Gender Roles in African Relationships

by Folasayo Dele-Ogunrinde

With “Some” women, It’s all about “what can you do for me”? (Read: “How can you take care of me, pay for my fake hair, my fake nails, my Prada bag, Manolo shoes: buy me this, buy me this, buy me that!, because you’re my personal piggy-bank, with limited or no financial reciprocity on my part”). “Some”, even while they work, don’t believe in “our money”, it is “My money is MY money”, and “His money is OUR money”. They refuse to pull any financial muscle in the home even if the man’s purse is stained beyond capacity. (Ref Article: Equality in African Relationships). Yet, they complain that men don’t respect them.

If a woman earns money, she should contribute to the financial well being of her family, unless of course, what she earns is so miniscule compared to her husbands, and they both agreed hers is for frivolities. But less common, and more fraught with issues is if she earns more than a guy. My take on this, is that it is okay to for a woman to take on the larger of the financial responsibility, if that is the circumstances in which the couple finds themselves. It doesn’t always have to be a 50:50 financial affair, especially if the man deserves to be treated well and he’s not at all insecure about gender roles. And, there is such a thing as THE MALE EGO. I acknowledge it, and I respect it. It is the over expression of it by “Some” men on testosterone overdrive to the detriment of the women in their lives and to the relationships that bind us together that I have a problem with. Ladies, if you’re paying for dinner, don’t make such a big deal of it. If you are the heftier breadwinner and have to shell out more for the mortgage, don’t broadcast it to the universe, especially to your family or female friends, and certainly don’t make a hardworking man pay for it with his self-esteem by disrespecting him. If the man is lazy, that is a different matter entirely, then you need to make him haul his lazy behind out of the recliner and take care of business. (Note to men: For the most part guys, it really doesn’t matter to SOME women who pays for what, don’t let your egos get in the way of “jollof”).

If a woman is not the sole homemaker in the house, but gets adequate help with the domestic aspects of running the home, there is no reason for her to be sitting down, twiddling her toes watching soap opera all day and not contributing financially – well unless you’re married to a gazzilionare who just wants to gaze lovingly into your eyes all day long (Personally, I think that will be boring, but then, each to his/her own).

“Some” women, when they go on job interviews, expect to get the job, just for showing up and having a set of “twins”. You see them showing up to work wearing mostly their cleavage and nothing else. They don’t believe in contributing any quota to the intelligent quotient in the workplace. While some of these women are extremely book smart, they opt for the path of least resistance. They see all men as fools who lose their heads when sex is the currency. These women believe any man can be enticed with the right sprinkling of flirtation. These are the women who believe ALL men are dogs, and they hold the bone that can make him salivate. They forget, that just as there are women who are discerning, we have men too who are just that, they don’t cave at every canal temptation. These men respect themselves. These are the women who set other women back a hundred years. Just go to any Nigerian university, ….I mean “glorified brothels” to witness the extent of the moral decadence of some of our fellow Nigerian Women. It’s quite sad really. And while there are severe economic reasons that one may proffer for why these women are behaving very badly, there has to be better way.

Thankfully, not all men are lead by their “willies”. A friend of mine is a hugely successful film director. By most people’s judgment, he could have any woman he wants. He has power, and he could wield such if he chooses to. But he has turned down so many untoward sexual advances from women, “Some” even question his sexuality.

Conversely, “Some” women also believe that the only way to get through to a man is giving “it” away on demand, while “Some” others have rationalized that treating sex casually is a way of getting even with men. The idea that treating sex casually engenders a woman on the same footing with a man is not only a foolish idea, it’s also dangerous. There was a girl I knew once at the university where I attended whose mantra was, “Men will get what they want, either from you or from someone else, you might as well use what you got to get what you want”. And she gave plenty!. I mean, the path to her doorstep was paved with many “foolish” men, who according to her she was “using sexually”. This girl really felt empowered – albeit in a warped sense. And doling “it” out just because a man demands sex of you puts you way down on the rung of the equality ladder before God and man (ok, maybe I shouldn’t speak for God, but I’m making a point).

