By Taiwo Abiodun-Oni
Not many people recognized or remembered that yesterday was the International Day of the Boy Child, and to be frank, it was not surprising. In fact, the opposite would have been more surprising.
I happen to be one of the men that recognize and admit to the historical and pre-contemporary subjugation of women in many pre- and postmodern civilizations, and I often duff my proverbial hat for the few women that have made it out on the carefully crafted boulevard of darkness that the woman kind have been made to walk from as far back as many generations before. I will stop here for fear of sounding patronizing or for fear of veering off subject.
There is this term called toxic masculinity that exposes and reinforces the ingrained subconscious of the average male child to appear tough, be shrouded in a hard shell, be an emotional recluse, be the bigger person, never cry, never open up, be carefree about hurts, and to possess the superpower to respect the female folk at their own detriment or even beyond the common sense usual respect for all mankind.
Statistically, men make up the highest numbers of prison inmates, the highest number of successful and failed suicide attempts, depression, burglary, theft, drug addiction, and perhaps internet fraudstering. The big question is: why?
Is this because the make-up of a man makes him endearing enough to believe he can commit vices and get away with them, or is it part of the male genetic make-up? The truth is that there are many possibilities and causal factors that explain criminal tendencies and behavior in men.
I am no psychologist, but I can tell you for free that what ranks highest on this list of causes is, without a modicum of doubt, the stranger called “neglect.” Neglect here is most of the time a function of parental oversight and the overwhelming and unbelievable knack of focusing on ‘training’ or ‘raising’ the girl child.
In raising the female child, she is pampered, softly reprimanded, and rewarded for good behavior at every turn by parents and the entire village, but I would like to think that many male kids are harshly reprimanded and are most certainly not rewarded for good behavior; it is at least just another normal thing expected of the male child.
The aphorism, “It takes a village to raise a child,” applies only to the girl child. No village raises the male child; he is instead reborn and raised by the ‘streets’, and then crown him ‘streetwise’. In fact, there seems to be some sort of glorification of a male child having street smarts over being an emotional cushion. A male child seems to command more respect when he wears the crown of street-smart. What an unfortunate symbol of royalty! You let the streets packed with wolves raise a human and expect him not to be crude and have dispensations towards criminality?
The male child is never the favorite of the children, except in rare cases. He gets the least of the pocket money of the siblings, and yes, he experiences disadvantages from being born male right from a very young age. Right from home, the average male child is ingrained with the erroneous teaching that women are ‘special’ and should be treated with the utmost care. He is constantly rebuked for attempting to or beating a female but cheered on as tough and manly when he successfully ‘decks’ his male counterpart, when he should instead have been taught to ‘follow peace with all men’ and dispense justice whenever the exigencies of the case require it, irrespective of the biological makeup of the aggressor.
Society does not talk so much about the pressures and burdens that a man has been made to believe he has to carry. They call the male child who is so good at shouldering the crushing weight of responsibilities ‘a responsible man’. From a young age, he is taught that he has to pay the fees, pay the rent, buy or build the house, buy the car, provide the kids with pocket money, be the security guard of the house, fuel the generator, and provide food for the family all on a 150,000 Naira salary month in and month out, and he is taught not to speak out or else he would lose his ‘manhood’. Even an ‘ordinary girlfriend’ wants you to take on so many responsibilities that you’d wonder how she got by when you were not in the picture. Why would he not croak and crack under this pressure? Even the donkey in the Bible spoke when it came under pressure from Balaam.
The male child is not celebrated enough on the days that make him special (birthday and so on), and when they are, you see how they sometimes cry and many times smile from ear to ear. Trust me when I say that celebrating the male child is somewhat of a strange occurrence in our heads. It is as rare and strange as a non-Jesus turning water into wine.
Sadly, in a bid to provide a just and equal world for all humans, the male child is fast becoming a background character. He is accused of assault when all he has done is pass a well-meaning compliment. He now has to watch his tongue so he doesn’t offend anyone.
The strong exterior and masculine charm your average alpha male exudes isn’t a function of his genetics but rather that which akin to a child of necessity forged from the crucible of neglect.
Parents, society, and the girl child must do more for the male child. Teach your son to be tough, teach him to love and scold him only as much as you would your girl child.
I will keep watching and hope we all change, but I am just one man. Who is reading this anyways?