By Jubril Olalekan
Cultures vary from place to place and so do societal practices, norms, values and standards. These societal cultures perform different functions on every individual represented within its ambit and some of these functions include; a formative and reformative function: culture creates and recreates us. The society is ingrained with so many beliefs, values and dogmas, and these values are successively communicated from one generation to the other, which therefore characterize and form the basis of the people’s lives. By implication, the society thus becomes an instrument that sharpens our worldviews, our thought systems, beliefs, moral dispositions, behaviour/actions, relationship, and also our interactions with others. In other words, it suffices to say that everyone is a product of his/her society — a carriers and a custodian of our respective societal nomos.
In line with the forgoing, you will agree with me that the society is fundamental to human existence, thus, we are ultimately condemned to imbibe our societal cultures whether we deem them pleasant or not, and we exhibit and communicate this culture in our daily dealings either consciously or unconsciously. We are submerged in the shadows of our culture; “man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains”. However, while some of these cultures have, through its practices, inculcate subtility, expressiveness and emotionally sensitivity into its members regardless of their gender; other societies have been, unfortunately, instrumental in the rupturing of anything called emotional or psychological sensitivity in the masculine gender – it is believed to be a characteristic of the weakling – a trait meant for the feminine, and has consequently been consciously or unconsciously ‘forbidden’ in the class of men.
The Nigerian society is guilty of this ill. It has succeeded in making the male child sturdy at heart, it has created in them zero emotional sensitivity and rob them of love languages that characterize the human person. And most unfortunately, a large chunk of this inappreciable and inordinate characteristics begins from the home. It is now such that those who even try to act contrary to these conventions are seen as weird, feminine, abnormal or even mad. In other words, the society has so much built the male gender to bottle up their emotion and emotion-proof. In many Nigerian homes, you would hardly hear the parents say ‘I LOVE YOU’ to their male child, it’s sound/looks foul and impure in their ears. And to tell you how this affected the psychology of the male child from-home-to-school, hardly would you see a group of guys who are bosom friends use the word ‘I LOVE YOU’; if one manages to defy the odd by doing so, be rest assured that counter response from the others will be brutal, you could hear something like, ‘guy, you dey mad, who you love?’… Bro, I’m not gay abeg…what the heck?!! Etc. While this is natural in other parts of the world, it’s almost tantamount to a crime here. This might seem like an ordinary phrase, but the psychological effect is such that it makes you see others as your responsibility and consequently work towards ensuring their welfare. As a society, we’ve failed in this aspect, and that’s why we see brothers killing brothers.
Furthermore, compared to the female child, the male child has been societally structured and conditioned ‘not to cry’. As a guy, you are expected to have a natural shock absorber for everything: when you suffer a blow in your relationship, absorb it; if it’s in your academics, absorb it; in your finances, deal with it. The society has made it such that the male child is expected to suffer in silence and bottle-in their emotions, as any move to act contrarily is assumed to rupture his ego and self-pride. This is one of the reasons why you hardly see men who have been abused, harassed, or have suffered sexual molestation or domestic violence come out to air their plight as compared to the ladies. This is why a guy would rather cry alone in the confine of his room and come out wearing an ‘all-is-rosy’ face when all is grey in the actual sense of it. He is eaten up within, and that’s why many resort to suicide.
Is he not a man? This rhetorical question is a prevalent societal dictum that has been imprinted in our subconscious mind and as such has a great effect on the way the society see and relate with the male child. It has so much inflicted on the male child irreparable damages and will still inflict more if care is not taken. This statement has conferred so much responsibility on them and has set a defined standard by which they are judged. As a guy you are expected to take charge and own up to everything, which is in fact not bad, however the attendant pressure is what is abysmal. As male student, our parents expect most of us to fix and work things out for ourselves on campus – we are expected to hustle our way out – Of course, are we not men? You put a call through to your brother or your aunt and you’d get some shocking feedbacks like ‘wo, fi mi sile, emi na sise owo mi ni o…iwo naa wa nkan se now, sebi okunrin ni e’; meaning, ‘see, let me be, I also work for my money, you should also find something doing, or are you not a man’. In all of these, there’s only one factor that birthed those responses and it’s nothing other than that phrase, ‘a man’. Then I begin to wonder, does being a man/a male child mean I’ve been condemned to suffer? Does it mean that I can’t ask for help without constantly being reminded of my gender?
The bitter truth of this however is that this malediction ends up coming back to haunt the society itself. It is apparent that the chunk of atrocities perpetrated in the society these days come from the male gender, and we often time wonder how these people can be so animalistic and heartless to be capable of carrying out such actions. Well, the truth is not far-fetched, most of it is as a result of the cruel reality thrown at them by the society at the very beginning – the reality to work it out either by hook or by crook because ‘you are a man’; the pressure and towering societal expectations, the loveless life they’ve been exposed to has toughen them up so much so that they can’t even feel remorse or guilt because that contrite heart was never inculcated into them from onset – they can’t just help themselves to love others enough and not harm them, because even they hadn’t experienced one themselves. The life they’ve been exposed to is that of survival – the survival of the fittest! All of these are the cultural nemesis that joins forces and characterize the inimical personalities of these individuals. Although this is in no way a justification for such actions, however, the truth of it being a contributory factor cannot be overemphasized.
The society should understand that the male child is a human and not a stone, and should thus be nurtured in such a way to understand love and affection. A life of a man is already a life of responsibility, the society should therefore not compound it. The society should understand that man by nature is a beast, hence, they should see to it that the male child is shown love, cared for and allowed to express his emotions. This is the only way the beast inherent in them can be tamed. Else, we will grow into a society that stands the risk of being submerged and submerged by voracious beasts!