ON BRIDE PRICE AND WHO MARRIED WHO
My dad is old school. Very old school. I was born in Saŋ, a small town (my own big city 😎) on the Tamale-Yendi road. My father started his own village when I was like a year old, and took me and my mom there. But I ended up growing up in Tamale because of the Kokomba-Dagomba skirmishes in the early 90s. I’m saying all these things to establish my traditional Ghana and African credentials before people chew me up for what I am about to say and call me Westerner and some other nonsense like that.
I will never allow bride price for my daughter when I have one. And my sons will never pay bride price for their wives if I get my way. My father and grandfather set the pace for me and I intend to see to it that I take it to the next step and hopefully my children and grandchildren will live in a society where bride price is completely wiped out of existence.
Of all my sisters who have married up to now (6 out of 10), my dad has always insisted that the lowest and most tokenest possible bride price be paid. I remember my sister Wasilla’s husband paid something like 40 or 50 cedis. All my sisters’ husbands know for a fact that it was a privilege getting married to my sisters. They damn well knew that that puny little money they paid didn’t entitle them to ownership of my sisters. So they can never use that money as a yardstick to decide critical important issues in their marriage.
Idiotic men with nothing to argue with always revert back to ‘who married who’ or ‘who paid who’s bride price’ when they want to bulldoze their way to a decision they haven’t had a consensus on or when they want to do something blatantly biased in their favor. Even if you paid 10,000 (hundred million) Ghana cedis, which seem to be the plateau of many of these broke guys’ idea of big bride price, your wife is still not your bought property. Most of you pay maximum 1,000 (ten million) Ghana cedis and you get it into your thick heads that that entitles you to be a Dictator and Lord in your household where you get to decide what your wife does or not. Stop fooling yourselves. That money isn’t worth one billionth of her worth and it damn sure doesn’t entitle you to ownership of her.
In a matrimonial home, you negotiate the roles, not set up a rigid allocation of roles. If you don’t want to cook, or better still if you are a shitty cook, make sure you take up other roles in the house to ease the burden on your wife.
In the village where I spent my first four years of infancy, my dad (who was the most powerful man in the village in the 80s and 90s) carried firewood home for my mothers despite that practice being looked down on by other men in the village as women’s work. He did it because he is a rational human being with a brain. My mothers didn’t ride bicycles and my dad did, so it was much more prudent to for him to carry the firewood than have them carry it on their heads and walk home along with carrying babies and things like that. When I went back to the village some years back, almost every man was carrying firewood home. That is the impact my dad had on the village. My dad is old school but he did what he could 30 years ago under the patriarchal constraints he had. In my household in the village, in the early 90s, my brothers pounded fufu when it was unheard of in the village at that time because men were not suppose to be anywhere near food preparation. And because of their trail blazing in the village in the 90s, we now have some men in my tiny village in the Mion district pounding fufu.
My favorite thing about my grandfather (the one who’s picture I shared earlier with the snow white beard) is his no nonsense around gender roles he decided to break. Believe me, my grandfather is a traditionalist through and through and an eccentric at that. But when he decided to break some gender role, he did it without any worry in the world. My very traditional grandfather believed in his own clothing washing abilities such that he decided that grandma would, on the few occasions she washed his clothes, only wash the non-white or bright colored clothes. He will sit down, in front of the house as many smug unimportant men in Jisonayili will be walking by our house with their silly noses feeling disgusted by him, washing his own clothes. In Dagbon, washing clothes, just like cooking, is regarded as a female only role. But my grandfather explicitly disregarded this, and people thought he let my grandma off the hook too much and “O paɣa nnyaŋɔ” but not a single one of these idiots had the masculine fiestiness of my grandfather, the one who washed his own clothes and bathed the children. Anyone who has grown up in Jisonayili knows that my grandfather is a stubborn man and a patriarch through and through but he blazed a trail on certain issues when it comes to gender roles.
I am telling you all this to tell you that all of you small boys having your panties in a bunch about women’s roles and the kitchen being the no go zone for men and an exclusive place for women and accusing anyone saying otherwise of being westernized need to do some introspection. I’m telling you that paying her bride price doesn’t make her your chef. She’s not your cook or servant. Cooking is a skill. That puny little money you paid didn’t have kitchen written on it. If you come to a mutual understanding with your wife about cooking and she does it, no problem, have at it horse. But don’t you dare come here and tell me that the kitchen is meant for women and your excuse is that you married her or you paid her bride price. Stop with that mediocre thinking.
Bride price has always been symbolic in traditional Africa. That is why my father, a staunchly traditional man has always grudgingly accepted it with as little an amount as possible. I don’t know the exact intricacies of my sisters’ marital homes but none of their husbands has ever come to us arguing about our sisters and mentioning bride price. They know better. When I have my own baby girls, to even get rid of any possibility of any boy thinking stupid, my babies will never have any price on their heads for marriage. And they and their husbands will sit down and hash it out on their respective roles in their household as logical responsible adults.
Other than child birth, there’s no role with a woman’s name written on it and you’d do well to know that your puny bride price doesn’t change that. Peace!