A year and some months ago, I was having a chat with a friend who by her early 20s had already finished her Masters’ degree in one of the world’s top universities, was lecturing at her alma mater and is one of the most voracious readers and finest thinkers I know. Our talk went round to marriage and she made a statement that piqued my mind:
“You know our Northern men get scared when they meet ladies who have achieved so much”.
That got me thinking a lot, and I was saddened to admit that she was not far from the truth. Generally speaking, Northern men get intimidated when they meet a lady who has achieved so much, or who is ambitious and driven. It is the reason that from my observations most times, for example, once a young Northern lady reaches her fourth year studying Medicine and she is not in a relationship, she most likely ends up with a fellow medical doctor. This is mostly because young men outside the profession feel intimidated to ask her out.
I was talking with a female friend last week, an ambitious and driven lady who remarked that she observed that she hardly gets men from her native Plateau State asking her out, and the few that do, when she talks of her dreams and plans, they never make any effort to encourage her.
This attitude is not something that began with our generation. It has been so even from the time of our parents’ generation. I have seen so many cases both close to me and far away where a promising, driven young lady marries a man who then pours cold water on her ambition and drive, and she then settles for a much less fulfilling life. It seems the mind-set among our men is that the only way they can assert their being head of the home is when their women are beneath them in life.
This has in turn affected our women to demand less from life and to become mediocre. Whenever I talk with my fellow young Northern men about this, I usually ask them to count the number of young Northern women they knew in university who switched courses because they did not like what they had been offered to study. I cannot recall any of them bringing a name forward. Our women now think among themselves, “what does it matter what I study? After all, I will finish school and get married”. I have personally heard many ladies say this.
In cases where a young Northern lady is driven and following her passions, she is assailed on all sides with such statements. A friend I know back home who was working for free in her uncle’s company to pick up business experience complained of being discouraged such. Few weeks ago, I came across this blog post by Zainab Usman, a young doctorate student at the Oxford University where she mentioned this same thinking.
It is a very sad phenomenon that such thinking and mind-set exists among us, even as young and supposedly modern as we are. I stand firm to say boldly that any man who is intimidated by the success and ambition of a woman suffers from insecurity. Yes, INSECURITY!! A man who is equally driven, ambitious, knows what he wants in life and is working towards it will not be put at ease by the ambitions of his woman. Rather, he will work to help her achieve her dreams so she can live her life to fulfilment.
We should seek to help our wives, our sisters, and in future our daughters live their lives to fulfilment and not to be just educated, baby-making machines. That a woman is ambitious does not mean she will then usurp your role as husband and head of the family. It is not being unambitious that makes a woman to submit to her husband and become a good wife, as the Bible instructs. Rather, it is her maturity that makes her a good and submissive wife.
It is also about time that we encourage our women to not accept societal limitations on them and their ambitions. There is nothing in this world to suggest that a woman cannot do certain things. You want to be an entrepreneur? Yes, You Can. You want to go into active politics? Go for it, girl. You want to reach the zenith of your career? We are here to encourage and support you as your husbands, brothers and fathers. This should be the message that young Northern men of our generation should pass on to our women.
I have been in a few relationships, but enough to note that there is a gulf of difference in being with a woman with drive, passions and ambitions than being with a woman who has none. A woman with drive and passions recognizes same in a man, and she then seeks to support him and see that he becomes the man of his dreams. There are fewer things in a relationship worse than being unable to share your dreams with someone you love and are hoping to spend the rest of your life with. Or worse, sharing your dreams and all you get is an ‘ok’, or she asks you about your project thus, ‘how is that your thing’ off-handedly. There is basically no effort from her to see how she can support your dreams because all that matters to her is when both of you are getting married, and as soon as possible.
It is this present mind-set that largely makes our women to become marriage-obsessed, where you see girls in their early 20s having all their thoughts occupied by when and who they are going to marry rather than seek how to develop themselves and make impact in their societies. This is because they have been made to think that fulfilment for them in life comes when they marry; once that has been achieved, there is nothing more to aspire to, besides bearing kids.
Whenever I talk to young women about marriage and life, I always make reference to the Bible in Genesis 1:27-28, which goes thus:
“So God created human beingsin his own image.In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”(New Living Translation)
Both men and women have been created equally in God’s image. But unfortunately, we have made our women to believe their fulfilment is in marriage, as though they are created in man’s image. We have also misconstrued the charge ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ to only mean ‘to give birth to children’; on the other hand, it also means to multiply and be fruitful with whatever gift, talent, passions and abilities God has given us, men and women alike.
It will be disastrous if we continue to feed our women with the notion that their ambitions in life should not be too high lest they end up as old maids. We stand to be robbed of the immense positive contribution our women can bring to the society when we relegate them to be educated, baby-making machines.
A real man, secure in himself, will seek to bring out the best in his woman and encourage her to be the best she can ever be, even if it means that she will be more visible and prominent than he is.