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Men without manhood


Summary: The mere possession of a male sexual organ does not make one a man.

Author Biography: Yahya Sseremba is the publisher of The Campus Journal news website.

Armed with a sharp machete, an angry woman in my neighborhood recently flashed her husband out of her house, threatening to chop him should he ever set foot again anywhere near the apartment. This disgraceful exit is just a slice of the vast humiliation that many men have inflicted upon themselves by choosing to be fed by women, clothed by women and sheltered by women. 

Is there any manhood left in such men? Their biological construction, obviously, is that of men, with organs like the penis, scrotum and testicles. This natural design is surely part of manhood, not only biologically, but socially as well. Pre-colonial Buganda society, for instance, understood a man as a person who not only had a penis, but a functioning penis. Impotent men, however wealthy they would be, were exempted from a tax levied on men.   

Nowhere, however, has the mere possession of a potent penis ever been regarded as the sole determinant of manhood. Two examples – one from traditional African culture and another from religion – may shade more light.    

Islam, without ignoring the biological composition of a male person, emphasizes social roles in its description of a man. “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they (men) spend (to support women) from their means…” (Qur’an 4:34).

This Qur’anic verse defines men in two terms: in terms of their natural abilities that enable them to outclass women and in terms of their expenditure on women. The Noble Book implies that men who cannot support their women financially are men only in name.

In traditional Buganda culture, similarly, a man was flogged with eight stripes when his wife committed adultery, a punishment for not satisfying his spouse’s sexual or financial needs. It was the failure to meet either of these needs, the people of Buganda believed, that tempted wives to cheat on their husbands. The yardstick of manhood thus took into consideration both sexual and financial obligations to women. Far from living up to this standard, men today have increasingly abdicated their marital financial responsibilities, and some have even fallen further to depending on the money of the very women they are supposed to support. This male degeneration has gone through a long process.

The fall of men

It’s not possible to blame the erosion of manhood on the emancipation of womankind. Not possible because many men have continued to be real men even with emancipated women. As women became financially empowered, however, it became easy for lazy men to find wives on whom to depend.

This women empowerment started with the advent of Islam in the Seventh Century. Critics, it is well-known, have accused Islam of holding back women. There are surely things in other civilizations that this religion doesn’t recognize as rights and freedoms. Whereas in other cultures a woman may strip and dance to entertain drunkards in a bar, in Islam this is reprehensible and unacceptable.

In more meaningful enterprises, however, Islam did allow and indeed encouraged women to exercise their talents and deploy their creativity. Besides prohibiting female infanticide, which the Arabs had passed down from generation to generation as a cherished tradition, Islam dispatched women to seek for knowledge, own assets and accumulate wealth. By the end of the Prophet’s mission in AD 632, some had become so wealthy that they started financially supporting their struggling husbands, as narrated in Sahih Bukhar:

Abu Said al-Khudri reported that Zainab, the wife of Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, said: "O Prophet of Allah! Indeed you have ordered us today to give away sadaqah (charity), and I have some jewelry which I wanted to give away as sadaqah; but my husband Ibn Mas'ud claims that he and his children deserve it more than anyone else."The Prophet responded: "Ibn Mas'ud is right. Your husband and your children are more deserving."

Such cases in which women financed their spouses were nonetheless limited because of two reasons. Muslim men, including the destitute like Ibn Masud, knew very well that they had no right whatsoever to pass on their domestic financial obligations to their women. Wives could only intervene at pleasure, but not because Islam obliged them to.

Secondly, as centuries rolled along new interpreters of religion emerged and alleged that women had no role outside the household. As this interpretation gained ground womankind lost the opportunity to generate revenue and support her partner and progeny.

Such restrictions have hindered the emergence of Muslim women whose influence can be compared even remotely with that of Aisha, the Prophet’s widow who conveyed to the world much of her husband’s teachings and even led a military campaign against what she regarded as an illegitimate new government of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth rightly-guided caliph.

But even under such restrictions many Muslim women still considered themselves better-off than some of their counterparts in other civilizations who were – and continue to be – treated as things that attract and entertain customers in pubs and make brothels an enjoyable destination.

Outside Islam no notable step toward woman emancipation was taken until womankind, like the Blacks and other marginalized groups, picked up arms and fought for her rights in the 20th Century. Today this fight that started in the West and spread to the ‘Rest’ has delivered affluence and influence to many women.    

Many things have changed as a result, with roles in the family being re-allocated. In some families domestic expenditure – expenses on food, school fees for children, replacing furniture, etc – has been shared equally between wife and husband. Numerous are homes in which husbands alternate with wives in buying food. Here the man surrenders part of his manhood to his wife, leaving no clear family head.

In the absence a clear family leader, disagreements easily escalate into problems and problems become hard to solve. Partners start seeing in the elimination of each other the only solution to their conflicts. Indeed, tragedy is always the consequence whenever a polity lacks an undisputed leader. Whereas the father is not supposed to act like a ruthless dictator, it is important that he retains a degree of authority over the rest of the family. How can he deserve such authority without fully meeting family bills?

As his authority diminishes his manhood follows suit. Yet he remains far better than the husband that my neighbor expelled from her house late last month. Whereas the former meets half of domestic expenses, the latter represents a growing number of vagabonds in pursuit of ‘financially-stable’ women on whom to depend and from whom they foolishly hope to make a fortune.

Such parasitic men add little value to the family, and they are usually replaced as soon as they outlive their sexual attractiveness. With the threat of replacement ever looming over their heads, these sexual mercenaries live the ass-kissing life of yes-men, obeying orders without question. No man embraces such a contemptible life and remains a man.


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+1 #1 Kimbugwe Nasser 2012-11-13 05:41
This is very true. Some men Want "Financially stable" women and they also want to remain MEN. These two do not mix at all.
0 #2 Abu Musa 2012-11-16 18:34
I thank the writer for this challenging yet educative and eye opener article,however ,allow me to share this with the readers,When i was young i asked my elder brother why do people consume so many tablets he responded to me in the way that left me asking my self why i dared asking this 'stupid' guy, he said ''you are also a man when you grow up you will one day have the answer'', i recalled my brother's words after under going a minor operation at Mulago hospital where i was given boxes of tablets. We have to pray that we dont follow into such situations however, you can be tested, we also just dont know what is going on inside those vanished houses, you only realised it after being in almost the same situation, the Baganda have a proverb that says 'Mukoomuwulu tabaako matu' and 'Atamukutte yagaamba' i wonder weather the writer has ever been comitted him self some where though this can not be used as a reason to condon and justify un becoming characters of some men.