“Some” women really do believe and perpetuate the myth that the only way to a man’s heart is though his stomach. A friend’s girlfriend once told me that if you don’t cook for your man, how will you “punish him” or “manipulate” him to get what you want when he misbehaves?.Another friend told me that once, he was introduced to a Nigerian girl in the UK with the intention of possibly dating her. The first thing she wanted to establish with him was how great a cook she was, she wanted to know was what type of food he likes and when he can come over so she can entice him with her culinary skills. His take was “Feed my mind first, I can take care of my own stomach”. She wouldn’t relent, when she persisted in asking him what he would like to eat over and over, so she can have it prepared, he joked “Breast milk”. She didn’t get the sarcasm.Some women don’t understand that connecting mentally, emotionally and spiritually with an intelligent, secure man will last much longer than trying to impress him with just your culinary skills ALONE. (Well, except of course, the ones who want to marry a cook, who then later turn around to find a woman outside of their marriage to stimulate their intellect). Let the cooking skills – if you have any – come as part of a complete package.

Being a good cook and skilled with sexual prowess may temporarily get “Some” women the man they desire, because “Some” men are conditioned that way, but it may not hold his attention for ever. Most men need mental as well as physical stimulation. Otherwise, why do “Some” of these men leave the wives at home and chase after women who will challenge them intellectually all other things being equal?

I’m not advocating that women burn down the kitchen, neither do I think women who cook for men or their families are slaves. Do I, and would I cook for a man? Absolutely!. But out of love, not out of duty. And certainly not for a man who needs to see “COOK” on my resume before he expresses interest. Will I allow my husband in the kitchen? You bet! unless of course he’s a lousy cook, in which case he will only be allowed to chop the onions J.

I’m certainly not opposed to chivalry, but some women take this to the point of ridiculousness. They won’t walk through a door or get out of the car or out of a chair unless a man rushes out of his way, almost killing himself in the process to satisfy the chivalrous demands of “Today’s Woman”, thus making this a chore rather than an act of love. While this act in itself is an “Act”, and may work out for the heck of it in formal situations, from one woman to another, please ladies, when a guy is weighed down with grocery bags with no spare hands to open the door, or you are walking way ahead of him, it really makes no sense to wait to be waited upon. “Some” men will pull this charade off very dutifully until he feels he’s got you, then, “Chiva

lry” will be a Chinese word to his African ears. Let it be an act done out of love, not borne of expectation or resentment, that way the genuine act of chivalry (hopefully) will outlast the wedding vows.

Okay, so it is a fact that most African women NEVER make the first move in romantic relationships. (I’m not talking here about those who throw themselves at men for sexual overtures, that is another genre entirely). Shyness aside, if a women feels it, doesn’t she owe it to herself and possibly the man (if he reciprocates) to act on those feeling of attraction? Why are “Some” of us African women so coy?. So, not every woman has enough chutzpah to approach a guy with heart-felt intentions, I’m aware of that, and not all men have the courage either. But sometimes, it is “Some” of these same coy women who will be the first ones to “nail” a guy who has summoned up enough courage to woo them in the most humiliating fashion if they don’t “dig” him. There is a good way and a bad way to say “Thanks, but no thanks” without having a man crawl away with his tail between his legs (no pun intended).

The role of manipulating fertility to conceive in a relationship should be a joint venture. Some women take it upon themselves to single-handedly control this aspect of a relationship, simply because they can. And “Some” wield this “power” unscrupulously. They get pregnant for a man without his consent – either prior to or after marriage, possibly thinking a baby will bring them closer together if they are married, or get the man to marry them if they are single, or more frightening, the ominous tick-tock of the “biological clock” gets louder, so “Some” get pregnant intentionally for the unsuspecting guy.This one, I think is a big foul. If you expect a man to be responsible for the child, don’t you think he needs to know what he’s getting into first? Yes, you have more control over how and when a child gets conceived, but to use that as a weapon manipulatively is so way off the chart of unfairness. In the end though, sometimes it’s these women who get the short end of the stick in this deceitful bargain, because a man who doesn’t love you prior to having his child will most likely resent you even more afterwards. And men do need to be more pro-active and be in the know of their significant others “affairs” in this department so they don’t get stunned, to not do so is foolishness on the part of a man.

