When a child is born, the first news that is given to the anxious parents is the sex of the child. It’s a baby boy, it’s a baby girl the midwives or doctors say. Some really anxious parents go for a scan to identify the sex of the child before it’s born.
The Sex of the child has several implications in different cultures. In India for example it’s preferable to have boys because having more girls means you have to pay dowry for each of them. This has unfortunately caused a lot of infanticide or abortions after the sex of the baby is determined. In Uganda it’s a big deal to have a boy because first you have an heir, and for whatever other reason (I am not sure) having all girls is less prestigious. We have heard of men get second wives or concubines just to have a boy.
This is where it all begins.
The journey to becoming a Man starts from birth. There are certain expectations put on a baby boy from the time he is born. Among the so many, I have four broad categories which I will talk about. Sex and Gender, Culture, Society and Religion. Today we shall talk about Sex and Gender.
At first, being a man is a question of biology or gender. When you are born with a penis you are a boy and when you have a vagina you are a girl (excuse my biology basics). You will never hear the doctor in the hospital say congratulations you have a baby man or a baby woman. They always say baby girl or boy and in some rear cases we have heard babies being born with both organs.
From the time you are a baby, you are defined by gender as either male or female and you didn’t have much say regarding which sex or gender you are born. Boys cry with a deep loud voice while girls are loud and pitchy. Girls love pink while boys are love blue or green. Boys are rough while girls are gentle. Boys play with cars and balls while girls play with dolls and princess castles. Boys are destructive pulling everything apart while girls are constructive keeping things together. In the famous words of a popular rhyme, “Boys are made of snakes and frogs while girls are made of sugar, spice and everything nice”.
Even the games children play begin to define gender roles very early on – You’ve heard of the game “Daddy and Mummy” or “Mama ne Tata”? This is what is expected of children while growing up.
The Problems start when a boy likes Teddy bears and dolls or loves playing with Mummy’s make up. Any traits that don’t depict masculinity at this point are seen as a bad sign. When my mother came to visit my grandnephew when he was born, she noted that the boy cried “like a girl” with high pitched tiny voice. She immediately cursed out the demons and spirits that were responsible for this commanding them to go back where they came from. (I asked myself. If these are demons, it means we all have them except these particular ones didn’t belong here in my nephew. They were for some baby girl somewhere)
The roles become clearer as we grow up. Girls clean the house while boys clean the compound. Girls make the food and boys just like to play all day. Daddy earns a living while Mummy is the home maker.
As we continue to grow and are now teenagers, being a man at this stage is having a deep voice, a wide chest and pubic hair. While being a Woman is looking fairer, having breasts, growing hips and a huge posterior. Up until this point, all of this is just biology but as we grow up with these predefined roles, we find it hard to switch or be flexible in the midst of changing times. So Daddy can’t be in the Kitchen or Mummy can’t work while Daddy looks after the kids because it’s not manly or masculine.
I am not saying gender roles are bad, boy! Am I glad I grew with Mama’s cooking than Papa’s. Plus Mama gave us a lot time and made sure we are all fine in all aspects.
Being a Man is more than a gender role. It’s more than having a penis, a deep voice, beards, wide chest, being tall and having broad shoulders. You may be short and slim with no beards, not much of a deep voice and still a man in all right. Just because you were born a male doesn’t mean you will become a man. We seem to have very many males and not necessarily men. There’s more to being a man than just sex or gender.
Image: Atlantic Black Star