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Marriage

Do Ghanaian Men Have a ‘Renters Mentality When It Comes to Marriage?

“Now you are married to somebody… and you’ve put your name on her, she’s called ‘Mrs your name’. That’s a serious responsibility when somebody is called ‘your name’. You’ve overthrown her father, and you’ve taken her father’s place, so, you got to behave seriously. I mean somebody’s life investment has been put in your hands. Don’t take it easily. Don’t just say: ‘You are my wife’. Do you know what it means? It means you are going to share your money”. – Dr. Mensa Otabil

 

Dr. Mensa Otabil is a theologian, philanthropist and founder of International Central Gospel Church (ICGC). I have never attended his church, but snippets from his leaked sermons online are generally well received by the general public, including me. He is a fair-minded man and politically non-partisan, if the re-shares on Facebook are to be believed. His expressed opinions on gender roles in the African and/or Judeo-Christian context constitute a revival of outlooks that were far more egalitarian two centuries ago than they are today. (I’ve written previously about the myriad and diverse freedoms and opportunities that our female ancestors enjoyed prior to contact with and domination by the Europeans. If you can’t find the post here, look for that evidence in a book or two.) So when I saw this quote attributed to him, I was understandably unsettled, as were many women who believe in the cause of social equality between the sexes.

I have struggled in vain to gain access to the entirety of this speech so that it can be put into context. I do not believe Dr. Otabil to same sort of backward woman-bashing, slam-you-over-the-head-with-a-Bible misogynist as Dag Heward-Mills or his spiritual father, Duncan Williams are. I expect this sort of talk from that pair and all whole harken to their insidious views. Dr. Otabil, however, has earned the benefit of further scrutiny, and I am eager to find out exactly WHAT he means by “you have overthrown her father and have taken her father’s place…”

To the casual male observer, there’s nothing wrong with this Otabil quote, even without context. According to the comments I’ve been privy to, this is just about a woman taking a man’s name after marriage and therefore no fuss is required. Feminists are just angry feminizing once again!

But as a WOMAN, a CHRISTIAN and a HUMAN BEING, I find this postulation quite disturbing. Dr. Otabil – who is clearly addressing men either in mixed company or exclusively, we don’t know – talks about the union between man and wife as an “investment”.

  • A woman is another man’s life investment and has been “put into your hands.”: This strips women – adults who have chosen their life partners – of their agency. They are objects to be handed over from man to the next.
  • You’ve overthrown her father and taken her father’s place: Again presenting the idea that a woman’s body is something captured and possessed, like some ancient city in the Middle East.
  • Don’t just say: ‘You are my wife’. Do you know what it means? It means you are going to share your money.: I want to believe that Dr. Otabil did not just equate the spiritual union between man and woman witnessed before God and man as a pyramid scheme!

“You are my wife” means you are going to share your money? Like a director in an Amway tier? Yesu the Messiah just come now on a cloud and take us all out of here!

It’s obvious why any (perceptive) woman would take umbrage with these utterances. Once again, we’ve been reduced to chattel, or jewels, or whatever inanimate object men must equate us to in order to assess value. You know, because our humanity is never enough. But for the sake of the metaphor and nothing else, therein lies my question to men:

Do you take a renter’s mentality when approaching the foundation of your marriage?

Mensa Otabil exhorts men to act more responsibly towards their wives because they have taken their surnames. She is no longer identified as herself – as an individual -or her father’s child, now that she has YOUR name. If she were a city, she’d be Kofi Town (or whatever).

There are several studies that show a stark difference in human behavior when people are given charge over something rented or worked to gain ownership of. The behavior is entirely different.

When you rent a tux for an event, you’re not concerned about if you spill tartar sauce on the lapels because you can get it dry cleaned, send it back to the rental company, and let the next guy deal with the stains you unsuccessfully tried to have washed out. But when that’s your ONLY tux that you bought and paid for, that you’ve worn on one happy occasion after another, you’re more observant about how you handle food around it. Because at the end of the day, it’s coming back home with you to hang in your closet. Same thing goes with car and home rentals. Many people are less concerned about the damage caused to the property because it’s someone else’s possession and in the long run, the damage done is not really their problem.

This is the renter’s mentality that allows certain Ghanaian men to banish their wives back to their father’s house when he’s done using her up because of *insert nonsensical culturally irrelevant reason here*

But, let’s be honest. Didn’t merely reading those scenarios make you feel slimy? Would you want anyone to describe you as a car, or a two-bedroom house, or a Jeep or any of the tired metaphors employed to determine what a woman reminds you of? Why does it take any of that to see Akosua/Patricia/Your Wife’s Name for who she is?

Do you have to own your wife to honor her and take responsibility in and for your marriage?

 

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