Welcome Home: Where Men Are Men, Women Are Women

by Farouk Martins Aresa

As soon as Bobo landed at the airport with his family, he kissed the ground and exclaimed: Welcome back home where men are men and women are women. He could have allowed those that came to the airport to say that but he could not wait. He quickly introduced his wife and children to his relatives. When they got home, everyone was waiting including his in-laws.

The wife was graceful throughout in her greetings to both sides of the relatives. People were asking what they wanted to eat and drink. She quickly found her way to the kitchen to get her husband a cold drink. Hubby was bewildered by the sudden change in manners. He whispered astonishment to his close friend that she would not have run to the kitchen to get him a drink abroad. Everybody had joyous welcome home party. Her single gesture resolved to a bliss night.

When this same lady had come from Africa to meet her husband, at the 1st party they attended to impress his friends, some wives got up to get food for their husbands. He had expected his new African wife to follow. She told her husband it was serve-yourself. Get up and get yours, jo!

Go back to the welcome party: at the end, in-laws asked to speak to their daughter alone. They expressed their happiness at her demeanor towards all families and relatives. They told their daughter to please keep up the positive attitude and be kind to her in-laws. She must dutifully comply with requests. Respect her husband, their beautiful home and watch out for friends. All the advice they could not give when their daughter was abroad flowed. Better late than never.

Just as white men privileges prevail in the western world and for men in Asia, men privileges are still strong in African countries for the simple reason that both sides of the families enforce them after marriage. The cultural and family traditions are so strong that they work against women some of the time. Recently, as more women become independent in their individual rights through education, profession and contracts, they have also exercise some leverages.

Many wives refuse to go back to Africa after the sojourn of their husbands abroad. Apart from unrealistic expectations from their own families and that of the husbands such as second wives, extended families demand, responsibilities for others children. While they may resent their husband being pulled, they have no problem extending same responsibilities to their siblings.

The respect and fear of white men in their communities are important factors apart from other socio-economic ones for the higher stability of marriages in white compared to black families abroad. Adherences to Asian and Spanish culture by the families also explain family stability in their communities since they hardly involve authorities outside their cultures abroad in their marital disputes. Unlike blacks, they settle their differences according to these cultures.

So men’s privilege over women is alive and well in most communities around the globe. Never mind the loudest Women Liberation Movement in the United States about equality. They are so far behind other industrial countries. Canada, right at their border, gives substantial and more economic rights to women. Canadian women get paid for maternity leave, baby bonus, provide more access to daycares to help women at work and healthcare than to U.S child tax credits.

Conservatives think government welfare breaks families, ignoring the fact that it also helps men and the kids. Even if the same high socio-economic status of whites and blacks is considered, black men still get less respect from the women. Black men have to be careful since authorities would make a postal boy out of them if they demand the same respect women give to white men abroad. Authorities use black men to prove they do not tolerate any abuse from all men.

Despite the success of women, they still expect men to provide at least some of their wants, not necessarily needs. Most of the men that could not step up: however little or to a token, get treated shabbily. Rich women seize control and possession of the children from poor men. But it is hard for rich men to take children from poor women. The law still expects equal sharing of the properties. Except in cases where a man already built his wealth before she came in.

Let a man that stayed at home and contributed less dare ask for a fair share of the properties. Heavens and earth would fall! The woman’s family would raise hell about the lazy philanderer trying to milk their daughter where he contributed nothing. The standard favors rich women against the poor man in a divorce. If you want to see women’s fury, ask them for your share. Her family will run you out of town, shameless man!

We cannot lose sight of injustice divorce men go through when about half of their life savings and properties go to their first wives while they have to struggle and live far below the standard they are used to with their second wives. The first wives are supposed to hold on to previous standard of living while the man and his second wife can starve if they want. This injustice is what African culture try to balance at home. Often, it is to the disadvantages of women.

When our grandmothers claim they stayed with an abusive man because of the children, it has a ring of truth. When it comes to divorce, in most cases the woman has to make a choice between her and the children. There is no better home than one with both parents. However, a woman or a man has to make the choice without knowing how the children are going to turn out, some are more resilient than others. There is no point patching up a dead marriage though.

African culture can adapt and support modern marriages as long as we do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Respect your husband the way men are respected in other cultures and respect your wife also. No culture is perfect but each culture is different. No point wishing for one when you are grounded in another. Fortunately, the family in this story decided to stay together because of the support and the encouragement of relatives from both sides.