By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem
I don’t know what it means to be a woman. Certainly not! It’s obviously a different world; a world sometimes filled with extreme feeling of passion, love and affection for the ones nature has brought around you. A world adorned with elegant tapestry of character, beauty and fruitfulness.
It’s also a world filled with hurts and anguish: of scars and feelings of disappointments, pain and betrayal. It’s a feeling that haunts. A feeling that murders trust and turns one into a perpetual sadist.
Am I correct? Do I really know what it means to be a woman?
Imagine having to live with the feeling that you must have been a mistake just because your brother gets all the attention and privileges. Imagine what it’s like knowing that you may not be able to inherit any of your fathers estates just because you are not a male child.
So ,right from when you are still learning to wear or take off your diapers, your are confronted with a reality that seems to suggest that “Junior and I may have been born by the same parents, but we are actually equals”.
I don’t know what it means to lose blood four or five straight days every month. I don’t know what it means to have my genitals mutilated, cut off, expunged and sometimes stitched or left to heal or most times infected with diseases courtesy of the circumcisers knife.
I definitely don’t know what it means to condone piercing albeit lascivious glances at my chest or butts as I walk to the mall or to work with several impressions (most of them mischievous) running through the minds of the one starring at me.
Do I really know what it means to be married off to a man old enough to be my father even before I lose all my milk teeth. Do I really know how it feels to be impregnated against my wish and made to bear and nurse eight children all of them before my 25th birthday.
It’s really hard for me to know how it feels to have sex with a man, when everything in me is saying “NO, not again!”. And how can I know how it feels to be raped; to be defiled and dehumanized just because I was mistakenly created a woman.
Do I really know what it means to feel like a mistake? I don’t know how Im going to feel knowing that I may not be absolutely in charge of or not in complete control over the most precious ,most sensitive and most private parts of my body.
But recently, I got a fair sense of what it means to be a woman…yes just a faint idea and it was enough to open an unusual vista into a world I am not so sure I have what it takes to live in. Im talking about the world of women ;a world of unusual strength and perseverance .
Someone made a pass at me recently. Not just someone, but a guy this time! And don’t forget that Im a man.
I know that will raise your eye brow and cause your eye lashes to blink more than 60 times a second. But it’s true!
In a country like Nigeria where nearly everyone reeks with homophobia, this is not a popular scenario. And this is not meant to incite any gay bashing agenda.
The call came in that morning-a few hours into the dawn of Valentine’s Day. The voice on the other end of the conversation was quite effeminate and a bit straight to the point. After a brief introduction, some exchange of pleasantries and compliments “on the recent launch of your magazine” ,he made his intentions known. “I want you to be my Val!”.
Of course, no big deal. I said muttered to myself. Everybody wants you to be their Val especially if you can afford some exotic gifts and dinner in one of the best restaurants in town. But this request was not the usual “will you be my Val request?” There was more to it. The guy wanted me to be his “partner” or lover as the case may be. And he meant it more than I thought.
“I think you’ll make a good partner from the way you sounded in your articles and of course your looks in the picture I saw in the magazine”.
At this point I knew this was not a joke. So I came out straight at him. “Sorry to disappoint you, I can’t be your partner. I am happily married to a woman and we are both blessed with two lovely daughters”.
I have a personal opinion about homosexuality which I don’t intend to bore you with especially since that is not the focus of this article. But my “suitor” almost got the wrong side of me when he felt I was “playing hard to get” and ashamed of my sexuality.
I told him I am not homophobic neither am I afraid to accept my sexuality (that is, if I were homosexual) and since I am not gay, why should I accept his proposal when it shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
The conversation lasted for close to 30 minutes and since I wasn’t the one running the bills, I simply enjoyed it while it lasted.
I got several other calls from him after that first one and somehow, I managed to redirect his infatuation or “ love for me” to something else which he wasn’t prepared for.
I didn’t share this with my wife. I didn’t know how to. Honestly, I just couldn’t! How do I start explaining to her that a man was “asking me out” and not a lady? What did I do to attract such passes ? Too many questions no doubt!
Just by way of introduction, I am the founder of a ground breaking movement and magazine known as MANHOOD with a mission to redefine masculinity by breaking the silence on sexism, speaking up against all forms of violence against women and communicating the truth needed to end it. It is also aimed at mobibilising male led response to domestic abuse and gender violence and sexual exploitation of women and girls.
In addition to reflecting the state of the African woman, with respect to the myriads of reproductive health wrongs she is made to endure, MANHOOD intends to indict men where and when necessary with respect to sexism as well as celebrate men who are working to eliminate injustices, sexual exploitation and abuses and physical and psychological violence against women and girls.
Somehow, a few men (like my “suitor”) who read some of our articles may have concluded that one has to be gay to be anti-sexist or even advocate for pro-feminists ideals. I guess that became my cross with respect to MANHOOD.
But what stuck to mind while this drama lasted was what most women go through especially when they are faced with ‘never say never men’ who want to go out with them often against their wish.
Most ladies can attest to the fact that sometimes, when a man says “I love you and I want you to be my girl friend”, just simply saying “sorry, I am married, engaged or not interested” may not keep the guy away. He may want to do so many silly things, which also help to bring out the other side of the lady. But that also depends on how strong willed the lady is.
One thing could lead to the another. It starts from stalking her. She can no longer walk home alone especially at nights after work or church service. She is always conscious that “this funny guy will show up again and start telling me funny things”.
Imagine if she were in the same office with this guy and he is her boss? Or worse still, the guy is her lecturer in the university or her landlord. How about if the guy is a Police Officer and she is involved in a case he is handling? Your guess is as good as mine.
You can also put yourself in her shoes or in my shoes.
That is what many women have gone through. Some are going through and may still go through unless we have men who will be bold and MAN enough to accept that the ultimate measure of a man is indeed his ability to make life worth living for a woman. We need men who will agree that it is not proper for a abnormal for a man to be around women and they cannot feel safe, truly cared for, respected, empowered, affirmed or secure.
This article was fIrst published in 2009