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SHOULD WE BE DISCUSSING MASCULINITY? CHARLES ISIDI GIVES AN INSIGHT.

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There are lots of ideologies that are held in high esteem but are usually not mentioned in our society. some of them are talked about casually, but these are real issues we are faced with. Should we be talking about masculinity? When we mention this concept, what comes to mind?

Before I introduce you to our interviewee, let me hint you now, you will love him, I have to give a definition of masculinity from Wikipedia. 

Masculinity (manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behaviours, and roles associated with boys and men. As a social construct, it is distinct from the definition of the male biological sex. Standards of manliness or masculinity vary across different cultures and historical periods. Both males and females can exhibit masculine traits and behaviour.

Traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include courage, independence, violence, and assertiveness. An overemphasis on masculinity and power, often associated with a disregard for consequences and responsibility, is known as machismo.

Hello Charles. It is nice to have you here on unorthodox. Thank you for the privilege to interview you on this very interesting topic- Masculinity.

  • Please can you tell us about you?

I am a storyteller, my entire life’s course points towards crafting words in beautiful ways to create a relevant connection with anyone. In career, this passionate wave has made me play roles in Brand Storytelling, Content Marketing, Analytics and Strategy.

On a lighter note, I love phone photography, I am always writing and creating the next magic, I sing every time, I am constantly motivating myself, looking to make someone happy, or just hunting down the next roasted plantain shop.

SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT MASCULINITY?
MEET CHARLES, THE BRAND STORYTELLER AND MAGICIAN.
  • This may sound queer, but please tell us, do you appreciate being a man (ok, let’s sound Funky, A GUY).

Yeah, I do appreciate being a man, and something about being a man just puts the right kind of responsibility on your shoulders, the kind that doesn’t make you squirm under the weight.

  • While growing up, what were the different changes you noticed between you and the females you were growing with? Not physical changes. Things Like perception of certain things in life, how you reasoned and any other changes you noticed.

Well, growing up in a typical Nigerian society, one would notice that the boys were more exploratory, finding newer boundaries and stretching possibilities. We were the rebels and just didn’t care about consequences, in fact, my sister was Commander-in-chief for putting me right when I stepped out of bounds.

In terms of worldview and perception, I’d say the girls were essential and grounded, they looked for meaning in things, they took their time, and they needed you to explain things twice when you talked to them because for them words meant more. Unlike boys, it was easier to break a promise and we’d just shake it off like no promise was made in the first place. If you did the same thing with the girls, they would hang it over your head and you’d spend forever appeasing them.

  • Let us talk about Upbringing. From the way you were raised, what are the different and similar Ideologies you think parents have about raising a male child?

I think any answer I give here will just be a hasty generalisation, but let me speak about how I was raised. As a first child in a Nigerian home, I guess I can close the conversation here. My parents cut us slack when they could but when they couldn’t, we got it hot and hard. I started to take the responsibility very early and every kid’s failure was mine and somehow, my parents just found a way to rein it back into me.

Well, in my family, no kid got preferential treatment. My parents split chores, I was to clean the house, and my sister was to wash the dishes. When she complained about how much they were, my parents would switch it up once a while.

  • Judging from general observation, I think male children are more rebellious than female children. They are equally difficult to raise. I believe I am not the only person who thinks so. Do you have anything to say about this? Why do male children grow up and become difficult to handle?

Well, as much as I think that this is just a bias, I like to say there are no statistics in favour of the assumption that male children are more rebellious and difficult to raise. If I were to extrapolate; my immediate nuclear family, for example, I’d say the women outrank the men in rebelling 3 to 1, so if we’d put this in better context, maybe I’d be able to put some insights on the table.

SHOULD WE BE TALKING ABOUT MASCULINITY?

  • Let us talk about culture and masculinity. As an Igbo guy, did the Igbo culture affect your upbringing in any way? Like having your parents tell you, Charles, “we are Igbo and our culture says this applies to male children and it has to be so”?

Culture and Masculinity sound like a book title. My family is not the conventional Nigerian one, and by this, I’d say no, my sisters weren’t trained for ‘Husband House’ and I wasn’t trained in a way to prepare me for the upper echelons of the demands of masculinity, no. I was put through systems that everyone else went through and more importantly, my parents taught us to take on opportunities regardless of our sexes and that in itself was really beautiful.

One can only come to appreciate how my parents shielded me from cultural strongholds as a blessing, maybe an unintentional one, but a blessing nonetheless. Apart from the language which I love to speak, by the way, my parents were intentional about grooming children with a global worldview and emancipate us from ethnic sentiments and that is displayed in our disposition to life.

Well for the humor, I remember I was at a meeting as the only man to discuss my mother’s funeral and it was with the Umuada (a group of first daughters of families), and I wondered why it took so long to start the meeting until my grandmother nudged me to pray and break the kola nut, that everybody in the room (women who were above 50 by the way) was waiting for me to.

