It must be overwhelming to live as a heterosexual male in Ghana. Imagine being told – explicitly or not – that no matter how difficult your life may be, no matter how many disappointments you may suffer, at least you are not a woman.
Women are not “co-equals” to men.
Women have been cursed since Eve.
Whereas it is your place and birthright to dominate, it is a woman’s place to be submissive, humble, silent and if at all possible, invisible.
A woman MUST respect you, because you are a man. Whether you have earned that respect through words, deeds or intentions is irrelevant. So long as a human being is born in possession of a penis, respect from those lacking that particular appendage ought to be automatically imputed.
You grow up believing these things about you. You’ve been indoctrinated. All the social cues you’ve received your entire life support these beliefs. Your religion demands it. Your community supports it. Your homeboys quote it like propaganda. Eventually, you accept the notion that your masculinity – exclusively – makes you a superior being. That awareness… that delusion…colors the way you see the world and yourself in it. Ghanaian men are no exception. This is how the Ghanaian male is programmed.
This is why Bukom Banku feels at liberty to rape and bludgeon his way through his community with impunity.
This is why three male radio hosts can threaten to rape a Supreme Court Judge, on air, and come back to their jobs because they said “sorry”.
This is why a bishop can kick a pregnant woman on camera and never be made to face the law.
This is why men can barge into a courtroom and beat up a judge and go scot-free.
This is why a security guard dressed in plain clothes can threaten to assault a Ghanaian citizen to the thunderous applause, cheers and tacit approval of an overwhelmingly majority of men online.
In today’s Ghana, violence – not intellect – is synonymous with strength. If a woman wants to be treated as an “equal” to men, she must be prepared to settle things the way men do. Not by addressing the issue, but by punching one another into submission.
You’ve been told your entire life that men are more ‘logical’ than women. That women, as a function of their biological make up, let their emotions get the better of them. This is something you’ve often repeated to anyone who will listen. Yet when faced with a situation where you feel your masculinity and all the authority invested in you is threatened, you back pedal by saying that men and women do not communicate the same way. Women use their words and men resolve conflict with brute physical violence. How disorienting this must be for you.
Your male cohorts buttress this opinion by suggesting that anyone woman who speaks out of turn should be recalibrated with the forced administration of dick. Because there is no more logical an act than raping someone with whom you have come to an intellectual impasse.
The world simply doesn’t work that way anymore. Women can work. Women can earn property. Women can drive AND have children outside of the confines of marriage if they so choose. When your masculinity is so inextricably linked to the subjugation of a member of a different sex, it must be frustrating to be confronted with the idea that you – as a man – may in fact not be the infallible center of the universe. That a woman’s existence and prosperity are possible without the benefit of your male existence.
And when may conducts himself like “a woman”, you see homosexuality as the ultimate betrayal and threat to your manhood. Could those visceral feelings be linked back to some jealously that you feel? Are you angry that your toxic definitions of masculinity do not permit you to explore and live your fullest life? That you have to balance your unquechiable desire to embrace your femininity by juxtaposing it with an assault rifle? How frustrated you must feel!
Yesterday, a man dressed in plain-clothes brandishing a walkie-talkie and claiming to be a security guard assaulted Lydia Forson. The assault happened while filming on location for an upcoming feature. The film industry in Ghana is not one that enjoys injections of cash or support from the government. Most Ghanaian films that make it to the screen are passion projects. Actors often style themselves from their own wardrobes. They are paid a pittance for their work. There is no streamlined method for obtaining permits to film in public. In short, the whole industry is a clusterfuck and these producers and actresses are literally spinning gold from hay. For their efforts, they are scornfully referred to as ‘so-called celebrities’, when the reality is they are simply citizens and creative trying to make great art. Their on screen/on air visibility is what has earned them this peculiar form of contempt. And in Ghana, there is no one more contemptuous than women who make their living being loud, visible and strong. These are male traits. Women are supposed to be submissive, humble and visible only when it’s absolutely necessary.
That Lydia Forson – a woman who cuts a “controversial” figure precisely because she speaks passionately and regularly for human rights and against violence against woman – has become a target of contempt for publishing a video in the aftermath of her attempt to defend a female member of her film crew has not happened in a vacuum. Ghana is a place where violence against women and girls is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. Teenaged students are punished for their sexual assault when it results in pregnancy while their male assailants are merely reassigned to hunt in new pastures. Married women in Ghana are at the greatest risk for new HIV infections because their husbands are not held to the same ethical standards in marriage as they. In fact, a woman is expected to give up her right to her body in marriage. It’s a cardinal sin to deny one’s husband sex, no matter where he’s been sticking his penis.
These are “rules” accepted by greater society. So when a woman speaks up for herself, demands that her humanity be recognized and refuses to allow her rights as a citizen of a sovereign nation to be trampled on by men who proclaim that they “can beat you and there’s nothing you can do about it”, I imagine that it must be frustrating for your run of the mill Ghana Man. Something unseen inside him wants to gear up for battle against this unholy foe: A woman who chooses valiance over compliance in the face of injustice. Indeed, there is nothing more dangerous, more threatening to a cowardly man than an informed, uncompromising woman. And everywhere you look, Ghana Man, they abound.
How awful it must be to be you in this new century. How painful it must be to live with the prospect of true equality. How terrified you must feel, knowing that women will one day gain the exclusive power you’ve been accustomed to and may return your coin in kind.
*Screenshots are pulled from comments on Lydia Forson’s page following her detailed account of the events that transpired. These abhorrent comments should surprise no one who has been listening. You can read the full account here.