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It is time men started talking about their true emotions

Saturday September 7 2019

EMOTIONS

Group talk. Men should feel free to talk about their emotions without fear of being victimised. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

MARIGA THOITHI
By MARIGA THOITHI
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Toxic masculinity is a word that has been thrown around in recent times.

But we need to be open about it as more men get cornered as they bottle their feelings.

In what was a daring leap then, but what now seems to be one of the worst financial decisions that a company could make, Gillette dived into the world of corporate activism.

Not only did it result in push back from men worldwide, but it also had costly financial implications.

Gillette dug an eight billion dollar hole to its bottom line. That's eight hundred billion shillings!

But what happened? What caused the mass exodus by men? Their Toxic Masculinity campaign, which they launched last year.

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This year, the company has shifted its campaign to celebrating male heroes, which is widely seen as a ploy to try and regain ground from most of the men they had alienated.

NIGHT OUT

So what exactly is this toxic masculinity that was able to cause the world's largest razor makers in the world to back down?

What's was this that made men boycott a product that for a long time, defined masculinity worldwide?

Let's take a little trip back memory lane, precisely to the first time I drank alcohol.

I was in my second year in university and we went out often. We visited a dodgy local in Eldoret called ‘Fracas' where the mabati walls defined our Thursday evenings to Monday mornings.

It was small and stuffy and my spectacles would fog up when everyone was on the dance floor.

You had to be very alert as bottles would start flying soon enough because some man stepped on another man's shoes or looked at his girl "in a manner likely to suggest..' It was an extreme sport.

I was a teetotaller then. Eventually, I started drinking because I got tired of the jokes. I got tired of being asked whether I wanted mandazi with my sodas.

PEER PRESSURE

I got tired of being asked whether I had extra pads in my pocket or whether I was out past my bedtime.

The comments suggested that I wasn't man enough . I started by drinking Smirnoff Black Ice because it was palatable, but I moved to beer pretty quickly when I was asked why I was drinking ‘panty remover' as it was so fondly referred to.

I found beer nasty but it was easier than the taunting. My choice in drinks was determined by men around me who didn't care much about me but the fact that I behaved in a certain way as a man.

I laugh when I look back. That I changed what I enjoyed drinking for fear of being made fun of is hilarious.

Needless to say, I'm now the local Tusker Lager ambassador. Talk of making good things from bad situations!

To be honest, though, the pressure to behave in a certain way didn't start or end with beer.

It was the reason I at some point dated two girls with devastating results. Or why I was driving without a licence in a road trip to Uganda because men simply drove without excuses.

SUICIDE

It was the reason we talked about depression as a white person's disease and the reason that we still tell little boys to ‘man up' when they dare to do the unmentionable and show emotions.

Toxic masculinity was determining the acceptable bounds of manhood beyond which you would be shamed back into the mould.

When on the outside looking in, I realise that my definition of manhood was centred on suppressed emotions, having a one up on women, money and power.

That's when I realised that I had a problem. It explained a lot about what men face at large. Just how far does Toxic Masculinity affect our lives though?

The BBC did a documentary on an upsurge of male suicides in Nyandarua County which touched all of us, but which we quickly forgot about.

Men are ending their lives because they don't have coping mechanisms.

COPING

I buried a friend in Kirinyaga just two months ago. He was found dangling in his sitting room by his children just before they went to school.

The way we live as men doesn't just affect the beer that we drink but eventually, in very real terms dictates whether or not we live or die.

Toxic masculinity wasn't just a phrase but more of something every man can relate to, each in their own way.

It explains the drinking-as-a-solution-to-problems mentality prevalent in many homes, and it construes why these men with suppressed emotions eventually turn violent because they didn't know how to deal with these pesky things called feelings.

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