And What Do WE Teach OUR Boys?

Hi there readers, I’m once again going to use Beyoncé’s self-titled album as the pivot for this entry. Specifically looking at “Flawless” (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). As a matter of fact, Beyoncé’s part in the song will hardly be looked at as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s verse has been stirring up a lot of thoughts in my head. I hope you’re ready, cuz I am. 

It isn’t by coincidence that I was perturbed by this song. I generally have strong views, I guess from my own realities, about Feminists and their views. Mind you, I’m not here to bash the Feminist by any means but to raise questions of all kind. Beyoncé seemed to have been on an “all girl” power trip since her last album with the song, Run The World (Girls)More power to her! However, this isn’t about her really.

Meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian born Writer from Igbo decent.

Now from what I have read, she didn’t really have such a bad life. I mean I don’t know the specifics, but having a father (Professor of Statistics) at the University of Nigeria and a mother (Registrar of same university) and her having started medicine until she moved to the United States of America and changed her career path, how bad of a life could she have had…right? I said all that to say, from what I have seen and have read about Feminists, they normally are the way they are because of some type of oppression felt by this “male dominated” system. While this may not be true of all, it is true for some.

This is brings me to her verse in Flawless which was taken from her piece, entitled  “We should all be feminists”I’m trying hard not have a cow at this point and go in on her but she can have her ideologies. She writes:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, To make themselves smaller. We say to girls “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices, always keeping in mind that Marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of Joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, But for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.
Feminist: the person who believes in the social Political, and economic equality of the sexes”

I’m going off of what is mentioned and I’m sure that definition of the Feminist isn’t universal as I’m sure some would rather a world where men do not exist. So where is this equality?  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentions all these things that WE teach girls but neglects to look at what WE teach boys. If she’s complaining that girls are taught to aspire to marriage and not boys, she really has nothing to argue. I mean it’s not like WE teach our boys that if they don’t have money to sustain their families they are deemed failures…right? She even goes on to say girls are raised as competitors for the attention of men but fails to acknowledge the fact that women at the end of the day choose the man they wish to be with…right?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I’d love to have a chat with you, even if I do not possess the relevant expertise in this field, I think we’d have a great chat. I do not want to be seen as a Chevaunist but most men are seen this way especially if they aren’t on board with the Feminist agenda, specifically, the Radicals and Extremists. 

This brought me back to my days at The University of the West Indies when I looked forward in attending my classes re Gender issues as I’m always ready for a debate. I strongly believe in Masculism but that doesn’t make me a Chevaunist. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, like many Feminists are ignoring the male. In the Caribbean for example, the male has a lot to deal with just as much as the female. Hence I write the following:

