It’s been said that there is no one masculinity in society today but a number of masculinities, shaped by the intersection of gender and influences like status, religion and sexuality. Age is also an important factor; so here I have the privilege of discussing with Chude Jideonwo on how the role of masculinity and the understanding of what it means to be “male” in our society affect the prevalence of sexual violence as an epidemic.
Chude Jideonwo was named by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 best entrepreneurs under 35. He is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of RED. A lawyer, teacher, award-winning journalist; a respected media entrepreneur and influencer, and author of the book Are We The Turning Point Generation?. He is well known for his commitment to development across the African continent, he was selected as a World Fellow at Yale University this year, among other accomplishments… It’s such an honor to have him answer some questions on this topic.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you on this issue.
It’s really my pleasure.
Let me start by asking, what do you think is the difference between being a man today as you experience it and what you perceive in previous generations?
The difference is that previously men had clarity of role and function, but it wasn’t necessarily a positive thing in the society. Men were the owners of women, were the dominators of women and women were meant to serve them as mothers or wives; but now there’s a certain confusion by feminism, by women empowerment, by progressive values, and they’re wondering “we were told that being a man came with all these privileges but suddenly people are trying to take them away from us”, and so they’re a bit confused.
What can you say about the acceptability of cross-gender friendships? For men now, it’s far more acceptable to have females as friends, not only as romantic partners.
Anything that brings down barriers between human beings for self-actualization or in order to build meaningful relationships is a positive thing. Many of the privileges that I dictated earlier – to be honest are quite foolish, so it’s a good thing that now we have more minorities, more people who were not part of the conversation occupy space and become actively integrated in the conversation. Now we have more humane, more balanced, more equitable relationships and a breath of experiences that humanity is benefiting from.
With how things continue to change and evolve in terms of the general understanding of the meaning of masculinity and how that informs boys and men’s behaviour, there’s a new liberalness in our social construct that has somehow put the traditional notion of masculinity in the back burner. While there are advantages to this for both women and men, there are also negative aspects – young men behaving badly, if you will. For example, revenge-porn, slut-shamming, openly condoning violence against women, etc. Tell me a little bit about this side.
It’s not really liberalness that is causing all of it, it’s the fact that the people who were used to having a kind of social power are losing it and so they’re lashing out. It’s a reaction to human progress and this has always been the case. America had the civil war because Abraham Lincoln wanted to free the slaves. America was a bit upset about how Obama got marriage equality and the people against that reacted by voting in an opposite of him- Donald trump, that is society. For the fact that people react negatively to change doesn’t mean that change is bad because the previous arrangement has been oppressing minorities, the powerless, or the relatively unpowerful, unfortunately this is how change occurs in society. People enjoying certain privileges will fight all they can to protect those privileges, even when those privileges only exist at the expense of other people. So what people call liberalism has helped us build a more equitable society and that is always a positive thing.