My husband and I wrote this post. This is his first and probably last feature here. Dude loves his privacy. But you must know that I did all the writing. He talked, mostly and shared pointers. Parts of it have been edited. So if you’re a wife or a husband or you want to get married soon, you might be interested in this post.
When oga and I were discussing this topic, I prompted the following conversation.
ME: Luv, are you stronger than me?
OGA: Of course.
ME: Are you smarter?
I wasn’t shocked. He firmly believes in equality of the sexes. Still I piqued his mind.
ME: Are you wiser?
OGA: No. That’s one of the places I feel we’re equal. But if you ever beat me physically till it hurts, I should be taken to Kikirkiri to face a firing squad for being a disgrace to men.
I rested my case.
I’m not a feminist. Though my husband thinks I am. He and two others. And the other 70% I have come across that always give me the look when I start talking about women being equal to men.
Updated: I’m presently a proud feminist.
I’m also an opinionated person and I can fight for any cause that’s worth fighting for. I tend not to see just the black and white in any situation. I look for the grey areas also.
So call this a grey area post. Feminists might not like it. Male chauvinists will not totally agree with me but my aim is to strike a balance as much as I can.
Now, for those of you who have no idea what feminism means, here’s a basic definition: What a man can do, a woman can also do. How a man wants to be treated, a woman also wants to be treated. The height a man wants to attain, a woman should also attain it.
I’m sure you get it by now. Feminism is all about gender equality. Women and men are equal.
So here’s my first question: can a feminist be submissive to her husband? Can a woman who believes in the equality of the sexes allow her man be her head?
My opinion: YES.
This leads to another question: what does it mean for a woman to be submissive to her husband?
Let’s not go into the dictionary or Wikipedia or go asking our pastors. The answer is straightforward. A woman simply should allow her husband be the man in the relationship.
The third question: who is a man?
By one definition, a man is the male gender of the human species. He has a penis and testicles that produce sperm and yada-yada-yada… We know what a physical man is. No, I’m not just talking about that type of man. Even a fifteen year old can call himself a man by that definition. I’m talking about men that are mature in thinking and understanding. Men that have passed the stage that all they see in women is sex. Men that have a means of survival, no matter how little. Men that can be held responsible for their actions. And finally, straight men, biko.
A real man is defined by character and integrity. But he has no claim as the head until he is married.
So, what then does it mean to be the head? Does it mean that a man automatically turns his wife into a servant and demands obedience from her at all times and in all things? Does it mean he treats her as less?
I was having a conversation with a male chauvinist the other day and he brought up this argument, asking me to defend the female folk over this men being head issue. At first, the answer I gave him was unsatisfactory even to me but after thinking it through, I asked him: is there a head without a body? Is there a president without a country? Is there a boss without employees? Is there a head of the home without a wife and kids?
Which brings me to an annoying trend I see on social media these days. Everybody now has become some philosopher of some sort and a crop of boys fresh out of diapers suddenly think they have the right to take the title as head over every woman they come across. I often laugh when I read tweets and statuses of such people. Dude, until you put a ring on that fourth finger and accept the responsibility for loving, respecting and caring for a woman, you’re the head of nothing. Let me repeat. A man without a wife is not a head. It is her presence in his life that makes him the head. If you have people you cater for, who look to you for their upkeep; you’re the breadwinner, not the head. You can’t say you are head over your mother simply because you feed her. That is not how the rule goes. My argument is from the Bible, for those of you who keep using it to solidify your point that men and women are not equal.
Now to yet another question: must there be a head in a marriage?
I would say yes, even though I feel a couple shouldn’t dwell on headship issues. Nature has created a balance for the sexes, in that, where the males are lacking the females hold the fort and vice versa. In reality, a man cannot always stand as the head. There are times when the woman takes the reins to save the day.
But if I say yes to the man being the head, doesn’t that mean I’m in support of inequality?
NO. I’d briefly step out of my beliefs on this one and look at the issue critically as it relates to many Nigerian homes. Here are reasons why the man is the head.
1. Testosterone. Let’s go back to the basics. Biology. There is that thing called testosterone, the male sex hormone. It is responsible for the way a man is formed and to a certain extent how he behaves. It plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues. Testosterone makes men more assertive, less compromising. It gives them a competitive edge. It is responsible for their muscle strength and mass, hence making them naturally stronger than women. A man’s testosterone level fluctuates at certain points in his life. It decreases when he falls in love, gets married and has a child. Hence he is actually at his weakest. The best his wife can do for him is make him feel like the boss.
