Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ungentlemanly Conduct

Being considered a gentleman used to be the the highest mark of culture and sophistication that all men in society aspired to. Those were times when chivalry meant protecting a woman's honour; involved bloodshed and keeping them away from most aspects of social interaction. It will come as no shock that people who came up with the code that defined gentlemanly conduct were anything but decent people. The idea was mostly an artifice used by the upper classes to separate themselves from lower classes and boost their vain egos. These noble 'gentlemen' were notorious for abusing their spouses and children, and being ritually unfaithful to their wives. Some gentlemanly kings were well known for locking up and slaughtering their wives. Hardly a group of men whose behaviour is worthy of emulation by future generations. 

Nowadays being a gentleman seems to have become a badge that some men wear to justify being pretentious and judgemental towards women. It allows them to actually prescribe how women should behave in order to be respectable and desirable to men. These men claim that as gentlemen women should let them take the lead and relegate women to the role of passive recipients. This involves the woman making herself appear helpless, being permitted by men to talk, and being sexually available only when the man deems it fit to approach her. 

It has become common for men to consider the crowning glory of a gentleman to be treating a woman like a lady. In essence the woman is defined by the man's perception of her. It brings to mind the saying, "a woman should be a lady in the parlor, and a whore in the bedroom". This is a view of women proudly put forward by many a gentleman. The gentleman sees the lady as his prize. She is there for the sole purpose of glorifying and satisfying him. In doing so these gentleman deny women any ownership of their own sexuality. To them a woman cannot be sexually assertive because the man might not be ready for her and hasn't given her permission to switch to sexual mode. Any attempt a woman makes to express herself sexually is seen as dishonouring herself. Gentleman are experts in recognising when a woman has shamed herself and refused to be ladylike. If a woman is sexually expressive they see her as usurping the role of the gentleman. God forbid that she has sexual nous and wants to take the lead. This is anathema to the gentleman who must dictate when and how the bedding must take place. A woman who is sexually aware and assertive is labeled loose and common. Clearly she must have sullied herself in the beds of many men. For the gentleman a woman must be meek, mild and malleable when it comes to sex.

So for all those women out there seeking a gentleman as a partner be careful what you ask for. The code of the gentleman honours no one but himself. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Who Pays the Bill?

Recently Emma Watson, the Harry Potter actress, has been lauded for promoting the cause of women's rights and feminism. She recounted how a date had been mortified when she had attempted to pick up the bill after a meal. He couldn't have been concerned that she might use up what little pocket money she had since she has a fortune of tens of millions of pounds. The likelihood is her attempting to pay may have threatened his notion of masculinity. This may go some way to explaining the prevalent custom in many parts of Africa where men almost exclusively foot the bill for everything when out with a woman. It is seen as the man's rightful duty. Not to do so would diminish him in the eyes of the woman, himself and all around them. This may date back to a time when men were hunters and gatherers; and women were homemakers but the stone ages are long behind us now; and one would have hoped that so was that mindset. 

In Nigeria the idea of a woman paying the bill for a date is largely unheard of. And I suspect any men who suggest splitting the bill or asking the woman to pay won't be going on many more dates. Some women would say that since the man asks the woman out it is only natural he foots the bill. Yet the reason why men have to make the first move is that it is what culture demands. And the man picking up the bill is his way of showing that he is worthy and of good standing. This another archaic notion that is best left back in the caves.

These ideas do persist though and if a woman attempts to swim against the tide she is labelled as a loose temptress or a pushy feminist. So what we end up with is women who treat men like meal tickets, and men who treat women like commodities. These are attitudes that are still being passed on to the next generation. This does not bode well for relationships or society as a whole. Whoever pays for a meal really shouldn't still be a bone of contention. A good start to any relationship is an ability to respect and appreciate each other. Paying the bill shouldn't become a power play. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Relationships in Nigeria: Transactions or Bonds?

I have heard a number of tales of romantic woes among Nigerians recently. There is the case of the woman who found out her boyfriend of eleven years was leaving her the day before he got married to someone else. Then the case of a woman in an abusive relationship who was not prepared to end it because she had put in too many hours of sex during the course of it. There appear to be too many Nigerian women and girls who see relationships as transactions. For too many young girls marriage is their route out of poverty. It is sometimes seen as their one opportunity to better themselves. 

Relationships are pursued as though life is some kind of game show where if you press the right buttons you can win yourself a husband and happy life. Both prospective husband and intended wife are slotted into stereotypical boxes that specify what is wanted and what needs to be done to get it. As a result relationships seem to be very synthetic, and status counts for more than depth. Inevitably in many of these cases the marriages last much longer than the actual relationships. Infedility is rife amongst the men and too many women are living lives of emotional confinement. They have achieved all they ever wanted so how can they not be happy? How can things not be good? As it turns out they have very little happiness to look forward to and nowhere to retreat to. They become prisoners of their own aspirations. 

In Nigeria this arrangement works for the men. Eligible bachelors can have their pick of women. And all they gave to do is give them a ring and provide for them for life. Not unlike a jailer taking custody of a prisoner. Once the man has fulfilled his part of the bargain he is free to pursue whatever his heart desires; money, power, women. This is done safe in the knowledge that the woman is unlikely to do anything to change things no matter how much she complains. 

