Popular singer, David Adeleke, known by his stage name ‘Davido’ has come out to say, “I’m tired of being strong, ” in a very vulnerable post in reaction to the death of his bodyguard of 11 years. It is an anguished response to grief that should start a conversation about why he or any man for that matter should feel the need to ‘be strong’ in the face of a very human reaction to loss.
The topic is however likely to trend and then vanish from social discussion.
When people speak of the statistically higher suicide rate in men, it is often just to lament and gloss over the deeper causal issues. Globally, death by suicide occurred about 1.8 times more often among males than among females in 2008, and 1.7 times in 2015.
A wide range of issues contribute to men’s higher suicide rate, but when each is whittled down to its atoms what we see is that traditional ideas of masculinity are the leading contributing factors to everything.
The traditional man is expected to be strong, assert dominance and control, and be stoic while doing these. It is why when men are faced with emotionally charged moments to which the healthy response might be to break down in tears and feel their feelings, they will rather choose violence and let those feelings fester.
These ideas are part of what is now understood as “toxic masculinity,” cultural expectations of men’s behaviour and emotions that are damaging to men and society at large.
When men are encouraged to suppress their emotions it leaves very little room for them to even acknowledge or talk less of discussing how they feel – men are not allowed to be vulnerable.
Increasingly, the world – if not Nigeria, is coming to terms with the need for vulnerability in men. When men are able to come out and express their grief in its fully realised anguished form, as Davido has, there is likely to be fewer incidents of deteriorated mental health to the point that they choose suicide – a way out that is devastating in its finality.
It is worth noting that this is a conversation men should have among themselves. Feminist thinkers have extensively discussed and proffered solutions to the menace of toxic masculinity, but in a case of irony, the same toxic masculinity has resulted in the widespread disregard of these works by the very men for whom it is vital.
If men won’t listen to feminist thinkers, maybe they will listen to one another. And perhaps Davido can step forward, in his time, and be the voice that leads the conversation. For now, he needs his space to grieve and hopefully, he allows himself to do so fully, unhindered by the stricture of toxic masculinity.