By: Ìbùkúnolúwa Dàda
Image Credit: UNESCO
As a child, my mum treated us so well that I thought girls were saints and the holiest beings after angels. I even wanted to be one until a girl stole my money in primary school, followed by a series of other terrible things from the same sex (I did terrible things too). Regardless of these, I still like the girl-child but I do not want to be one anymore. And this is only because I am terrified of the pain that comes with menstruation and childbirth. That’s all. Just the biology. Hence, my opinion is that there is nothing wrong with masculinity, femininity, or humanity but how generations have cultured the sexes and stereotyped them with roles and acceptable vices.
We must understand that these stereotypes are so ingrained into our society that even the Oxford dictionary puts ‘similar words’ to masculinity to include ruggedness, strength, virility, vigor, muscularity, toughness, and robustness; and we all know words that are attributed to females–yeah, pretty much the opposite. Growing, I had issues with this disparity and didn’t know there was a word for it until I heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s cut it in Beyoncé’s Flawless, and I became a feminist.
As a feminist and a boy-child, here are some ways the cause meets the boy-child.
The Hard Guy and The Radical Feminist
The hard guy is that person that has been cultured by generations of norms that the boy-child is meant to be emotionless, tough, carry the socioeconomic weight of his family, society, and country alone if possible; nature has ordained him to be the ruler of every environment and all females and “effeminate” men must bow before him.
On the other hand, the radical feminist believes that the boy-child is responsible for all the oppression women go through and that he basks in his male privilege. They believe–like I did as a child– that all women are saints; the boy-child has something inherently wrong with him and his ‘toxic’ masculinity which inevitably turns him into a hard guy, and that he needs transformation.
This is where the line begins to blur, good intentions begin to fade, and you have people tweeting statements like the one in the screenshot below.
This sect of people consists of misandrists who have most likely met a lot of misogynists who carry the ‘toxic’ usually thrown behind ‘masculinity’. It is sad that misandrists are mostly confused as feminists. And though some radical feminists can turn this misandry- blue-litmus-paper red, other feminists have issues with the radical feminist theories, noting that they are anti-male.
The Psychoanalytic Feminists and the Damned Boy-Child
Patriarchy is not a blessing to the boy child as some many like to think and the Psychoanalytic feminists while trying explain this, damns the boy-child. They believe that the boy-child is broken by the patriarchal system which puts his upbringing in the care of his mother and later takes him away to become the hegemonic leader destined for his sex. This transition, they believe, unconsciously affects the boy-child and makes him see the girl (his mother) as no more than a love object for nurture. An example of this is the way wives are seen as properties in the Yoruba culture and you find males formed in the heat of the societal pressure on masculinity view their girlfriends, and even wives, the same way.
This kind of warped ideology is enshrined in this statement I came across while researching:
“Tragically, Manhood in the Making ends up telling men that what they have to offer the world is not their loving presence in the lives of their families and larger community but their deaths on a battlefield-be it military or economic”
This is what patriarchy tells the boy child. However, some feminists disagree with psychoanalytic feminists making the boy-child the victim in their approach.
This set looks at feminism in tandem with the boy child through the lenses of class and race. In addition to fighting for the equality of the sexes, they fight for males in marginalised races, sexualities and other identities. They believe these men are unable to attain their full masculine potential due to their environment.
Liberal Feminists and The Simp-Sins
Unlike the radicals and psychoanalysts, the liberal feminists do not believe there is an inherent problem with the boy child. Liberal feminists recognize the harms of patriarchy and how it affects the girl- and boy-child. They believe that solution is creating a more egalitarian society and push for changes in laws, childhood education, the media, government, and every other area that would help achieve equality. Their approach is that we–boys and girls–can learn and unlearn to make societal structures better for all genders.
And this is where the Simp-Sins come in. It is a term I coined for the “hard guy” cohort that condemns the boy-child that believes in a ‘ridiculous thing’ as equality with the girl child, or being emotionally available to their loved ones. Attributes that really sound like being human to me. However, please note, this is no excuse to be an actual ‘Simp’ that grins in a commensalistic or parasitic relationship (of any kind)
Post-Modern & Post cultural Feminists and The Effeminate Boy-child
Have you ever thought that a boy-child could be feminine, the girl-child masculine or either sex having a blend of the two qualities? Maybe? You might just be a Post modern/Post Cultural feminist. These people believe that the problem with patriarchy stems from ascribing masculinity solely to the boy-child and feminity to the girl-child. And, since the qualities ascribed to masculinity and feminity are not mutually exclusive to the sexes, therefore, humans carry the androgyny adjective (which is a combination of masculinity and feminity). This means that a boy-child can be more ‘feminine than the girl child, and the girl child more ‘masculine’ than the former.
And this brings us to the “effeminate” boy-child. Because he is more in tune with his feminity, he is given this tag that is meant to emasculate him. He is sidelined because he likes pink, prefers to hug his friends (female and male), wears make-up, or is more emotionally intelligent–a trait has become a must-have for any leader. It can then be baffling why the society cultures the hard-guy, who is destined to be a leader, to not have this trait.
Back to my childhood story, I realised that I never wanted to be a girl; I just wanted to exude the qualities that are attributed to the girl-child. And I do not need to be in a female body to do that because all of the qualities ascribed to feminism and masculinity are that of a human. Therefore, I enjoin us to be human and push for a more egalitarian society. Because it is only then that the boy-child, girl-child, and the society will be truly functional.
Brown, A. M., & Ismail, K. J. (2019). Feminist Theorizing of Men and Masculinity: Applying Feminist Perspectives to Advance College Men and Masculinities Praxis. Online Submission, 42(1), 17-35.
Gardiner, J. K. (2005). Men, masculinities, and feminist theory. In M. S. Kimmel, J. Hearn, & R. W. Connell (Eds.), Handbook of studies on men and masculinities (pp. 35-50). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Gilmore, D. D. (1990).Manhood in the making: Cultural concepts of masculinity. Yale University Press.
Gibson, J. W. (1991). Feminist ideas about masculinity.
Mann, S. A., & Patterson, A. S. (Eds.). (2016). Reading feminist theory: From modernity to postmodernity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Pease, B. (2000) Recreating men: Postmodern masculinity politics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.