You don’t make me feel like a man

Date: January 1, 1970
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We were catching up on each others lives when my cousin was sharing why she broke up with a recent boyfriend. Apparently, every time they went shopping for fast foods, he would ask her to dish up the food for him immediately after walking into the house because it made him feel like a man. We all gasped in shock. “He actually said that?À one of us asked in disbelief.

It seems that almost every career-driven, modern woman, in the course of her dating life, is destined to hear some male partner utter the words, “you don’t make me feel like a man.” With the rise of the modern woman, many independent-minded women who command absolute equality can testify under oath to hearing these words.
I also relayed a similar story with a particular boy I was dating in university. He expressed that I was too independent, too opinionated, and that he felt emasculated.  He continued to express that being with me made him feel like a companion and not a man.
“Well, to me you are an emotional companion,” I responded. “So please enlighten me, because from where I am standing you look like a man.” What transpired out of the conversation was that I needed to tame my independence especially in his presence. We went about conducting the relationship to make him feel like a man.  (This was back in the day when I thought I needed a man to feel complete.)
Since he defined his masculinity by being the protector of women, we agreed he would come to pick me up at the computer labs every night. He kept the Batman act for a few days before skipping his “manly duties.”
The pathetic aspect of this “damsel in distress” act was that this man was half my size, thin as a toothpick, with no resemblance of any Bruce Lee karate tactics or Shaka Zulu’s warrior disposition. How was he to protect me since I am ostensibly the weaker sex? To prove my point, weeks later he was beaten by a Rambo character that had muscle and height three times his size. The brother lost his front tooth in the process.
Shirley Chisholm said in her famous “Equal Rights for Women” speech in 1969 that the notion that “one sex needs protection more than the other is a male supremacist myth as ridiculous and unworthy of respect as the white supremacist myths that society is trying to cure itself of at this time.” The idea that men are or should be protectors of women is informed by a patriarchal discourse that wounds men with a superiority complex over women and injects women with an inferiority complex towards men.
It is unfortunate that society insists on men being protectors of women and adorns them with superhuman physical powers, despite the glaring facts of our domestic violence against women. The sad reality is that men, who are protectors of women, love their wives, and heads of their families without using their economic and social power to the detriment of women are as rare as a lottery ticket jackpot winner.
Also, this gender paradigm puts men under extreme pressure. He must always be the ATM bank ready to make deposits whenever demanded by the female – thereby protecting her financial well-being. He must be the saviour of the damsel in distress, always ready for attack in his Spiderman or Batman regalia.  
He must feel the same anxiousness a parent feels for the well-being of her child. He must always be a winner and a superman who never loses.  Man is thus relegated to a constant state of fear and anxiousness.
To have someone totally dependent on you embodies a parent-child relationship, a paradigm which should not be expected between two adult human beings choosing to relate to one another.  From the abovementioned illustrations, it is safe to conclude that  men who demand to be treated like “men” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) still aspire for the parent-child paradigm in their gender relations with women. This is a failure to recognise women as full human beings.
“You don’t make me feel like a man” is informed by wanting to feel superior to the woman, that no matter how equal she claims to be to the man, the man is still the “more equal.” The words “you don’t make me feel like a man” are unfortunately meant to shut her up, let her know who is boss.
A man who relates this way to a woman sets himself up as the enemy for refusing to be open-minded. These types of words really block any type of negotiation and set up sexist stereotypes. It would serve both genders to get over gender stereotypes and view a woman as full human being born in a female body. Nothing less nothing more.
Kazeka Mashologu kaKuse is a freelance writer based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

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