Questions are being raised on the physical, emotional, mental and genetic makeup of the modern Kenyan-man who seems to be becoming more feminine day by day.
Until quite recently men grew up knowing their place and what the society expected of them. The presence of a man in a family often signaled security and authority. The heavy tasks like fixing cars and carrying loads for example, were in the main left for men to do while women took care of the lighter tasks like cooking, housekeeping and running small errands.
Now try this contention: a woman is a woman by virtue of being one, she is a “woman” because of her gender or sex; for a man to be called “a man” other factors come into play.
A MAN’S A MAN FOR ALL THAT?
Take physical appearance. Yes women and men are judged by their appearance but a man’s masculinity will always be judged by his body and his dress code to a greater extent. Modernisation has however seen men embrace fashion trends that men of yesteryear wouldn’t have been caught dead in gratifying, like sporting long hair, braiding or ear piercing just to mention a few. Although some people are okey with this, some still have their reservations and consider such men as being less manly.
Across the world, a man’s ability and desire to provide for his family has been fundamental pointers to his masculinity. A man, who cannot provide shelter, put a meal on the table and clothe his family, is never viewed as being man enough. Although modernisation has made today’s woman more independent, she is still largely expected to supplement a man’s income and not to take up the full responsibility for the family. Some modern men however, seem to have taken the back seat, with the mentality that the woman will do more than chip in.
Displays of emotional behaviour were also deemed, in times past, not to be manly. “Boys don’t cry” is a familiar phrase that has been repeated to the boy child from a very young age for generations. A real man is expected to be logical and not emotional except in extreme circumstances. Nowadays we see men getting emotional and even crying at the slightest issues.
WHAT OR WHO IS TO BLAME?
Is this feminisation of men just a sign of behavioural change brought on by changes in our society and culture? Or could other factors be the cause?
Researchers say that chemicals contained in thousands of plastic items used in households have the capacity to alter the manliness of boys making them develop more female tendencies. The chemicals are being investigated for disruption to hormone activity and some preliminary studies have shown that they may be causing a slow and steady movement toward femininity in men. (DN2 COVER STORY, DAILY NATION, FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2012).
According to experts, many men today are unknowingly experiencing a hormone shift that is affecting their hormone levels and giving them health problems similar to women’s! Some men today suffer weight gain, mood swings and also diminution in muscle mass and strength.
Men today are more and more exposed to hormones and hormone-like substances in their diet and environment.
It’s also alleged that many animals today are pumped with hormones (mainly oestrogen) to make them grow fatter and faster. As a result, when men consume such animal products their testosterone (dominant male hormone) levels naturally decrease thus making oestrogen (the female-dominant hormone) more dominant in their bodies.
THE MISSING MALE ROLE MODELS
Accusing fingers have also been pointed at fathers for playing a role in the male-to-female transition that is arguably arising in boys today. When the boy child grows up in the arms of the mother, the argument goes, they tend to emulate their mothers mannerisms as she is the only role model.
The situation is exacerbated where the other siblings are girls. This Forum correspondent’s three year-old nephew, who is being brought by his single mum in a family of four, all women, nowadays prefer to sit on his potty while peeing, rather than stand the way men do , simply because his five year-old sister does the same.
Though still young, the boy’s mother is getting concerned as he seems to be developing more female traits day by day. “He has developed a fondness for dolls and make up as well”, she said.
As Dr Catherine Kituko Simiyu, a sociologist in Moi University explains, “The primary definer of behavior is the home. Yet the traditional male virtues that used to be taught and encouraged in young men are virtually invisible.”
Be it nature, nurture or changes in our society, the feminisation of the Kenyan male seems to be a reality.