This might seem like a strange subject for a column in a national newspaper, but yeah.
Why not? I got this idea after seeing an advertisement on TV, I can’t remember for what, where a young boy searches the Internet for ways to impress his schoolyard crush. Obviously, he is inundated with pick-up lines, ab exercise routines, weak impersonations of action movie heroes…
Were it the real world, we’d have to add to that list sexist tirades, naive talk reducing complex African traditions to cheap ‘proverbs’, misinterpreted Biblical verses… I could go on.
I actually did some online searches and I began to get worried about what our young heterosexual men are being exposed to.
The sad thing is, the rubbish is accessible, while feminist theory often needs a degree in the humanities, no kidding, to be understood. I couldn’t find anything like a feminist version of comedian Steve Harvey’s funny (but beneath all the jokes, 1950s conservative) book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man.
So here is my list of basic advice. If you’re not the ‘target market’, feel free to cut this out and give it to your sons and younger brothers. Based on my own experiences and my reading of feminism, which is more Patricia Hill Collins than Betty Friedan, for what it’s worth: intersectional African feminism.
1. You aren’t the ‘head of the family,’ ‘bru’
You’re not even a ‘spiritual leader’. Wait till you’re married before you start quoting Bible verses at us, if at all. Better yet, know that the Bible, seen in context, has always favored the oppressed over the oppressor, and in this case, that means women over men. While we’re at it, you’re not your great grandfather in his village, either. Time has moved on; move with it. Treat your girl like an equal. Go looking for an equal. Someone who can talk back to you. Someone you can’t easily manipulate.
2. Listen to women (which mostly means ‘shut the hell up’).
This is difficult. It’s really difficult. I struggle with it as a 39 year old; Lord knows how I must have been at 21. But, yes. Accept that as a guy, your personal knowledge of the suffering and discrimination women, especially women of colour, go through is limited. Sit back and listen rather than trying to reply all the time. Contrary to what guys like to say in bars, the legal system, the economic system, the media, all favor you. So it costs you nothing to let her rule the talk, for once.
3. Be honest (especially with yourself) about what you really want.
Don’t go asking for a long-term connection if what you really want is a one-night stand. Or a poly-amorous relationship. Don’t feel you should ‘settle down’ just because that’s what your parents, or some churchman, want you to do. It’ll save you later if you say, up front, ‘I’m honestly just looking to have fun here’ or ‘I totally want to have five kids with you, build a house in Sevende Laan and adopt a Labrador’. Related: don’t go round spending money you don’t have. If you get into debt buying her French wine on a Tafel Lager budget, you have only yourself to blame. She hasn’t been ‘chowing your money’, son; it passed out of your own hand.
4. Learn about sexual health, yours and hers, and invest in it.
Like, really. Get yourselves tested for HIV and other STIs. Learn about anatomy. Here, Google is your friend. Find out what a clitoris is and how it works. Buy the best damn condoms you can afford. Lube, while you’re at it. Do this even if you intend ‘saving yourself,’ because, let’s be honest, we have passions, and showers, and things happen. If you have a few bucks, don’t be shy to invest in some ‘adult’ technology. Even a bodybuilder will make use of a truck at least once in his life.
Okay, that’s it. I hope I have saved a life, or failing that, entertained you. See you next week!
Hugh Ellis is in a relationship. Oh, and he is also a lecturer at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. The views he expresses here are personal views.