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A side mirror look at the men who "take care" of women

On April 10th, 2021, a friend of mine and fellow columnist, a cartoonist as he is mostly known, Dr. Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, posted a random observation on his Facebook wall, which read like this:

"Many relationships deemed to be ‘normal’ are just but normalised prostitution, perhaps with only one client. A prostitute demands for money in exchange for sex. So, do many others by expectation - only that they may not set a fee. They may soon abandon those who do not pay the undeclared dues, just for that reason. Isn’t that prostitution of some kind?"

Even when he was careful to maintain gender neutrality, the post, which, in my view, was philosophically stimulating, generated two major categories of responses, polarized along lines of sex.

To the males, the post was appreciated as that long-awaited message that one has been meaning to say but either they didn't have the right words to frame the message, or the kind of message that for fear of being judged or misunderstood, it has to be said by someone else.

After reading all the responses to the post, the feminism enthusiast in me was intellectually thrilled by mostly the responses from the females.

"Fellow women, let's not be derailed by Spire's post. It is very okay to get financial help [from men]. Women should be financially taken care of in a relationship. Your woman should not have to worry about paying [for] a damn thing. If you cannot afford to take care of a woman completely, don't date or pursue a woman until you can," said one female authoritatively.

"The table you are shaking has people's food on it," said one deeply concerned female.

“This time you are fighting the whole nation. You will end up being your own only friend, another female vehemently warned. Another one cautioned Spire to "stop sabotaging the economy!"

Yes, allow that to sink in. Supposedly, questioning a dangerous practice, where one gender must financially rely on another is detrimental to Uganda's already fragile economy. First, as a friend to Spire, there are articles, Facebook posts and cartoons that he publishes and cause me to fear for his safety.

However, for most of such publications, he mostly gets applauded and rarely gets any threats from the people he criticises.

Therefore, the very least of the posts that I expected to attract strong criticism, threats and dry humour is one where he is merely analysing society's gender dynamics.

After that small digression, let's return to the real issues of the unintended things that are implied by "men who can take care of women" notion.

Before we delve into the unfortunate implications of "the men who can take care of women," it is important that we make an attempt to situate the possible foundations of the "men who can take care" narrative.

Psychologists will probably link the notion of "men who can take care" to evolution and will argue that in terms of choosing reproductive and sexual partners, the line that separates our motivations are not significantly different from those of our immediate cousins - the Chimpanzees - with whom we are believed to share a common ancestry.

The reasoning is that the ability to provide security and to look for more food makes the male chimpanzees that are bigger and stronger more desirable, in the same way that female humans currently find rich men, the ones who "can take care" as extremely very attractive and desirable for courtship, sexual relations and reproduction.

And logically, any woman must run for their life in case they are approached by a man who is not wealthy. Although we will return to the obvious sexism, and woeful flaws in the evolutionary narrative during the second part of this article, it is important to note that just like so many other destructive norms of our society, the notion of "men who can take care" is a disguised form of prostitution that has been normalised by interweaving it or pairing it with other societal norms and practices that are highly cherished.

For instance, one will tell you that it is part of African culture for men to take care of women. The logic is to coerce anyone who glorifies ‘African culture’ to inevitably subscribe to the "men who care for women" narrative.

Others make desperate attempts to justify the “men who take care” narrative by misquoting and misinterpreting specific religious texts to justify that it is a divine command for men to take care of women.


The writer is a social worker

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