There is no denying that the instincts of a mother is strong. And this plays out in an almost instant greater bond between a mother and her child even before birth. So one can argue physiological reasons for the propensity of a woman to focus more on the child during this phase in marriage. But some women completely abandon the husband who more or less wanders around the house hovering around like an un-welcomed stranger, feeling unneeded and sometimes unloved. But problem arises when some women take this to a whole new level. All the love once felt for the husband is now entirely showered on the children. This is normal to an extent, It’s a protective mechanism. But for some couples, this phase persist way past what is healthy for their marriage. Now I’m not defending the man who pulls a disappearing act once his wife gives birth, and wants no part of child rearing. I’m defending the hapless man who is caring and loving and wants to be involved, but whose wife keeps pushing him away, taking the term “mother-hen” to an extreme. The man gets not love, no role or respect in the child-rearing department and most definitely no sex. Yes, sometimes, the lack of libido on the part of a women post-partum can certainly be hormonal, and some men too just simply will not have sex with a woman after she’s had their children. Many marriages have fallen apart after the advent of what should be a joyous and new phase in a couples lives upon becoming new parents. There is no reason why this should be so. Couples would benefit to communicate openly and honestly with each other and seek professional help if need be, but where tradition, roles and taboos still take precedence in most supposedly “modern” African Marriages, this may be a tall order. (See Article: “Mothers who love their children more than their husbands”).

I’ve been musing for a long while about shooting a short documentary films on these types of discussions based on a dozen or so articles I’ve written as a series scrutinizing African relationships. I hope to be able to interview different participants over a period of 6 months. If anyone is interested in being part of this project (or if you know of other folks) , please email me at . Invitation is open to all who live in the US* for now. I will make allowances for people who may wish to remain anonymous although preference will be to those not.Demography sought are Single, Married, Divorced or Separated 18-50-something yr old African Men and Women. Or non-Africans involved with an African in a relationship.

A screening questionnaire will be emailed tothose who express interest in the project. In the meantime, if you think you have a compelling personal story about the discussion on this thread, viewpoint, etc, please send a short briefing to me or just simply indicate interest, it may be a while, but I will follow up if interested.

*Those living close to NY are especially encouraged to participate for logistical reasons. However, if youlive outside the US, or can’t participate for other reasons, you may email your thoughts and comments with your real identity for credibility. Text excerpts may be used in the final cut. Also, as the project expands, Africans who live elsewhere will be included to diversify the opinions portrayed.

Thank you.

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Anonymous July 2, 2006 - 1:42 pm

Took the words right out my mouth. The level of expectations from Nigerians men is ridiculous. Like you said, i am going to cook regardless not out of duty, but out of love. They don't get it, and when you try to explain it to them,"u've become americanized." They wanna have their cake and eat it to. A woman who works all day and also waits on them. If they really want it the way it is back home, well lets do it the right way. You take care of all the bills while i stay at home all day.

Anonymous June 30, 2006 - 2:28 pm

Paul Adujie,

you're here again!!! always seeking to grab attention. Why don't you let others be the judge of your articles on whether or not it is fair and balanced. Do you really need vaidation that badly? Grow up man!.

Dr. Fadal June 29, 2006 - 5:30 pm

Excellent write up. Your approach may be general in style, narrowly restrictive but yet true and valid. The parochial leaning does not in anyway devalidate the points and concerns you raised. You spoke well.

Dr. Fadal

Reply June 29, 2006 - 1:30 pm

I wish I had your wit and charm when it comes to dealing with some hapless Nigerian men. Forget the documentary, hold a seminar, charge us Nigerian women a pretty sum and tell us how it's done sister. You are a gem among stones for standing up for the rest of us. More palm oil to your elbow.

Paul I. Adujie June 29, 2006 - 11:37 am

I worry about the generalizations about Nigerian, nay, African men… gender inequalities are serious issues… but a great disservice is being done… by those who engage is feminist crusades generalizations and exaggerations… for a fair and balanced view on gender equality (a global perspective) please read:

An African Wife-An African Husband; Without African Values Written by Paul I. Adujie


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