2. Societal expectations. Nigeria is a male-dominated society. From childhood, a boy is taught to be ahead of the females. Culture and society expects him to be in charge. When he begins to grow, the pressure increases and reaches an all-high with responsibility. He is pushed into the world to work hard and make a living while his female counterpart does not have the same pressure put on her. A man who has gone through this process and goes as far as tying the knot is a man who has conquered a lot all on his own. He is the king of his own castle. It took him a lot of competition to succeed. He will not easily drop his position at the top. Pulling him from that pedestal is stripping him of what has now become his nature.
3. Men are insecure too. There is always a richer man, a more handsome man, a more successful man out there. The male nature is highly competitive and that is why men bond more with other men when they are in competition with each other. We see the scene everyday at bars, when they play video games, during sports, etcetera. When it comes to the hustle of life, a man is always aware that there’s someone out there better than him. All he may have as assurance that he is a winner is the place he calls home. There he feels no need to run the race with anyone because he is recognized and his ego attended to. But in the case when he comes home and his wife starts to exhibit the characters of the males he comes in contact with every day, it pushes him to protect his success and pride by asserting himself.
4. Men have a set perception of women. Whether a woman is a stay at home mom, a small-time business woman, an athlete, the boss in your office, the president of the nation or the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, her husband will still want to see you as a tender, sweet, loving woman that needs him. Even if she earns more than he does, he still wants to buy her that asebi for her friend’s wedding. He wants to fix the broken microwave if he can, rather than have her call the electrician because she can afford to. It is his pride to fix the broken things in her life if he can because he is wired that way. He needs a nurturer, a lover, a woman who accepts her weakness and needs his superman ways to save her even if she is strong enough to save herself.
I would like to state that, sadly, not all men exhibit the above traits in a positive light. That is why we have homes where women are abused. For such men, it is okay for them to have adulterous relationships but not okay for their wives to do same. They feel to assert their manliness, they have to subdue their women through physical and emotional abuse. Females, to them, should never question a man’s ways. It should always be yea and amen. They do not want their wives to take jobs for fear that she may be exposed to more wealth than they. Women are just objects of their pleasures.
What about the flip side? What about those women that emasculate their men? They nag and are rude and condescending. They employ emotional manipulation to bend their husbands to their will. They use their bodies as bargaining tools. They also have extramarital affairs. They belittle what he does for a living. They act like mothers instead of partners.
I am all for women standing on equal pedestal with men and I look forward to the day when we see this equality in our homes, schools, offices, businesses and even religious places. But ladies, while that day is yet to come, please can you stroke that man’s ego and put him above every other man out there? Can you uphold his pride in and out of your home? Can you submit to him, knowing it takes nothing out of you but paves a way to his heart, a position where no other woman should have? Can you let him wear the pants in the relationship? He’s not a head without you. The more you accord him that respect, the higher his chances of conquering the world.
A woman who hasn’t understood and accepted the concept of submission shouldn’t get married. She would constantly have ego clashes with her husband if she does. A woman should stand against all that is wrong, that enslaves and stops her from accomplishing all God has created her to be. On the other hand, being submissive is a choice; it should not be forced on anyone. A woman who allows herself to be pushed by any man is not being submissive; she is being a slave and submission is not enslavement. It is the manner of she who is aware of her influence and yet chooses not to wield it to crush a man, knowing that it can never be stripped of her no matter what happens on the outside.
Take Esther as a case study. Her predecessor, Vashti was an unwise feminist. In a patriarchal world where queens had no say, she chose the wrong day to play her cards and she was banished from the palace. Enter Esther. The young, Jewish virgin who knew nothing about nothing. Everything had to be taught her in the palace for a year before she qualified to see the king. When she eventually became queen, her powers were still limited. She was no Michelle Obama. The next person to the king was a man; following that man were governors, satraps and whatever they called them in those days. All of them male. Esther was not on the list. She was there basically for King Xerxes’ pleasure and the kingdom’s image. But Esther never considered her position as of no value. She had a duty to her people, not only as their queen but liberator as well. When they were threatened with extinction, she didn’t get her girls up on the streets with placards (not that I’m saying demonstrations and rallies are wrong). She didn’t go fighting the king’s right hand man who made himself her enemy. She didn’t lay her case to the lawmakers. No, she went to the man whose ego she had stroked for a long, long time. The man who had ears only for her. She knew it was time to wield that power. Thus, she used her humble position, courage and femininity to conquer not just her nation’s enemies but turned the law for her people, keeping them alive and stamping her name in history.
Every marriage should have its rules. My husband and I aren’t crazy about who’s the head and who’s not. We just love and live. Responsibility and roles are determined by who is capable, who is biologically equipped and who is experienced enough to handle the job at the moment. To us, that is the best way a marriage can last long. But I never forget that my man is a man and if allowing him be the boss makes him happy, then why not? It takes absolutely nothing out of me.
Ultimately, love and respect rather than norms and expectations should determine how a woman should treat her husband. Because when the outside is not looking in, it is the love that keeps that fire burning.
Thanks for reading. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.