Dear uncle,

In March of this year, the unthinkable happened to me and my family. Everything happened so fast and when the paramedics broke the news it just didn’t seem real, they couldn’t save him… my dad was gone.

An experience so alien to me but in the months that have passed has taught me so much and opened my eyes to the realities around me, I think I was blinded because of just how amazing my dad was. One thing I’ve noticed is how, many African men don’t seem to value the opinions of women. When I say African men, I mean men that weren’t born and raised in the UK and are of African descent.

I’ve often brushed off the dismissive attitudes of these men, giving a range of excuses such as they’ll always see us as “the kids”. When in reality, they just have a deep rooted, unconscious (in some cases very conscious) disregard for women. “Paula, don’t be so quick to jump to such a conclusion” I hear you say but as I write this I can honestly say I give zero effs about how this may come across. A huge generalisation? There’s no doubt about it. A scornful woman? Perhaps. A misunderstanding? I doubt it. Regardless, I feel it’s time to share my truth and this is my truth. I won’t be apologising if a few egos get bruised along the way, so listen up African men!

Firstly, when I talk, listen. I’m sure many ladies can agree with me that when we speak we want to be listened to. I don’t want to hear a generic response that you have preconceived in your head ready for the next possible statement she might make. If you ask me a question expect an intelligent response and, in my opinion, an intelligent response deserves more than a pre-rehearsed answer. It can be made to seem as if a woman’s opinion, thoughts and ideas are inferior to those of these all knowing African gods. Let’s get one thing straight, just because your voice is louder than mine doesn’t mean it’s smarter than mine.

Secondly, let’s not confuse being young with being stupid. I think we all know age ain’t nothing but a number. I am proud to be a Nigerian but there are certain things about our traditions and beliefs that really irk me. One of those things being “respect your elders”. I largely agree with this precept, however, it negates the fact that respect is something that is earned. The reason I respect many of my elders is because they are my role models and their actions are actions that I deem respectable. However, I just want to make very clear, you do not deserve respect, you earn respect. This applies even if you consider yourself an “elder”.

Now this point is for the slightly younger generation of African men. I know it can take a lot to approach a woman you find attractive but I strongly advise that when you do… you treat that woman like a human being right from the onset. Please don’t hiss and definitely don’t grab. I guarantee that if you start a conversation in a normal way i.e. “Hi” or “excuse me?” you’ll get a better reception than if you hiss.

I know that not all African men are the same but from speaking to family and friends the experiences are similar. I think a lot of these behaviours stem from the ways in which men and women are brought up. Women are brought up being taught that they need to be good wives, they need to know how to cook and how to clean etc. Whilst men aren’t often raised with these standards, particularly African men. We need to raise our men to be good husbands too, they need to learn to cook and clean, they’re essential life skills! I’m not of the belief that men and women are the same because we’re not, we’re different in a number of ways. That doesn’t mean, however, that women aren’t smart, that women aren’t bosses or that women don’t know what they want in life.

So uncle, please, eh joh, biko… let’s have a little more respect.

-Paula M

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