Last year a friend of mine called me out on wishing my single mother a Happy Father's Day. As a father I think he felt his one special day in the year to be honoured as a father was being hijacked. 'You don't see anyone wishing father's a happy Mother's Day,' he said. In my defence, if I had been raised by a single father instead of a single mother I'm the kind of person that would be wishing a Happy Mother's Day. But it turns out that I, along with 9/10 of the other single parent families in the UK, was raised by a single mother. He did go on to explain how as a man, especially a black man, he gets a lot of slack for the stereotypes of black man being womanisers, irresponsible and abandoning their kids. In 2007 approximately 50% of the black kids in Britain were raised in a single parent household. This was ten year ago - I couldn't find recent figures for the UK, only the US - but, with the consistent rise of single-parent households over the past ten years, I'm pretty sure that figure has at least stayed the same if not risen. So, with an eye-roll, I get his point that men - especially black men - who have stuck around should get the same recognition on Father's Day that women get on Mother's Day and single-mother's shouldn't hijack their day but, having had an 'absentee father' (to put it kindly) I will keep my eye-roll.
I write this post with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's extended essay We Should All Be Feminist on my mind and I am reminded of her humorous approach to her friends' disapproval of her calling herself a feminist. Her response is to call herself 'A Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men' or 'A Feminist Who Wears Makeup'. There are many conceptions aligned with the word feminist but what being a feminist really comes to is an expectation for men and women to be treated equally and/or to be treated as equals. Feminism does not mean that men and women are the same. Feminism does not mean women are better than men. Feminism does not mean that women do not need men.
The feminist stance is often portrayed as 'I am a strong, independent woman. I do not need a man, I want a man'. If that is you, then boo, do you. That is not me and I personally do not think that is healthy. In 2017, the truth is that women do not need men in the same way we did twenty, thirty, forty years ago. Women can support themselves financially, can stand for themselves socially, heck, we can even have kids without a man. But without men in our lives we lose a very vital part of the human experience. Men and women are vastly different; all you have to do is look at our brains to see how differently we are wired. The brain of a black man and the brain of a white will look basically the same. Not so much with men and women. Men have larger brains, women have more connections between the neurons. Both have equal capacity for intelligence. And these differences in our wiring affect our emotions and how we see the world and deal with different situations. To misquote Chinese philosophy, men are the yin to our yang (or vice versa). We complement each other. They have strengths where we have weaknesses and we have weaknesses where they have strengths. We have the potential to bring the best in each other and to discover things about ourselves we wouldn't learn from people of the same sex.
A friend of mine told me the world would be a better place if women were in charge. Call me a bad feminist, but I disagree. I think that if all the men in governments were replaced by women we would have different problems but they'd be just as bad. My opinion is that the world would be a better place if men and women had an equal standing in running it. I suggest we give that a whirl and see what happens? Any takers?
Also, when I say, 'I need a man' I don't necessarily mean as a husband. Don't run around men, I would like a husband, but I just mean in any capacity or relationship. Women need men as fathers, uncles, husbands and friends. Your friends are the people that challenge you, and teach you and love you. I believe that a well-rounded person is one that not only has friends that are like them but also has friends that are unlike them and, like I said, there are no two humans more unlike each other than man and woman.
So, on this very happy Father's Day, I, Enobong Essien, an independent feminist, do declare that I do need a man.
boys need not apply ;)