Head In Name Only

Nigerians love titles. I have noticed this on wedding souvenirs with inscriptions like Opeyemi weds Dr. Tosin, Barr. Fatimah weds Engr. Ahmed; in prayers for future careers that involve bearing a title – lawyer, doctor, engineer; in students trying to make sure they get their lecturer’s titles right before approaching them, lest you call a Ph. D holder mister and he refuses to supervise your dissertation. I have noticed it in people who stop calling their friends and family by their first name as soon as they acquire a title- Doctor, Barrister (The Law) etc., it is perhaps this love for titles that causes many Nigerians to boldly declare that the man is the head of the family, even when he is head in name only.

In most Nigerian families, the father is seen as the head of the family, who handles the financial needs while the mother is the one who tends to the domestic duties of the family. But this is far from the reality especially in a lot of middle class and low income families. Many women are the breadwinners of their family albeit discreetly. A lot of Nigerians would agree that being the head of the family is much more than having a penis. Being the head of the family comes with leadership and financial responsibilities, but even in situations where the man does not provide this, to massage the male ego, we carry the banner THE MAN IS THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE.

…It just reaffirmed my opinion about how we are regarded in the society, so you’re wrong whether you’re wrong in the situation, especially in relationships, we’ve been taught a woman makes the house, a woman builds it, everything is just us whether you are at fault or not… – Tiwa Savage

A woman’s strength lies in how much suffering she can endure, how much of herself she can give up to raise good children, to keep the home together, this is the way the society has painted women. If like me, you are not comfortable with this and dare to challenge it, you’ll be tagged a feminist (far from being a compliment in this part) and accused of importing foreign culture. Even though we have adopted many cultures that were once foreign, as our own, and culture ideally, should evolve and change. Does one need to be an importer of foreignness to acknowledge that the biology of women should not make them inferior, and that women are as human as men are?

A friend asked if I have a problem with the title ‘head’. What bothers me is not just the title, a man can truly be the head of the family, in most marriages, the husband is older anyway (not that age is a proven indicator of maturity and leadership), what I have a problem with is, when ‘the man is the head of the family’ springs up, it is usually said to tell the wife to condone whatever she is getting from the husband especially when she isn’t comfortable with it. The phrase becomes a justification for abuse. A man can cheat, dope, steal your money, be irresponsible as a husband and as a father, he is still the head of the family, you just have to endure his attitude. It is not said to show the positive, great sides of men, it is said to show the oppressive side of men.

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others. – George Orwell (Animal Farm)

There are ideas that have been passed from generation to generation validated by religion and culture. While culture as we have come to learn, changes, religion is having a hard time. And so it becomes the validation for many ideas.

That man and woman are physiologically different is not debatable and due to this difference, religion has assigned them different roles, but does difference imply inferiority? Is there something about the physiology of women that makes us inferior, such that we can say ‘men and women are not equal, that’s not how God created us’ and not ‘men and women are not equal because society has made it so’?

…I also don’t think men and women are equal, you know, I don’t think that’s how God created us, especially in the household, I think as females when we realize that yeah we can be strong, as females in our career and stuff, but then when we’re home, we have to realize that the man is the head of the house…- Tiwa Savage

Can business be fully separated from pleasure, especially as creatives? As a creative, is it possible to fully separate work from personal life? As a style icon, is it possible for work not to be personal? Marriage is an institution in which partners are all up in each other’s business. We share triumphs and successes at work with our loved ones. If a husband decides that his wife should stop dressing for work a certain way, could it be said that his right as the head does not give him liberty to demand how his wife should dress career wise?

When Tiwa Savage released a video for her song, Wanted, in 2014, associates of the Nigerian Married Women Moral Code were quick to call out Tiwa Savage and her husband, pointing out that she was married and her husband, who was then her manager was not supposed to allow her show such dance moves that should be reserved for her husband’s eyes only. I have seen a number of music videos in which male singers are surrounded by semi clad girls, some of these videos get banned or censored, but I am yet to come across complaints or questions directed towards their wives/partners as to why they would allow it. The idea that a man is the head of the house is not isolated to domestic issues. At work, women are expected to do as would please their husbands. Married women are expected to act in certain ways society has told us husbands would like, as some sort of ‘husband ambassador’.

A woman can be ambitious but not too ambitious, otherwise she would emasculate the man.

We often expect celebrities, with their enormous reach and influences to champion social causes, especially a female celebrity like Tiwa savage who many expected to have understood from experience what it feels to be at the receiving end of gender inequality. But the reality is not the case. That a woman is successful in her career does not mean she is free from the throes of misogyny, celebrity or not.

If a man is not the head of the family, is it a woman that is the head of the family? – Unknown

‘A man is the head of the house’ is the slogan of misogyny that we have been told to accept. Some people claim to be against feminism because it brings about competition between men and women. In marriage, partners are meant to complement each other and not compete, but if the aim is to complement, why does one partner need to carry a title that implies superiority?

Is a head (and a tail or neck) title needed in marriage? Do you think that the title is important in marriage? What does it mean to be the head of the family? Do you think there’s a need for one partner to be the head? Please share your thoughts.

  • Wizzlyn

    A man is the head of the house. That comes naturally. I don’t see the fuss in that. When some women become successful, they want to drag title. I don’t see a big deal in titles. There is no entitlement in title. The primary stuff in marriage for me is respect and that is reciprocal. Manhood is not an achievement.
    A man being the head comes naturally to me but how I see it is – responsibility. The title is not for oppression but for love and leadership. Like I always say, women are not to submit to men but to their husbands but then loving and respecting your wife and kids is your biggest responsibility.
    I’m not even okay with Mr., how much more other titles. As a lawyer, I don’t even like the “barrister or the law””tag. My first or surname is all I want. Africans like titles and it baffles me the length people would go to acquire them. When I hear someone says “I am Chief”, or when lawyers want to make a speech and start by telling you how many years they have spent at the bar – I’m always like, can you just get on with what you have to say. The problem is with the system, people judge you by your title before they have the chance to judge your intellectual dispositions.
    I love this post………….thanks

    October 13, 2017
Post a Comment