Pulling Rank: Patriarchy & Boredom in Ghanaian Marriages

“Hawa: Yussuf, it’s nice to see you. How have you been?

Yussuf: I am doing well. How about you?

Hawa: I’m well. I just came back from Accra to see my parents here in Tamale.

Yussuf: That’s nice. I always loved it when school closed and we all took VIP bus back to Tamale from Legon. Those were some good times. Especially the long vacations!

Hawa: Absolutely great times. I heard that you got married last month. Congrats.

Yussuf: Yeah. I did. Thanks. We thank Allah for his blessings 🙏🏽

Hawa: Ameen to that. (With a semi smile and seriousness)—it’s almost 9pm and you’re still here with your boys. Shouldn’t you be home spending the evening with her Mr husband!

Yussuf: (Switching to Dagbanli)—”A borimi ni o nini kpema? Nyi kuli ti zhini ka mmini o diri fiila bexakam, o nini ni kpema!” I usually just get home and eat a bit of food right before I go to bed. I just spend the evening talking to my boys.”

This is a rendition of a conversation two Legon educated young man and woman had in Tamale. Other than the last part, you can see that this is a regular exchange between two nice people. But I want people to take a look at the last part of what Yussuf said in response to Hawa’s question regarding him spending time with his new bride.

In many cases, education doesn’t cure our boys of patriarchy and feeling of superiority. Those of you who understand Dagbanli, you understand the deep meaning of his statement “o nini ni kpema”. It is such a loaded term conveying so much that it hurts to even try unpacking it. For those who aren’t Dagbanli speakers, I’ll try to explain. Yussuf said that he doesn’t go home to sit down and talk to his wife because she’ll become too familiar with him. It’s hard to do one on one translation but let me try again. The Dagbanli word “kpee” means peer or equal or someone of equal rank. So when Yussuf says that his wife will become too familiar with him, he’s pulling rank in Dagbanli. “O nini ni kpema” is usually used to refer to children and subordinates.

But the saddest part of this for me is that Yussuf is highly educated and is talking to a lady friend equally if not more educated than him. And he’s unafraid to tell her to her face that he doesn’t talk to his wife extensively because his wife will start to see him as her equal. Our patriarchy issues isn’t about education, it is cultural mindset which indoctrinates our boys to believe that simply because they have a penis, they are automatically of a higher rank than girls. Yussuf isn’t the only one. People I’m friends with are like this. They think women or their wives are not their equals and many of them behave in very similar pattern like Yussuf.

Curiously though, I wonder what kind of relationship people like Yussuf have with their wives. If you can’t or won’t allow basic evening chats with your wife, how then do you know each other? Do you just come home, eat, have some likely unsatisfying quick sex, sleep, wake up in the morning, get ready for work, leave, rinse and repeat? What kind of life is that? If you’re married to someone and you don’t have idle talk, I am at a loss as to the kind of relationship you two have. I’m totally at a loss. I even wonder if these people can just sit back with their wives on the sofa and cuddle wiling away time!

I read all these cheating stories on my friend David Papa Bondze-Mbir’s timeline and one thing keeps recurring—boredom. A lot of Ghanaian women cheat out of sheer boredom their marriages are. And as the saying goes, millions of Ghanaian men are living with other men’s children because they don’t know their wives(of course all the philandering men have to find women). If you can’t even talk to your wife, how will you know if she’s doing alright or not? If you aren’t able to talk to your wife, someone outside would and she’s going to find him more like a human than you.

Many of you sweet talk girls into marrying you. Why do you think it was a great idea to do the sweet talking? You did it because she likes to have a conversation. But after bringing her home, you turn around and pull rank and stop communicating for some stupid reason. I am going to stop here and throw the ball in your court everyone. But I’ll say this: talking to your wife should be the least you should do if you want a fruitful marriage. I realized something with my grandfather as he grew older: he started talking to my grandmother a lot more. He used to hound me for sitting and chatting with my grandmother because he thought it was unbecoming of a man to join women gossip. But he’s changed in many ways over the years and some men in my community still think him weak for it. But instead of sitting around other men talking smack about nothing, he spends more time with her and sometimes they have amazing conversations about a lot of things. I can’t see myself married to someone and not having daily banter and generally laid back conversation every night. I want to have a friend, not someone to pull rank on. And the more we as young men see our partners as friends and not subordinates, the better and happier our unions will be. Don’t be a Yussuf and if you want a fruitful marriage, beware of our Yussufs.

#PepperDemMinistries

#UnlearningToxicNarratives

#FlippingTheScript

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