I was mooching around on twitter,(yes, I mooch, but I am not quite sure what it means, or if it is even a legitimate English word) the other day, when I came upon a phrase I liked. It was from a writer I knew. Well, I don’t really know him, but in these days of social media, merely following each other is a kind of knowledge, so yeah, I know him. The phrase was “performative masculinity”.
I freely admit, I liked the sound of it, it sounded cerebral, sounded woke. It sounded like something I could spring out of a corner during a really lame conversation just to show that I have something that pretends to be a brain churning inside this thick head of mine. So I filed it, and tucked it away in one of those cabinets inside my head that I keep seemingly insignificant little tidbits until I have need of them and op them out in order to seem smart. I had all but forgotten about it, until my computer broke down.
My computer is on its last legs. The poor baby has had everything in it that can be changed replaced, so it is understandable if it has an identity crisis. So I was at computer village, that wonderful little town in the corner of Ikeja, where all manners of thieves and hooligans play guesswork with people’s devices so they can attain brief respite and come back when the date on the calendar has made a few more moves. So I was at the computer village, in the shop of the repairer I distrusted the least, (notice how I did not say I trusted him the most), and one of the boys who was there and saw me fiddling with my phone (I was in fact continuing in the noble act of moochery) asked me what and what I was planning to bet on that day, and whether I had tips or clues to give him. Apparently a somewhat youngish looking guy who was constantly looking at his phone was most likely checking the games that he bet on, and monitoring scores and feeds. I grinned at him, and replied that I did not bet on an event whose outcome I had no way of influencing. Another apprentice grinned at him, suggesting that mr betting tips, (as I must now call him for want of a name) was silly for having assumed, and then asked me who and who were playing in the world cup on that day. My grin did not falter as I replied that I didn’t watch football, so I had no way of knowing.
You could hear the collective gasp of surprise as the heads of a dozen people, apprentices, engineers and clients all turned to look at me. In that one short moment, I understood everything about performative masculinity.
I was supposed to perform the ritual of liking football because I was male? When there are books to read? Never heard such a truckload of utter bullcrap in my entire life. And the sad part is, performative masculinity is a legitimate thing. It is what makes us buy balls and toy guns for boys, and then buy teddy bears and dolls for the girls. Or shall we talk about color coding, why boys are blue and girls are pink? Bit by bit, we end up strait-jacketing the kids into something they need not necessarily be. Too many times I was called weak and sissy for having a book in my hand rather than going to play ball. Guess what? Those guys who mocked me for being #TeamBook rather than #TeamBall, I just checked up on them, and none of them is C. Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, or Neymar. But me? I have gone on to write practically every known art form, from stage drama to film scripts, and everything in between. And get paid for them too!
Short stories= done.
Literary criticism= done
Book reviews= done
Novel= in view
What am I saying?
Do not be pressured into doing anything, just because someone sees it as a societal expectation of your gender.
Live your own life, no one else is better qualified for it.
Until I come your way next time, ta-ta.