The experience still makes me laugh but there you go, the system has its beauties if you choose to look at it like that. Sincerely, I think Feminism is not an Identity Crisis and shouldn’t be portrayed as such by women who do not understand. I recently saw a lady name herself #KingWoman. Light-hearted eccentricity, but it struck something for me indeed, being a Queen is not a synonym for weakness, it is a superior show of strength, if only we played chess more, then we would maybe get a glimpse to the realities of being a QUEEN.

  • You may think this does not concern you because you are male, but please in your opinion, what impact has the culture of Igbos affected females? How do you think the societal beliefs have affected the upbringing of females? Any real-life scenario?

There is this tradition I have carried on for 6 years, every New Year, I read the Chinua Achebe Classic ‘Things Fall Apart’. As much as I like the book, the scenes where Okonkwo pounces on his wives still makes me cringe like how he points a gun at Ekwefi and actually fires. How does he tell his daughters that carrying his stool to the Ilo is a job for a boy, how did the women queue up from eldest to youngest just to drink from the palm wine?

So much so, we see similitudes like planting Yams signifying manhood and women were relegated to planting cocoyams and vegetables. Then the boys would do the heavy lifting and the women cook so bad that Okonkwo didn’t like Nwoye and Ikemefuna listening to the ‘women’s tales’ of the tortoise, he needed them to hear more battle stories and bloodshed.

While I never found any reason to be petrified, one must understand that Chinua Achebe was only mirroring society at that time and it is beautiful that we can see it from his eyes. However, I am about to express a thought, however so impure; the truth is that Patriarchy as a system isn’t bad, I like to think that systems in itself come flaw-proof in their ideals until actual humans exploit the loopholes, so instead of vilify patriarchy, let’s vilify the individuals who have exploited its loopholes for selfish gains.

I like to think that the Igbo Culture has not done the best job empowering women. I remember I was in Kaduna and Nasir El-Rufai said: “one must begin to understand that a world with active women participation will mean functioning with both hands and at full capacity, why would any person or economy decide to work with one hand tied?” That said, I’d like to say that women have been resilient in the face of these realities; even when set at negative infinity, they have found a way to be found at the surface with men. It is a brilliant showcase of resilience.

  • Parents think that male children should be responsible, make wealth and do a lot of things that ideally, women shouldn’t do. This puts a kind of pressure on males. How do you see situations like this? Have you been pressured in this way?

No, I haven’t been pressured, if I feel the pressure of success, it is just because I think I owe myself that. I owe myself not to put any of my sacrifices to waste, also, wealth is a vehicle for societal change. If I want to shake up systems and institutions, I need to create systems that create wealth for me and others.

Besides, do you know how much presidential tickets will be in the future? I maintain friendships with like minds and most of the time, the people I meet want to succeed for the same reasons, gender regardless.

  • What myths (beliefs) about masculinity do you think should be debunked?

I like to think masculinity and societal interpretations will be the death of men. Why can’t we feel needy, why can’t we send 16 texts in a row when we miss a woman? Why can’t I cry when my girlfriend leaves me, why must there be other fishes in the sea when it’s just this one you want? Why must I be told to ‘man up?’ What does it mean to man up? Why can’t I have an emotional breakdown? Why can’t I show any weakness? Take away our sexes and we are simply human, capable of emotions across the board. These are just random examples, I just intend to say that Masculinity shouldn’t mean being insulated from vulnerability, but what do we know, you don’t want your guys and even a tonne of these women to call you derogatory names.

  • Please share with us the things you will teach your children both sons and daughters.

You didn’t ask if I wanted to have any. Nonetheless, I want to raise world shapers, so whatever it would take, I just want to create beacons of light for society.

  • Thank you, Charles, it is indeed an honour to have you respond to these questions.

You are welcome, I would love to do this again, but I have enjoyed every bit of it. Thank you.

I believe you enjoyed this interview, you can connect with Charles on twitter where he tells most of his stories.

Guys, have you been following our series on Domestic Violence? Did you read the last two episodes?

You can read Episode One here and Episode two here.

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Dozie Ethelbert
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Charles Isidi made expository points which is a sign of exposure and experience. I enjoined this wonderful time as well.

Adedamola Otun
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Adedamola Otun

Wow… Charles aptly speaks across both issues of femininity and masculinity in a subtle way. His thoughts mirror an unbiased view and takes more of what I would have opined if I were in his end. I appreciate such a man. Truly, masculinity spans across various cultures, religion and environment. And it is an obviously neglected topic. The idea of weaker and stronger vessels stems from the environment of many. And I think we all can change this by addressing our thoughts and that of our (future) wards. We are the society. And like Malcolm Gladwell puts it, “every society… Read more »