A real man doesn't need to shout

There have been a few reports in some papers in the past few months that sound as if someone is trying to organise a male counter-attack against the movement for women's rights. Am I right in suspecting that this talk comes from men of one particular political inclination?

Is someone trying to regroup the soldiers of hondo isingaperi who are beginning to see they cannot beat up whoever they like on the streets? The method sounds like telling them that if you can't be boss on the streets, you can still be boss at home, and by the same methods.

I don't want to get into an argument about who is the head of the family. The question is more “what kind of a head?” Does he demand submission or is he open to discussion? Does he see being a real man as dictating his will and getting his way by force, or does he recognise that all that noise usually only hides his own feelings of inadequacy?

Does a “real man” have to shout, control everything around him and beat everyone, wife and children included, into submission? Doesn't it take more strength to accept that other people's ideas may be worth listening to and other people's feelings need to be considered?

I worked with a real man, Moses Ayema, in his last years. He had been a teacher, a journalist and an early activist in the nationalist movement. Maurice Nyagumbo, who could be quite rough himself, said in his memoirs that when the political detainees decided to make life as difficult as they could for their jailers as a protest and a demand for better conditions, “Moses Ayema was the roughest of us all.”

So, if that's your idea of a “real man”, Moses was a “real man”. But there was more to him than the political street-fighter.

Moses was married to Petronilla and they stayed together for 40 years or more although they did not have children. When a real man makes a commitment he stands by it. But Moses didn't just keep to his commitment as a duty. His home life was marked by a deep concern each of them had for the other's feelings and wishes. One incident I will never forget.

Petronilla's last illness was long and painful. When she went into hospital, he spent all the time he could with her. One morning he arrived at work looking particularly depressed after coming from the hospital, so I asked him how she was doing. “Much the same as usual”, he replied “but one thing is worrying me. She needs a new nightdress, and I can't find the frilly kind she likes in any of the shops.”

A real man can make life a living hell for the warders who keep him in prison, even without shouting. He can also admit to feeling upset over a frilly nightdress, and if he had found one, I'm sure he would have wrapped it in special paper and been proud to tell everyone he had bought this for his sick wife.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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