Back in 2012 a woman, I can’t remember her name, came to our house and she was very sick, she had travelled more than 200 kilometres from Taung to come see my grandmother because she needed her help. From listening to her story I learned that she was the lost daughter of one of my uncles who had passed away long ago and she had been looking for her father’s family because she was very sick and a traditional healer had told her that she needed my grandmother to perform some ritual for her if she wanted to get better so she had come to ask if she would be able to. For some reason my grandmother did not agree to do the ritual and for the first time in my life I witnessed my uncle cry as he begged and pleaded with my grandmother to do it.
For me that was a shock to witness because in my head my uncle was not the type of man who cried. Throughout the funerals and hardships that my family had gone through my uncle was the one who always took charge and kept the family together. I have never publicly expressed this but that day really changed my life because from that day on understood that even the strongest of men cry.
I recently asked one of my female friends why is it that I get “friendzoned’ so much and she said that it’s because I’m too good and most women “friendzone” me because they are afraid that they will hurt me. This really concerned me because what this meant to me was that there is a dominant mentality in society that guys are not supposed to be emotional beings and if they are they are seen as weak by their peers and women are afraid to be in contact with them because they are afraid to hurt them.
I have never understood why masculinity is still a prominent feature in our society when we no longer require it. Like one of my favourite writers, Chimamanda Adichie, said in one of her TedTalk videos titled “We should all be feminists”, our society has moved from one where physical strength determined social position to one where intelligence and how knowledgeable one is about a particular subject determine your social position. So to still live in a society where a man who is emotionally in touch with himself is seen as unfit to take control doesn’t make sense because it no longer matters.
As a young man I was raised to believe that I am not supposed to express or show emotion, that a man should never cry and a man should never be with a woman who earns more than they do. The society I grew up in is one that doesn’t respect men who show emotion and actually respect other people, especially women. It’s always funny how women will always tell you that they are looking for a man who does all these thing and when they find them they say things like “he is so boring” and “he is so weak”.
Growing up without a father I have never known how an African man is supposed to behave and it’s because of this reason that I feel like I am actually traveling on uncharted territory when I am writing about this so please forgive me if I write anything that is not true. My reason for starting this Blog is because I wanted to learn about being an African man and so if you are one of the people who possess the knowledge that will help me please do share. Male masculinity and feminism are areas I’m still to learn a lot in and as for how I have learned to behave the day I saw my uncle cry was a turning point for me and it has been an emotionally draining journey and I am still trying to find out where this road will lead me, so I am still learning.