Story By : Vincent Mathosse
‘Be a man’, ‘do not be a sissy’, these words sound familiar, don’t they? Well, this is the type of language that moulded me and other boys into the men that we are today.
But what exactly does it mean to be a man? To be a man in a boy’s body with vulnerable emotions, and big dreams meant that I had to demonstrate a degree of roughness in order for a society and my peers to accept me as a man. To escape being called a sissy, one had to conceal their true emotions.
Being a man in a boy’s body comes with stringent conditions such as; men do not cry as it is a sign of weakness, men do not project fears and agitation to the world. A boy child is taught from boyhood not to express his emotions and feelings and how to act on those emotions. It is a shame that our society does not identify boys as children but as fully-grown men. Still, men should be encouraged to express their emotions non-violently. This includes letting tears roll down their cheeks once in a while. Besides, it is unhealthy to bottle feelings and emotions up.
“Hey man we are playing with men here, don’t be a girl,” said an opponent during football practice after he unceremoniously tackled me to the ground. Imagine if this response landed on a young boy who negotiates life based on what he hears and observe. A young boy can then deduce from the above response that in order to distinguish themselves from the opposite gender they must act violently. Fortunately for me as a young man in my early twenties, I know and understand that being a man comes with the courage to show my emotions hence I did not try to soldier on and hide how I felt.
Men do not miraculously learn their violent ways in manhood. Men are a reflection of teachings and behaviours accumulated during boyhood and adolescence. And with reference to black boys, they grow up idolising gang leaders and other violent male figures who exhibit violent behaviour.
It is not by coincidence that we have such a violent society. This is not a justification for the spate of femicide and violence against men by other men in the country. I sincerely think that as a society we need to take collective responsibility on how we raise and socialise boys. Boys must be boys; it is unnecessary for six-year-old boys to act like men. Besides violence is unjustified even if it is among grown men.