Let me start by saying that there are desirable traits in men from all corners of the world. From the Ken-ish charm of a George Clooney type to the Jesus-like gentle features of many Arab and Asian men, our diverse world contains a smorgasbord of likeable men.
Yet there is something about African men that evokes in me a particular appreciation of the masculine. What I value about men of African heritage is, however, not what the culture – popular or otherwise – seems to like about them. You know: muscular. Athletic. Spiritual. Good rhythm. Creative. Bold. Tough. Straight-forward. Luxurious skin. Well-endowed; which is not to say that such features are undesirable at all; but they are problematic generalisations and they are far from all there is to African heritage masculinities.
Actually, what fascinates me in African men is an unrehearsed type of manliness: the kind of graceful and genuine poise which has nothing to prove nor deny but that strives to be just. Such masculinities may or may not be physically strong and robust but they are energetic, passionate yet simultaneously vulnerable and open. They are also men who see women as equals without feeling intimidated.
Yet this type of masculinity seems to be vanishing. Thanks to male-supremacist ideology within Eurocentrism, Judeo-Christian as well as Islamic influences and precolonial patriarchal mindsets, ideas of masculinity in African heritage societies have become increasingly marked by chronic machismo. Machismo is everywhere, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not without reason that Africa and the Caribbean have some of the highest levels of gender inequality in the world.
Despite the divisive influences and traditions, here and there are glimpses of a masculine archetype that seems to stem from a history of appreciation for intimate camaraderie and that is not at ease with the control of women. Again, such can be found in all corners of the world. But I believe that if we dug deeper into African history with the intention to encourage a more harmonious society, we would find an especially wealthy resource of masculine ideals in African indigenous systems.
After all, since Africa has some of the oldest and largest matrilineal societies such as the Akan and Tuareg; some of the oldest legacies of female leadership and rituals to curb male abuse of authority, it means historically there were men who took part in honouring mutual understanding. And in African religion we find stories such as that of the Yoruba Orisha Osun, the goddess of the oceans, a feminine archetype under whose worship, woman and man strived to live amicably. Osun’s domain is water, as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang, “Water no get enemy”. Osun does not exclude gays or lesbians as their sexualities present no threat (or enemy) to her environment.
These stories reveal a history not only of female power but of male commitment to balance. In modern times we can see it in literature; for instance, in books by Njabulo Ndebele, Elechi Amadi and many others. We see it in the fact that male students outnumber female students in Gender Studies in some African universities and, online, in blogs like the New African Man or organisations such as Engaging Men.
I cherish African men, among other things, for continuing this legacy of love.
How about you, what do you like in African men?
Victoria Nwogu says
Well, the ideal of masculinity has shifted shape so much over time, what we have now is a dominance of masculinity that is derived from and defined by control over women but other desirable 'strains' also exist. Can we really say there is one masculine ideal for all women? What do we really want? 50shades of grey is not situated in Africa but why is it so celebrated?
Different strokes for different folks, definitely. But I don’t think any sane woman would not appreciate a more mutual society.
In terms of sexual desire, nope there’s certainly no single ideal, women have individual preferences and as long as it’s consensual I can imagine that many heterosexual women appreciate some form of dominant masculinity as sexually enticing.
I would hope that 50 shades is not as celebrated in Africa because we haven’t gone as bonkers as the rest of the world 😉 but there are probably other, more agreeable reasons…
I think there are a lot of insane women by this definition then. I heard a horror story (at least, the feminist version of a horror story) a few years back where a Ghanaian husband and wife had returned from abroad, and the man’s sister was over and saw him doing his wife’s laundry and ridiculed him because he’s a man and men shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff. He refused to ever do her laundry again. That’s just one story, but the whole time I was there, in explicit conversation and quiet observation I noticed that very few women are interested in egalitarianism. They truly believe women are meant to be submissive to men. I mean, if most women were then it would be impossible to sustain, wouldn’t it?
@Doreen – You are absolutely right actually. it’s true, there are many insane women by my previous comment. Sigh. Women have to varying degrees internalised their undermined roles as a natural thing, otherwise there would be revolution.
I don’t value an African man at all as I’ve never been with or known one who knows how to stay faithful.
Sigh. Yes, and the whole Freudian argument about how it is natural for men to sleep around. As though it’s not natural for women to want sex. Apparently Africa is the only continent where more women are HIV + than men, which is really down to unfaithfulness and not even having the decency to use a condom.
But hey I’m talking about a different type of masculinity here.
i have never been with an african man but since i was living in westafrica for some time i got some male friends and generally i have to agree with you. i love that (generally) strong women are apprechiated. the only relationships that were somehow inequal or extremely patriachal were the ones were they went to very conservative churches. like jehovas witnesses or assemblé de dieu.
Thanks for the comment Selvi. Nice to hear you had such a positive experience.
Mrs. Kipsegei says
I love my African immigrant husband for so many things. Not only his shiny black skin and black diamond eyes, but for the numerous ways he teaches me and loves me. He teaches me to hold my head up high when life has knocked me around. He teaches me to love myself when others have been unkind. He helps me to remember to be grateful for what I have when times are tough and resources scarce. As a descendant of a warrior tribe, he would protect me, no matter what. He has tried to teach my children right from wrong. He supports my ambitions, and is not threatened by my being powerful. He is spiritual in a non-religious way, and though does not share my love of the Divine Feminine, respects my devotion to The Goddess in all her manifestations. I can be a feminist and mother, career-woman and also a proud wife of an African man. I can be concerned with issues impacting African women and girls in the continent and diaspora, and be a White American woman married to an African man. Since we all descended from Africa, is it not so that we are all Africans?
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