Tempers flaring, angered by the truth that threatens their fragile masculinities as testosterone further blinds them from reality. We have all heard men use this often times on the radio or television. “According to African traditions as men…” then they proceed to use tradition as a ‘petty’ excuse for something they shouldn’t be doing.
Just so that we are on the same side of things, let me clear out a few terms as they are subjective and not objective truths.
Firstly tradition is a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another. What we all have to understand is that tradition stems from an individual’s opinions that later became the status quo depending on the person’s societal influence. Each one of us has every right to establish our own lifestyle within reasonable measures. However, back then someone like a king had absolute power; whatever he wanted to be practised would eventually become something everyone should follow. Defying authority could result in horrible consequences like death. A lot of these traditions were mostly established to maintain dominance over women and their bodies. This is not only in African traditions but in almost every culture all over the world, at least to differing degrees. A great example of such traditions was female genital mutilation. Another example is women not being allowed to be leaders in certain cultures.
From a modern perspective, it is clear that this was very unfair and we can not hold on to traditions that do not serve us. Traditions are there for us to live harmoniously with. If certain things in traditions hinder us from living life to the fullest we have every right to change them. There are many elements of African traditions that are worth being celebrated and being proud of. It is thus unjust and actually irresponsible of us as Africans and African men in particular to enforce harmful traditions. To a certain extent, certain traditional practices go against our conscience and they violate basic human freedom.
It is up to us as African men to learn from our history in order to contribute in uplifting Africa. There is no tradition that is above basic human freedom. There is no scientific evidence to justify the myth that leadership is only for men either. We can not continue telling ourselves that we are above women. Part of growing up is that as adults we can evaluate how we were raised and correct the mistakes of previous generations. In this generation, we could finally see true gender equality. It is for the love of our mothers, sisters and our daughters.
Masculinity isn’t what anyone imposes upon us but an honest way of living and being in charge of our own lives. Using tradition to hind behind our insecurities only shadows important elements within the very same traditions.