“The enslavement period in the Caribbean was time of hardship and frustration for both black men and black women. They were subjected to inhumane and cruel treatment and were treated more like property than people. If we recall from our history books however, we find that the activities for a black male slave were similar in some respect but differed on numerous occasions to that of the black female slave. The question speaks to black men as studs and black women as breeders and we can identify with such terminologies. Studs, in this sense, mean a promiscuous male whose sole purpose is to aid in the reproduction of more slaves. In fact Albo, R. reiterates this point when he said “Men were largely studs used for breeding, and were allowed as many wives as they were able”.
How does this add to their exploitation one may ask? This practice found its way to blossom in their society and became a routine for the males and further caused an increase in polygamy on the plantations and a dysfunctional family structure which saw the females taking the lead as the head of the family. Such practices influenced the single-parent family structure which is mostly matriarchal. The male was therefore deprived of the opportunity to help raise a family as he was always on the go and had to work long hours on the plantation especially if the female was pregnant or aged. The majority of the work done however was done by both male and female, except if the female was pregnant or aged. They had to cut the fields, ground the cane during the cane season, and clear and hoe the land after the season had passed. We must take into account that all this was done by both males and females. It was found that in the 1830s, 60% of the field labourers were females as they did the weeding and reaping while the men drove tractors.
Having the stud stigma attached to them, the Caribbean male found himself being promiscuous and living up to the reputation that was created during slavery as being the Supermasculine Menial or the body as described by the African-American writer, Elridge Cleaver. This title meant that the male was seen as a sex object who was not only having sex with black female slaves but also sleeping with the white women who Cleaver described as Ultrafeminine. Here we see the stereotype being brought to its fullest potential as the black man is expected to perform in this capacity. What this meant for the Caribbean man was that for him to be considered as a man he would have to play into the stereotypes because they were being coerced into acts that they weren’t necessarily in agreement with. One may argue that the polygamous relations that were taking place were not new to the blacks as the Europeans were only allowing them to continue what they practiced back in Africa. While this may be true of their culture, the manner in which this type of polygamy took place wasn’t appealing to neither the male nor the female. This brings us to the black female as breeders.
The term breeder is one that is normally associated with animals as they reproduce with many offspring. To even link the black female slave to such a concept shows just how much of a worth she was. She was considered property of the slave owners and added to her manual labour she had to fulfill sexual favours whether she wanted or not. This was highlighted in Barbados as they had one of the highest female to male ratio during the period of enslavement. It can be seen that for Barbados, the need for importing more slaves declined as these breeders were carrying out their duties which was cost effective for the slave owners. The female was therefore playing into the submissive role to the black man and the white man as both forced themselves unto her. This definitely took a toll on the psyche of black female as she was used for sexual favours which transcended into modern day Caribbean practices. This caused her to become promiscuous and think of herself as a man’s property and can be used to explain the high levels of female prostitution because of the belief that their purpose is to please men sexually and be submissive.
Moreover, the experiences of the black male and black female during slavery, has caused a major gender socialization problem in our Caribbean society. We see this manifesting itself in many forms. Errol Miller identifies this in his work on male marginalization where he states that because of what the male was expected to do during slavery, the education sector was lacking as he was always expected to work, therefore you find more females completing school at secondary and tertiary levels. Although in contemporary Caribbean, males have held most of the leadership positions in society, they had to fight just as hard as any female because they aren’t expected to carry out such duties apart from being hypersexual. Lucille Mair in her work on women in history, showed what could be deemed as the upside to what was happening in slavery. The women were seen as instrumental in resistance and led songs and chants for occasions which were a means of coping with the tribulations faced. This resistant spirit of the black female demonstrated that she would not conform to the system any longer and she would have to set herself apart from stereotypes.
Finally, in looking at Tom Burrell’s work on challenging black inferiority, we are faced with a few questions. Why do we expect so little of each other and of ourselves as black people? Why is the joke always on us? Is it that strange that a black male wants to go to school, even today in the contemporary Caribbean? Why should the Caribbean female still be the male subordinate? The answers to these questions lie in our actions as black men and black women of the Caribbean.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may disagree with me on some of the things here, but she can’t deny it may be so for most. I’m by no means an authority on the subject, but I do have strong views, guided by little or research, depending on the subject area. WE should be careful in this present day what we say to our boys and girls because unlike the Feminist who think girls are going through so much more than boys, we should remember that so much has taken place with regards to being “best friends” with the female while little or no attention being given to the male.

-KT Speaks

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shani says:

    Read. Understood. STRONGLY Disagree! Firstly I must say that your definition of what you believe that feminists believe is highly skewed and for the most part incorrect. What you define is the mind set of Extreme Feminists and NOT what true feminism is really about. A true feminist does not believe that “ALL MEN MUST DIE!” because if that were to happen, wouldnt the world be the same as it is now, with one gender being favoured over another? A true feminist just wants a fair chance. They want women to be able to make $1 for every $1 that a man makes and not $0.70 for every $1. They want to be able to invest heavily in stocks and bonds and create wealth and not be mandated to reinvest 90% of their income back into the family and taking care of the vulnerable. True feminists want social justice and not to be defined by the rise in their chests or what lies between their legs. In fact Especially in Jamaica, we ARE taught that we should aspire to marriage and kids and men are taught just to make money. Many grassroots women do practice feminism (though it is defined as matriarchal families) but it is not enough because as soon as the girl enter into the “real world” they are immediately faced with these factors. Why cant men fight for themselves? If you believe that you are being treated so unfairly, fight for yourselves and speak up instead of bashing women and what we believe in. I think that many times a true feminist agenda in shadowed by LGBTQI movements and as such some people lose track on what women are really fighting for. Women and girls have a completely different experience from men and as such we can only fight for what we know. As a Jamaican woman who has experienced all that I speak of in Jamaica and in other countries of the world, I believe that before judgement like this can be made, there needs to be some extensive research carried out on feminism and what it means to be a feminist. Men can also be feminists (and I am not talking Gay men here). Take the time out to do some research and then we can have this conversation.


    1. KeirnyTee says:

      I see you have totally missed the mark of this entry. I wasn’t bashing the Feminist because trust me I can. The section written on enslavement was researched and presented to a tutor in the Gender Studies Department at UWI and a good grade was received. Just pointing that bit out. While I have to agree that my definition for what Feminism is may not be the best, you can’t define something whose school of thought has many perceptions to it. Clearly evident in you identifying that the view may be of the Extreme Feminist. I have another piece that was also written and graded by a Feminist tutor and an A grade was received. So before assuming no research was done, ask.


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