By Karl-Chris R. Nsabiyumva
Photo by Rosalie Colfs
Put your feminist guns down people; I’m just asking a question not making a statement!
So I’m the kind of guy who can be quite emotional and moody, although I’ve also been told I’m mean and heartless. I think it all depends on the person (i.e. what they mean to me) and the situation (i.e. if I feel I’m being taken advantage of). Somebody told me I’m moody because I’m a “Cancer”. See, I don’t usually believe in horoscopes and reading stars but this association made me do some extensive research on what “Cancer men” are (supposed to be) like. I know this sounds silly (I still don’t believe in horoscopes and reading stars) but I swear some definitions were pretty accurate vis-à-vis my personality and reaction to certain situations. Anyway, that’s not the centre of today’s topic…
So when my moody-self makes an appearance, I often get one of the following reactions: “why are you behaving like a woman?”, “man up dude!”, “is it that time of the month?”, “are you on your period or what?”… I have come to understand that as a (Burundian/African) man, I’m not supposed to let my feelings out – or at least, I’m supposed to express them in a “manly” manner, whatever that means – but what I don’t quite get is when these “critics” and “encouragements” are voiced by women, as if my reactions bring me down a level; down to their level in fact… whatever happened to gender equality?
This encouraged me to do some research on how men and women deal with emotions, to see if there is any scientific evidence to prove that women are more emotional than men, which seems to be the popular belief… a belief which, if proven right, means that women are weaker than men, since strength seems to be all about keeping your emotions to yourself (at least as far as the emotions department is concerned).
The little information that I managed to gather testifies that men and women actually demonstrate the SAME level of emotion, but that women are more likely to express their emotions. Science also says that women tend to be more empathic to and have a better understanding of others’ emotions; whereas men are more likely to try to fix an apparent problem instead of getting all emotional about it. In a nutshell, science says that women are more verbal/expressive about their emotions and men are more interested with fixing the problem that caused the emotion (when it’s a negative one) i.e. women react and men fix.
This sort of helped me calm my spirits (yes, I was a bit worried that I really do “behave like a woman”) as I realised that whenever I get annoyed at somebody it is usually because they refused to recognise a problem that needs to be fixed… that does make sense, no? Okay, it is true that sometimes my reactions (too big) can be disproportional to the importance of an issue (too small?)… Anyway…
Now, I don’t know if the researchers ever included Burundian women in their study samples, or if impulsive reactions have anything to do with emotional intelligence; but I’ve always had the impression that the women here had more control over their emotions/impulses than the men. Yes, they’re still more expressive, but when it comes to being rational anybody will tell you that men tend to be more preoccupied with their egos than with resolving issues. Anybody will also tell you that, although it’s often the men who take all the credit, women tend to be the hardest working gender. Then you have expressions like “niko zubakwa” and “iyo ibiciro vya BRARUDI biduze, rasiyo iramanuka” which are clear demonstrations of who manages their impulses better… Besides, I’ve also heard a few guys complain that Burundian women are not in touch with (honest and communicative about) their emotions, a character trait which is supposed to be “manly”.
Well, this isn’t about determining who is stronger or weaker than the other; it’s just me wondering whether I should feel offended when asked to “stop behaving like a woman”… and it’s also me letting some lady friends out there know that the minute of silence which followed them asking me if it was “that time of the month” was me wondering if they realised how awkward and self-demeaning they sounded.
Karl-Chris currently lives and works in Bujumbura. Check him out at misterburundi.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @Mr_Burundi