(Mis)per­cep­tions of be­ing a man

Daily Trust - - CITY NEWS -

Daniel and Pa­tri­cia Ior­ever em­body the typ­i­cal Nige­rian par­ent­ing cou­ple. Each has ex­pec­ta­tions they ex­pect the other to meet, but the re­al­i­ties are a lot dif­fer­ent.

A trav­el­ling sales­man, Daniel spends a month away from home and re­turns with a month’s worth of dirty laun­dry for his wife to han­dle. Pa­tri­cia does it with­out com­plain­ing, and takes care of their three chil­dren. It is her wifely duty.

She’s also hop­ing they can move out of their sin­gle­room apart­ment in a slum neigh­bour­hood of Nasarawa State.

When Daniel is home, he spends most time in­doors, rest­ing, on his back. Pa­tri­cia runs around to cook, clean, wash, ready the chil­dren, take them to school. When she brings them back, a fresh round of chores is up.

Last month, she did all that and then went shop­ping. She re­turned, tired, sun-beaten, weighed down with her bur­den. As she stepped in­side their apart­ment to put down her shop­ping, her hus­band roused from the bed and re­minded her it was time to pick the chil­dren from school.

Pa­tri­cia sim­ply broke down in tears, screamed her frus­tra­tion. Neigb­hours calmed her. In the end, us­ing one end of her wrap­per to wipe her tears, she went to pick her chil­dren.

The fric­tion goes be­yond the Ior­ever’s: it is at the heart of what it means to be a man or woman in Nige­ria.

Th­ese dif­fer­ences in what’s ex­pected of men and women is at the heart of the land­mark re­search, Be­ing a Man in Nige­ria: Per­cep­tions and Re­al­i­ties. Ex­pec­ta­tions Seven in 10 men and five in 10 women be­lieve men need to be tough, ac­cord­ing to re­sult of the re­search con­ducted by the group Voices 4 Change. Com­bined with money and per­for­mance, the stereo­types about men—and women— are jus­ti­fied across re­gions, age and gen­der with ref­er­ence to them be­ing cul­tural and the norm.

Fifty-nine per­cent of men be­lieve a man has no value if he does not have an in­come, and 61 per­cent too be­lieve a man should be “em­bar­rassed if he can­not per­form sex­u­ally.”

By con­trast, women are per­ceived as be­ing led by their emo­tions and thus weaker.

A tra­di­tional leader in Kano told re­searchers, “The re­li­gion has made man the head of a woman and has made man to take af­fairs of all. Most things in the so­ci­ety, that is tak­ing care of your home, your so­ci­ety and ev­ery other thing, you are sup­posed to see the man as the head and in this place you will al­ways get peo­ple to re­spect you for be­ing a man.”

That’s per­cep­tion. Re­al­ity is nearly half of women don’t agree men need to be tough to be a real man, and some men dis­agree too.

“It should not be that be­cause I am a man and stronger, then a woman should have fewer rights,” one rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a youth or­ga­ni­za­tion told re­searchers in Lagos. “My wife has the right to tell me not to go out at a par­tic­u­lar time.”

Men’s re­la­tion­ship women

Up to 90 per­cent of men—and nearly the same pro­por­tion of women— be­lieve they should have the fi­nal say and have their wives obey them in every­thing.

But in re­al­ity a firm agree­ment is that women are an im­por­tant source of sup­port for men as head of house­hold and should be con­sulted be­fore mak­ing de­ci­sions.

It is tra­di­tional in some parts of the coun­try but it is wan­ing. The same wan­ing sup­port for harm­ful tra­di­tional prac­tices means many do not sup­port sub­ju­ga­tion of women un­der men in mar­riage. Sixty per­cent of men and 70 per­cent of women do not think “phys­i­cal vi­o­lence against women is jus­ti­fied un­der any cir­cum­stances.”

Divi­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity

with and labour in the house­hold

Men make the money and women keep the home. That’s the per­cep­tion, and con­form­ing to that dom­i­nant idea and how both par­ties should be­have is key to en­sur­ing a fam­ily’s rep­u­ta­tion.

But chang­ing dy­nam­ics is turn­ing that no­tion on its head. Women’s in­creas­ing pres­ence in the labour mar­ket is an im­por­tant way for them to sup­port men in their role as providers, the re­search found. The be­lief is that women have qual­i­ties that put them at an ad­van­tage over men, but the statis­tics for women labour par­tic­i­pa­tion (at only 48 per­cent as op­posed to 64 per­cent for men) don’t sup­port the be­lief.

Daniel doesn’t think it is proper for him to do house­work or bathe his chil­dren, be­cause it de­means his man­hood, he be­lieves.

But a grow­ing pro­por­tion of younger men and women be­lieve shar­ing house chores is a sign of love and re­spect. Older men are more likely to sup­port chore shar­ing when a woman is ill or in­ca­pac­i­tated. The view among re­spon­dents is that it is ac­cept­able but not to be ex­pected. Roles in the pub­lic Seven in 10 men—and women—think both sexes make equally good lead­ers. But in­creas­ing fig­ures show prej­u­dice against a woman as­pir­ing to pub­lic of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­search, up to 70% of re­spon­dents be­lieve women should have the same chance and op­por­tu­ni­ties to take part in lead­er­ship, but 57 per­cent think women are too “emo­tional” to be lead­ers and men are bet­ter.

And the pro­por­tion of peo­ple who think women in pol­i­tics don’t get re­spect or some­times de­serve to be dis­cour­aged from go­ing for men’s po­si­tion just lies at 45 per­cent.

“When it comes to elec­tive po­si­tions, peo­ple say the men are oc­cu­py­ing space and they need to shift,” said Mu­ni­rat Ogun­layi, deputy team leader of Voices 4 Change. “I be­lieve it is not about the men shift­ing, but it is ac­tu­ally about the women ac­tively tak­ing up the spa­ces. We need to work for it and also take up the spa­ces, while the men have to work to ac­com­mo­date that flex­i­bil­ity that th­ese po­si­tions are not meant for only men.”

The re­search has gar­nered en­dorse­ment from around the coun­try and put on panel names as artistes 2face Idibia and Waje to dis­cuss what it meant to be a man in Nige­ria.

The stereo­types must come down, said Lagos State House of As­sem­bly meme­ber and Nol­ly­wood ac­tor Des­mond El­liot, among pan­el­lists at the launch of Be­ing a Man in Nige­ria re­port last week.

El­liot said: “We need to in­form them on re­mark­able changes that can come to us as in­di­vid­u­als and as a na­tion when we ad­dress the com­ple­men­tary na­ture of how men and women can co­ex­ist. We are meant to work to­gether to see we make a com­plete so­ci­ety.”

Daniel and Pa­tri­cia are an ex­cep­tion.

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