“If it was a girl that was raped now, feminists will be all over this trend,” is a phrase anyone who has been on that strangely thrilling corner of the Twitterverse that is Naija Twitter has come across at least once.
Men who are aggrieved by the work that feminists do to fight for equal opportunity for women say this more often than do the actual work needed to help the boys or men they claim are abandoned by hard-working feminists.
UNICEF reported in 2015 that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.
One in ten boys in a country with a male population of over 105 million is bad enough, but the number could be higher as boys remain less likely to speak up about sexual violence with the gravity it warrants. When they do speak about traumatic experiences – usually among peers, men and boys often feel compelled to perform machismo – diminishing the horror of their experience.
Perhaps this learnt dismissal of even personal life-altering pain is why men banter with everything, including the pain of others. The alternative possibility is that they do it out of plain cruelty, but that would be on the premise that we have totally given up on over 50% of the Nigerian population.
Earlier last year – in response to sustained conversations and mutual amplification by hugely platformed women about the harm that a deeply flawed patriarchal system does to women, many men reduced everything to joke fodder.
Hugely platform men – many in respectable positions in their careers, took to Twitter to joke about being proud members of Patriarchy FC. A handful with the relevant expertise and disposable income went as far as acquiring a domain and creating a Patriarchy FC website. The end result? A potentially productive conversation abruptly ended because one party refused to listen with the grace needed to affect lasting change. Now we are back, like clockwork, to the same cycle of reductive banter.
Now it is on spending on women and many men’s reaction to it is delightfully hilarious, if you allow yourself the grace to see it as such. If, however, you were to use the same antics used by men every time women bring up their pressing issues, the story will be very different.
The notion that women are sponging off men has been peddled for generations. There is a sister notion which often slides under unacknowledged – that the age-old appeal of the patriarchy is men paying for the upkeep of women so they can live unencumbered by the burden of care.
Women aren’t sponging off men.
What happens in courtship in patriarchal societies is that both parties are role-playing the part they will come to play in a marital union. It is a burden for all parties involved.
If the men neck-deep in this conversation are really pressed by this social ritual, their target shouldn’t be the hapless women they will eventually end up taking advantage of by accessing their free labour in the name of marriage. The target, much as most of these men are apt to despise, is the patriarchal system that props up men on a pedestal that chokes them. The same system forced women to hands and knees and wedged a foot on their backs to ensure they remain prostrate.
It is a vicious cycle neither party is breaking free of unless they come together and work hand in hand.
Rather than rally resources to print Stingy Men Association ID cards or purchase a domain for frivolities – only to turn around and lament that women won’t take the pain of men seriously, perhaps men could look inward.
The same energy spared for these futile endeavours – if properly channelled to issues like the sexual abuse of boys, will go a long way for men.
Boy Rights Activists and recent finalist of the Nigeria Prize for Diversity and Difference, Solomon Ayodele said in a recent yet to be published interview, “The problem with men is that they are rarely raised to grow out of their childhood, and we owe that to them.” Those words have stuck with me ever since.
A Boys To Proper Men Association will be the perfect pick me up for 2021 after last year. Hopefully, our domain and ID Card kings will come through stronger for this one.