Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where are all the men?

I remember an evening, so many years ago. It was around 6, and everybody else was inside my grandmother’s little house. Behind my grandmother's house, was an old hut, with an old lady in it. I used to be so afraid of her because she allowed her goats sleep in her hut with her. All her goats had names, and the black goat shared mine with me. That evening, I stood outside watching her herd her goats into her living room. She smiled a toothy smile at me, and said "My husband built this hut, with his bare hands". She pointed out the few huts left in the compound, she knew when they were all built, whose son or father or husband had built it. She slapped her hands on the walls, "good, strong walls, cool in the heat and warm when cold".

Strong walls, built by strong men. Men that provided for their families with their bare hands, working on farms, fishing or hunting. They provided for their families and when the huts leaked at night, they climbed on roofs and fixed the holes. When things needed to be lifted, they bent their backs and carried loads of unthinkable weights. Many a time, you would see them lifting a woman, an old relative or sick child on their backs. They were men of honour, men of their words. They stood tall beside their families and God save you, you come near their loved ones, they would fight to the last and protect their women and children.

Now, here we are in 2009. The rules have not changed, for us, the women. Do you still cook, clean and wash his clothes? The answer is probably yes. The rules for you will never change; you are the care taker of the home. You will bear his children, feed them and take care of them when sick. You will feed him too, and take care of him and his family too, when sick. You will slave away at the kitchen for his favourite meals and fulfil the one duty he begged of you on your wedding night, that you will never refuse him when he comes to you at nights. You will scratch his back when it itches and rub his feet when it aches, you will do all this with a smile on your face, because, your role, you will play to perfection. That is what he expects, that is what society expects.

Here we are, in 2009 and how the rules have changed for you men! Oh, I do not expect you to build anything with your bare hands, but perhaps, is it possible that you could roll over some paint on just a little section of the wall where your mechanic left his dirty hand prints? Oh my, I don't expect you to climb rooftops and look for leaks, but could you just fix a blocked sink? It is not so hard you know, you just turn that white pipe anticlockwise and remove all the dirt and viola! the water will flow easily again. Some light bulbs need to be changed, is it too much to ask of you? But most of all please protect me. I do not expect you to go about brandishing machetes or cutlasses but when the nights are dark and I need a strong shoulder to lean on, please do not shake like a jelly fish, let me know I can count on you and you are my man.

2009. Nothing has changed for women but a lot has changed for men. Forget about those men of your grandmother's stories that fought with bravery at battles. They no longer exist, what we have now, are pencil pushing men, more likely to run before you even shout for help. Their hands are softer than yours or your babies, their backs straighter than any model’s, their fears, greater than ever before.


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