Most of us grew up following certain rules that required us to act a certain way different from the opposite sex's behaviour.
For example, boys are always encouraged to be courageous, aggressive and breadwinners when they get families. Failure to adhere to that would most likely mean someone is less of a man.
Thus, if you are male, you have once or twice in your life, been told to 'act like a man'. As PRISCA BAIKE writes, however, some men have found much more peace outside the 'act like a man' box.
Peter Kimbugwe, a chef and father of four, relates to this mentality. His love for the kitchen always got his father angry about the fact that his only son preferred to spend his time in the kitchen with his mother and sisters rather than doing more ‘manly’ things with fellow boys his age.
“When will you ever act like a man?” his father questioned him, upon learning he was going to study cookery.
According to Kimbugwe, his father expected him to opt for a more masculine career like electrical engineering, plumbing or anything else but cooking.
“Ironically,” smiles Kimbugwe, “my younger sister is a telecom engineer, and that has never bothered me at all.”
Unlike his father who always thought his son was headed the wrong way, Kimbugwe says he had no doubt he was cut out for the kitchen.
“It is such a fulfilling career, and I don’t think it makes me any less of a man,” says Kimbugwe, who has been in the trade for the last 12 years.
Like any married man, Kimbugwe’s second fall into the ‘act like a man’ box came when he met the mother of his children.
Before they owned children and cars, a taxi conductor charged them almost twice the normal price; something that infuriated his then girlfriend.
Like any young woman, she expected her prospective husband to stand up to the taxi tout and squeeze their money out of him. However, after a short civil verbal exchange with the obstinate conductor, he instead urged his girlfriend to just let it go.
“Why don’t you ever act like a man?” he recalls his girlfriend screaming, throwing her arms in the air since that was almost the last money they had. “I understood her frustration but beyond the anger, I knew that she was aware of my character. I am not the aggressive type.”
Kimbugwe adds that it is unrealistic to expect all men to be aggressive. He says he doesn’t work well with being aggressive or physical as he finds it toxic and uncivilized.
“I have found much peace in being in touch with my true self rather than trying to be what I am not simply because it is what people want me to be,” he says, adding that such kind of character is what has helped him hold his family together in times when many marriages are crumbling as people are struggling to be what they truly are not.
According to Kimbugwe, most men only pretend to be masculine so as to appeal to potential partners. A few years down the road, he says, their true characters come out and their partners start thinking that the person has changed.
“The truth is they didn’t change. It is just their true character coming out,” notes Kimbugwe, admitting that his wife finally understood and appreciated his character and they have had no problems with that.
“In fact, she is the most outspoken one in the home, and we are just fine. We have been married for ten years and have four children together,” Kimbugwe adds.
"ACT LIKE A MAN" CHOKES
Like Kimbugwe, Anthony Kwizera, an accountant in Kampala, whose wife works with an international organization, can relate to the peace outside the ‘act like a man’ box.
During his initial years of marriage, he was well aware that he had to provide for his family. It wasn’t very hard before the duo had children, but when his wife delivered twins, the whole game plan changed. However, Kwizera remained stubborn, committing to being the sole breadwinner against all odds.
“I was choking on bills, but kept lying to my wife that I was managing. I discouraged her from helping out,” says Kwizera.
“I had been told she would disrespect me if she was contributing to the bills.”
From procuring a big loan to selling his car under the pretext that he was planning to buy a better one, Kwizera seemed to be truly acting like a man.
However, a little over a year later, his lies were unearthed by an eviction notice due to non-payment of rent. Faced with the fear of homelessness, Kwizera had to let his wife help him out, which she gladly did.
Looking back, Kwizera admits that accepting to share bills with his wife has been the most fulfilling thing he has ever done for his family.
“She earns almost thrice as much as I earn. So, she helps out so much,” says Kwizera, adding that by not allowing his wife to help out, he was initially denying their twins a better lifestyle and other facilities they deserved.
Kwizera stresses that there was no way he could have singlehandedly put his children to an international school and be able to run the home smoothly without his wife’s input.
“Six years down the road, I am a happier man because I embraced my reality on time,” says Kwizera. “Some of my friends had advised me to flee from my family because I couldn’t just do that.”
GENDER ROLES A FALLACY
Like Kimbugwe, Kwizera says many men are cocooned in the ‘act like a man’ box just for the sake of impressing society.
According to Kwizera, things that are expected of people simply based on their gender are a mere fallacy.
“Maybe, they were true in the past,” says Kwizera. “But today, both boys and girls are getting equal opportunities. For instance, with education, women can get good jobs and earn more than many men.”
To Kwizera, what is important is making an effort, not simply abandoning everything to your partner. Apart from being the primary breadwinner, society expects men to be physically strong, logical, aggressive, muscular, tough and decisive while women are expected to be gentle, emotional, smooth-skinned, passive, curvy, soft and yielding, according to www.thegoodmenproject.com
This, according to Susan Musoke, a banker, is a mere fantasy. Just like men are finding comfort in getting outside the said box, women, too, are finding peace outside what society dictates they should be due to the changing gender roles.
“I have seen very many women who are logical and aggressive while, there are also men who are gentle and passive and that is just who they are,” Musoke says.
Musoke maintains that it is okay for men to live outside the ‘act like a man’ box; pointing out that most women are also fleeing the ‘act like a woman’ box.