Needless to say both men and women find comfort in religious scriptures to justify their approach to relationships and the state of their marriages. There are plenty of good relationships and happy marriages. Unfortunately, weddings are no guarantee of a fairytale ending. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Redefining Black Parenting

The first step in ensuring a better future for Black children is for Black parents to be better parents. Fathers and mothers need to make better choices, lead better lives, become better role models and take better care of their children and each other. There is no doubt that institutional prejudice and discrimination are holding Black people back in many ways. In law enforcement it has contributed to numerous killings triggered by racial profiling and bias. There are significantly higher proportions of Black people incarcerated. However, we Black people need to come to terms with the idea that we can't expect the State to bring up our children. New York mayor Bill de Blasio was right to caution his son about how to behave around cops. (He might have been naive to share that bit of parenting advice publicly). As it turns out, the unarmed police shooting in Wisconsin further demonstrates that the police don't need a reason to shoot Black people. It is about time that we stopped giving them the opportunity to. 

It's time Black people started taking parenting more seriously. Being a parent needs to be more than just a biological imperative. Black parents must show more care and concern for the wellbeing of their children. Being better role models would be a start, at least. The responsibility of guiding children and showing them the right path is one that more parents must embrace more fulsomely. Parents must be more thorough in exploring the influences that are engaging their children. This might involve them taking aggressive measures to counteract any negative influences. Being more involved in the lives of their children must mean more than just feeding and housing them. They must take charge of the moral upbringing of the children and fight hard to keep them on the straight and narrow. There is no doubt that good parenting can be rough and thankless. However the agony of mourning and grieving over lives violently and needlessly cut short on with alarming regularity is even more painful and damaging. If things are to change that change must start with us. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Victimising Rape Victims

It has been reported that one of the men who raped then murdered a woman on a bus in Delhi, India blamed the woman for what happened. According to him, she would not have been killed if she hadn't resisted. It seems it doesn't even occur to him that the rape itself is a devastating violation. This is another example of how societal thinking is constantly leaning towards the outdated idea that the woman must be to blame for rape or sexual assault.

There are too many instances of male judges or legislators suggesting that the onus is on women not to invite their own rape. Talk of how women dress or drink have to be contributory factors to the likelihood that men might be inclined to commit rape. One judge in the UK actually stated that a teacher wasn't to blame for sleeping with a fifteen year old female pupil because the girl had aggressively "seduced" him. It seems that some men still feel that males are helplessly at the mercy of the sexual wiles of the female sex. 

There are too many countries where female sexuality is still treated like a disease or some form of demonic possession. Emily Nagoski has recently written a book questioning the concept behind the development of a female arousal pill. In her book, 'Come As You Are'; she questions the idea that females have to physically experience sexual arousal on demand. Her belief is that female arousal is linked to both enviromental and emotional factors she is experiencing. Therefore arousal is more likely to develop rather than just be turned on. This is a radical departure from the prevailing notion that females are objects of sexual desire who are meant to be readily available and instantly willing at all times. Especially when a handyman or pool boy is within close proximity. 

There is a need for society, and men in particular, to change the way that women and female sexuality are perceived. We cannot expect women to be empowered if the most complimentary societal view of them is degrading. More effort should be taken to understand and appreciate female sexuality rather than just define it. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What Black People Really Need to Overcome

A video recording of a Black Woman in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. being viciously beaten by her "friends" has gone viral. The video shows the woman being punched, kicked and kneed by three women while a man holding a 3 year old child sits on a couch watching. Apparently it was all filmed by a boyfriend of one of the assailants. In an era where the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has become a rallying cry for Black people all over the world; and killings of Black people by police in the U.S. And mistreatment of asylum seekers in the UK are in the news; this is a stark reminder of the damage members of Black communities are also doing to themselves. 

Black people have suffered mistreatment and prejudice for many generations. This has contributed to a lot of the failings in many Black communities. While discrimination has held Black people back it will be down to us to redeem ourselves and advance our own causes. We must remember who it was who conspired with slave traders to sell their fellow Africans into slavery. Let's not forget about the explosion of Black on Black crime in the UK and U.S. Nor should we ignore the internet fraud and scams that have become identified with certain sub Saharan African countries. 

If things are to get better for Black people and stay that way then we all must change how we look at  ourselves. The idea that to get out of the ghetto it is okay to step on each other and destroy what little sense of community exists must change. Selling one another out and murdering each other for short term gain won't make things better. We have to realise that for one person to do well, the whole community has to be doing well. In order to build a better community we need education, employment and entrepreneurship. Some people might find success in showbiz and sports but what each family needs are wage earners. Until that is recognised as being normal there won't be any overcoming because we won't even have what we need to lift ourselves up. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Harnessing Conflict to Improve Performance

Recently a team in the National Basketball Association of America suspended a player for having a shouting match on court with the team's coach. Charles Barkley, an analyst with ESPN disagreed with the suspension on the grounds that it as a consensual falling out between two adults. The thought occurred to me that there are times when a little tension in the team dynamic might actually serve to boost performance. And it might not be a positive thing to crack down on every instance of dissension.  

A good leader should be able to ensure conformity and compliance in the pursuit of team goals but must be prepared to handle dissent should it occur. Disagreement might offer a path to refining objectives and strengthen team focus. Handling conflict diplomatically is likely to curb opposition and avoid harmful cliques forming. A leader needs to be able to anticipate the reactions of his team when he chooses to publicly criticise a member. His actions should ideally trigger the reaction he is seeking. The important caution to be bear in mind us not to foster conflict in the group as a means of controlling members but to harness it should it arise. This is a path to achieving compliance on an entirely different level.