child support to the infinite square. He is ticketed for speeding, scolded for wanting to own a gun and banned from smoking anywhere but the moon. Mothers Against Drunk Driving are watching to see the number of beer he drinks each time he steps into the bar. At the airport, he is the suspected terrorist. He cannot complain of being profiled because all the polls and all the models have come to pinpoint him as the problem.
And how does he react to all these? He buys an earring and moves to a metro area. He spends the bulk of his time loving himself. He gets in touch with his feminine side. He is not afraid to cry. He gets pedicure, frequents clubs, belongs to a gym and hires a hairdresser.
The metrosexual man used to reside in a subculture, largely out of view, but as men get extinct, he heads to the mainstream. If you are a man and you do not recognize this metrosexual man, it is because you are him.
But there were other things happening.
Scientists are currently battling to explain some greater mysteries that seem connected to the general feminization of man. Here are some examples:
In Columbia River in Washington, scientists are worried that almost all salmon in the river appeared to be female. It surprised James Nagler of the Zoology department at the University of Idaho. He did a DNA test and found out that most of those female fish actually had XY chromosomes. Also in England, Susan Jobling and her colleagues found some widespread sexual disruptions in wild fish. The fish they studied were termed “intersex” because it could not be determined if they had ovaries or testicles.
In Florida, male alligators from Lake Apopka are developing uncharacteristically small penises. If it had ended there it wouldn’t have raised a lot of eyebrows. But they also have a very high level of female hormones in their blood stream. C. F. Facemire and fellow researchers noticed a similar trend in Florida panthers.
In humans, studies have shown that sperm counts of men in Europe and America are on a rapid decline. It has been a continuous decline in the last five decades and is responsible for escalating infertility in the West. If it continues at this rate, some predict that 50 years from now, the West will exhaust what they may have in the sperm bank and may have to import sperm from places like Africa to make their children, just like they currently import oil to drive their cars. Outrageous? Just wait and see.
On the other hand, young girls in the West are reaching puberty faster than ever. The age of puberty is being reduced to six years just to accommodate this strange phenomenon. But even those scientists advocating this change know that something is fundamentally wrong. They cannot explain why the rate of breast cancer has been increasing in the last fifty years. In America, one in every nine women will develop breast cancer during their life.
The primary culprit that scientists suspect for all these changes are environmental estrogens that were pushed into the industrialized space of the West. These include plastics and numerous chemicals used in everyday activities. In agriculture, there are pesticides, in animal husbandry there are antibiotics, and in the household, there are cleaning agents and personal care products. The substances in these products that affect the normal functioning of the endocrine system are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)
According to a study published in the Environmental Health Perspective by researchers at the Chemistry Department of the University of Puerto Rico, young Puerto Rican girls who developed breasts prematurely had toxic levels of phthalate esters in their blood. These phthalates were discovered to have seeped out of plastic containers with known estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities. The warm weather of Puerto Rico enhanced the rate of that chemical process. In young boys, a new study suggested that exposure to phthalates disrupt normal reproduction tract development. Meanwhile young boys are found to have reduced anus to penis distance or what is called anogenital. It also leads to undescended or hanging testicles and other abnormalities.
In an earlier 1996 study carried out by T. K. Jensen in New Zealand and Denmark, he discovered that men who eat organic food have higher semen quality than men who eat treated food.
In effect, the feminization of men in the West came from two fronts. It is why it could not be stopped. And because it was impossible to stop or even challenge feminization, it was easy to rationalize as a normal social progression, a product of better education, advanced civilization and universal enlightenment.
What is becoming clear to some is that if nothing changes, come 2100, the final male graduate will pass out of Harvard and the first batch of sperm imported from Africa will arrive in Los Angeles. Women will receive the specimen box with jubilation while those creatures who used to be men will be busy polishing their nails.
Now that is a world the African man will love. The only problem is that the African man is fast changing too. He may not be there when that time comes. Thanks to Rotimi Oyekanmi, Funmi Komolafe and Yertunde Arebi.
The reason for people getting married has continued to change over time. It used to be for the protection of the weak – women and children. Once it was for the purpose of raising children, passing inheritance, caring for the elderly or putting together resources for production. At another point, it was a way to expand property and enhance power. Despite many years of practicing marriage, it was only 50 years ago that marriage in the West became a contract between two consenting partners. That was when love finally conquered marriage.
With government protecting the weak, inheritance passed through wills, children made in test tubes and raised in day care, elders abandoned in the nursing home and tractors brought in to till the land, the traditional reasons for marriage have ceased to exist. The pursuit of romantic love is the reason why marriage still exists. Sadly, it is not firm enough, enduring and never changing, for marriage to hinge on it.
This same world is descending on the African man. And he is not prepared to confront it.
During the era of Queen Victoria, she was so worried about the cry for women rights that she wrote her subjects and appealed to all who could write and speak to “check this mad, wicked folly”. The queen was worried about what she called the “horrors” of women rights. This was an era when philosophers were in agreement that women were “childish, silly and short-sighted.”
The development of psychology did not make things any better. Sigmund Freud said that women were trapped in the Oedipal stage where they languish in penis envy. He called women “a dark continent”. “Females”, Freud wrote, “start out like males and then – disappointed in their mother-love, humiliated over their lack of a penis, self-deprived of their masturbatory pleasure – take a fall into feminity.”
In her reaction, Carrie Chapman complained in 1902 that, “The world taught women nothing skillful and then said her work was valueless. It permitted her no opinions and said she did not know how to think. It forbade her to speak in public, and said the sex had no orators.”
In the last thirty years, women took over the field of psychotherapy and turned the table around. The change in the gender of psychology means a change in the focus and interpretation. Now a mature adult is defined as someone who is in touch with his feminine side and is comfortable expressing himself. A well-developed human is one that is caring, nurturing and in love with relationships. He is also one who listens.
What that means is that men are riddled with deficiencies. It has further raised the question of whether men are useful any longer. With no trees to cut down, toy guns to kill the spider and no need for someone to spank an erring child – which female psychotherapists have declared as the ultimate abuse – men are basically good-for-nothing, remote-control hoggers who cannot even unclog a toilet.
“A woman is like a teabag”, Nancy Reagan observed in 1987, “only in hot water do you realize how strong she is.”
Since the power of women was unleashed, everywhere man is in a perpetual struggle to escape a certain death because women are using their numerous powers to select and celebrate the characteristics that fit their dispositions. Men who do not wish to perish are falling over themselves to be part of those selected few. Most men have accepted, under pressure, that they have womb-envy as Karen Horney suggested. The selected few will be rewarded with admittance into the reproductive gate as long as they continue to obey.
By 2100, when man finally vanishes, nobody will notice. Not even the synthetic sperm. Thanks to Rotimi Oyekanmi, Funmi Komolafe and Yertunde Arebi, the African man has joined the diminishing line.
Now an addendum: Thanks to Chika Oduah, too, for joining the list of those responsible for the feminization of African men.
This piece was first published in SaharaReporters