What makes a man? With the proliferation of gender reassignment I don’t even know that it’s about genitalia any more. But let’s say we strip it back to the basic definition of a human being with the appropriate organs, what else does a man need for us to call him ‘man’? He’s usually over a certain age and accepts a certain set of responsibilities. If not, we tell him “man up” or “be a man.”
In the Caribbean community there are accepted patterns of behavior that culturally define manhood. As women, most of us don’t like these patterns, but many of us go along with them just because everybody else does.
It’s the norm for a father to have several different ‘baby-mothers’; folks in the community will know he’s a real man. In some areas, beating your women and or your children is part of your masculine duties. Having as little respect for the folks you live with yet maintaining their unwavering devotion is key. Being able to support your family isn’t always required for folks to consider you a real man, but the men who do take care of their financial responsibilities are the most respected.
So you’ve paid your bills, disciplined your family, sowed your wild oats and your word is law in your household. In your mind you are what a man should be. But in your daughter’s eyes you are the mean man who doesn’t respect her, cheats on her mother, talks down to his family and pays bills only so he can brag that he’s paid the bills. That’s not what she wants a man to be. That’s not what you should want for any woman to believe a real man looks like or what your sons should aspire toward.
In this month where we’re meant to honor women, may I suggest to men that the best way to do that might be becoming better men. Yes, the bills are important, but to those of us who respect ourselves, mutual respect, honesty and reverence for your family make you the most manly man of all.
Calibe Thompson is a personality, author and the Executive Producer of “Taste the Islands”, premiering nationwide on PBS in April 2015. For your free preview of her 2015 collection of writings, ‘Things I Probably Shouldn’t Say’, visit www.calibe.net.