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A global day is great, but what does a man want?

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By ELSIE EYAKUZE
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Happy belated International Men’s Day. I was caught by surprise when it happened and only noticed because there was a slight nod in that direction on social media.

Unfortunately, any plans to investigate this day further were derailed by the combative stance that so many commenters took on the issue.

Hard to tell if that was just the effect of social media – everybody misbehaves online – or whether it was the usual grousing about feminism.

Having an International Men’s Day is a great idea, and I say that as a self-identified feminist. Even when we reach gender equity in all areas of life, I imagine that Women’s Day and Men’s Day will continue to be celebrated by those who wish to do so, no harm no foul.

In fact, it is the very experience of being a woman and therefore having to face gendered challenges that made me realise these equitable movements can be based on compassion as well as revolt.

If men are not the problem but patriarchy is, I am all for finding out how the “other half” experiences life in the patriarchy.

This isn’t to say I am fine with male privilege, of course not. It is to say that I want to know what that male privilege does to men.

For example, what is it like working your way up the ranks of the patriarchy with competition as your model? I am interested in men who don’t necessarily conform to the idealised model of a man (basically the majority).

I want to know how their emotional lives are organised in a world that seems to discourage emotionality in men… and of course, I want to know what men think feminism is, and how they feel about it.

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Interestingly enough, I met two self-declared feminist men in this past one week, which is so rare in Tanzania that my quota for the decade has probably been exceeded.

I didn’t get a chance to find out what had driven them to identify as feminists but it was encouraging to see that maybe this thing will catch on over time. But back to International Men’s Day: What an opportunity.

I don’t know how it is usually celebrated, but one thing that it offers is the opportunity for dialogue. I think I have many assumptions about men that could be helpfully challenged simply by listening to what they have to say.

I have a lot of biases too that would be smugly confirmed by simply listening to what men have to say. But most important, I am curious about the experiences that men have trying to inhabit their gender role.

This concerns me because youth are a particular cause of mine. It seems to me that youth is a rather dangerous phase for a lot of men, that that is when they are prone to making shockingly bad decisions, sometimes life-threatening ones.

But even if they manage to escape youthful folly, we have a tendency to put guns in their hands and send them off to war, or when we are at peace, we still manage to somehow blame them for unemployment, recruit them into organised or disorganised crime, pick them up for simply being idle, all while expecting them to “man up” and be of use to society.

I don’t think this patriarchy business is as simple as an opposition of men and women, and need to understand what men suffer from in its clutches too.

So, happy belated International Men’s Day. Next year hopefully I will remember to catch it, and I will be listening.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]

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