The face of masculinity is changing. Not so long ago a macho African man sported a hairy chin and chest, had to be clean but not so metro sexual. Being heavily built, strong face and without appearing vulnerable was what took men to backyard gyms. Being tall, dark and with bonga points in the looks department was an added advantage.
Men never cried. Men worked hard without whining. They never lived off woman and most times, had to endure months of being put off by women of their fancy. Being admonished “nikome ulivyo koma matiti ya mama yako” did not make them attempt suicide. Or hack the chick with a blunt panga. Or sharpened axe. Instead, they took in their stride in full knowledge the beautiful ones were not yet born.
Millenials and their desires
How the face of masculinity has changed. It must be the Millennials- those Kenyans now approaching 30 and who were weaned on smartphones, chat rooms and online love. Millennial men desire the masculine persona but sagging trousers, tattooed necks punctuated with effeminate dispositions does not give them the rough look like their grandfathers who fought for independence.
With declining family ties, uncles who mentored boys into adulthood are far between in most families. The single mother, with boys, has even higher hurdles in turning her boys to men. That the Girl Child has been empowered to do what a man can do, only made men appear like the weaker sex.
Unable to know who they are in the 21st century, these types have embraced yoga and meditation, drink green juice instead of beer. Most are Sunday parents, the only day dedicated to their families. Others have gender fluidity, are bisexual.
The reason behind fading masculinity
Dan Kimiti, a facilitator of Man Enough- a program by Transform Nations and meant to equip young men told The Nairobian the modern man and his fading masculinity can be attributed to “lack of proper role models, proper goals in their lives and also a weakness in their upbringing” as the main reasons which is why “we have weak men with no integrity and no responsibility, being cited as the role models,” says Kimiti.
These young men without mentors is the reason for the outbreak of a generation of angry young men seeking attention by venting their unresolved issues; both personal and societal to the society says Kimiti adding that absentee fathers have only made matters worse.
“First of all, these men need to deal with their own issues before taking their role as fathers. There are programmes like the Man Enough that help these men to think through their own lives and start mending any broken pieces. Changing toxic masculinity is not easy and it takes lots of courage and wisdom for a man to acknowledge his weaknesses,” says Kimiti.
He adds that the role of a man in an African setting included being strong, a provider; to be in authority; to be the ultimate decision maker; and to be economically, educationally, physically and politically dominant, but that these attributes are neither equally gifted to all men, nor are they the only important ones for a society to function optimally.
But there is a glimmer of hope adds Kimiti since “we can develop positive male role models for future generations by being intentional about it and recognizing that being a role model is not about having a big bank account or being a celebrity, but being someone who’s attributes can be emulated; Inspiring, brings positive and sustainable change, and able to give direction to others.”
“Man Enough is a program that seeks to promote positive manhood. Through this 10 weeks program, men get to discover themselves, know their roles as men in society and equip them to be a positive change and example going forward. It explores different topics every week and gives the men time to reflect on their lives and their current and intended effects to their environment. It is a fireplace conversation for men; both young and old,” concludes Kimiti.
Who’s to blame?
On the other hand, Pastor Vincent Mulwa pegs fading masculinity on churches, schools and the legal system which he says “is working against the ego of the boy child considering that “the church keeps the man guilty of everything including having an affair with a single woman who really needed him since she is also human. But the church is in a hurry to demonize the man accusing him of being a womanizer.”
Pastor Mulwa adds that, the unmarried man, on the other hand, is “blamed for being busy satisfying women and not getting himself a wife yet it is the women who don’t want to be wife for they have gotten a safe way of being free of husband authority courtesy an understanding church which is unable to show how all decent women can get husbands. Thus we bear with single motherhood where we ‘understand’ them and demonize the man.”
Pastor Mulwa blames the legal system which he says has a thinking influenced by the church and westernization and thus “the law treats women with silver gloves and the men are guilty before being heard. We behave like the woman is incapable of initiating a wrong. See this unfairness: A girl gets pregnant yet she is not ready to be a wife but she is the first in court asking for a child upkeep and the court will grant it without asking her ‘why she can’t get married to him’ yet both are working and earning the same salary.”
He adds: “The man’s salary is slashed to pay upkeep for the lady who is freely moving with whoever she wants. The man is made to withstand permanent guilt, shame and financial drain and the lady jumps into another relationship. What the school have done is very wrong, the over emphasizing the empowerment of the girl child with the emphasis in making her survive without a husband.”
Systems separating women from men?
Pastor Mulwa also has issues with schools where girls are told to study hard, get jobs and then get married which is another ways of saying ‘you can’t miss a man to give you a seed’ and sue him for child upkeep if he is rich thus increasing your income and financial stability.”
Pastor Mulwa says all these systems are bent on separating women from men and harvesting from the men to support the single women. This is the misuse of men by the church, the legal system and the school.
His solution to the problem of fading masculinity is for the church to put her feet down and tell all decent women who need sex and children must get married besides the legal and school systems also empowering the boy child.
Pastor Mulwa also has issues with single women whose boys suffer low esteem as ‘being son of a girl’. “Growing up without a male figure with a man authority and life perspective definitely affects the boy’s masculinity...let life be balanced let all women be in married let all children have a known father.”