By Adeoye Oyewole
There are biological definitions and configurations that I feel are forerunners of the gender roles we now play within the society. The sexes are biologically configured structurally and psychologically in certain ways that make them fulfill their sex roles structurally, physiologically and socially.
I want to believe, without prejudice, that homosexuality may have erupted from genetic accidents with inappropriate hormonal and consequent structural and psychological malfunctioning.
Gender, on the other hand, is the social definition of roles for the sexes, which I believe, are not unconnected with the biological influences and programming. Gender, assignments being social, is therefore not independent of the cultural software and heritage of that particular society.
There is the universal male, for instance, in terms of certain roles, duties, and expectations. Even in Nigeria, men play certain roles, which could be common across board, but differ in certain peculiar ways depending on the part of the country.
These cultural prescriptions are developed through an evolutionary trend based on the experiences of the progenitors in their quest for harmonious living between the sexes and the environment. Therefore, we have gender description and expectation of a male and of a female as products of our cultural heritage.
Patriarchy is the cultural definition in a social system where males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of the property. Some patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage. This patriarchal orientation in the context of the globalisation of values has been a template for the increased incidence of mental illness in our society.
Patriarchy flourished in the context of the subsistence economy of agrarian societies where might is right. In the face of globalisation of values, there is a challenge to the mental health of the males, who are beneficiaries of the dictates of patriarchy that are being reversed.
Men are psychologically challenged since they can no longer monopolise resources and predominate in the family setting because the women are now financially empowered. Although physically present in the family, a good number of the men are psychologically and emotionally absent in the family with many implications on the upbringing of the children, especially the boys.
The man may get depressed and mask it with the abuse of substances, especially alcoholism. They can also come up with other anti-social behaviours in the form of domestic violence, anxiety disorders, depressive illness, sexual dysfunction, and paranoid psychiatric disorders. This may make them lose their jobs, destroy their businesses and invariably destroy their marriages.
The woman is the primary recipient of the psychological dislocation of the patriarchal man, who may have suffered much domestic violence, become depressed and possibly murdered.
The mothers and the aunties teach the modern wife about the evil of patriarchy equipped to fight, not as women but as warriors, at the slightest manifestation of the patriarchal toga. They also stifle the finer qualities of womanhood such as adaptation, tenderness, sacrifice, and consideration as they acquire the combative psyche that makes the modern marriage an ego stalemate. It takes so much out of their mental resources that may lead to the abuse of substances, alcoholism and depressive illness with suicidal ideations, sexual indiscretion, binge eating and indiscriminate shopping.These women may also suffer from anxiety distress and in fact, breakdown mentally, which affects the nurturing of the children and breaks the fundamental unit of the society, which is the family.
This patriarchal crisis, especially in the context of the marital relationship, is largely responsible for the upsurge in the incidence of behavioural problems of our children. Our young men, irrespective of their social class, are born and reared in hostile psychosocial environments that damage their young minds, makes them readily vulnerable to social vices in the environment since the primary agent of socialisation, which is the family, is broken down.
These children easily experiment with drugs, such as marijuana, codeine, and tramadol, as a means of escape from the hostile psychosocial environment at home produced by the patriarchal crisis in the marital relationship. The females are equally being largely recruited into the drug culture and engaged in all forms of sexual perversion, which impacts on their mental health.
Patriarchy as a cultural concept must be reviewed and redefined. Our men must be courageous to redefine and reinvent leadership in the context of the reality of our modern society and relinquish the old traditional concepts, while our modern wives should come up with redemptive scripts for flawed patriarchy rather than going combative. Children should also learn to define and adhere to sound principles of life that generate success, irrespective of the family situation since orphans have become successful adults.