NTV Men, a show on NTV Uganda has stirred some conversation on their choice of topic – in my opinion, not enough conversation. In its current state, the show spends too much airtime talking about women and calling on one woman to explain all the ways of women. Great topics devolve as a result. The most recent example being the “Should girls inherit?” conversation that used a problematic frame – an alternative conversation could have been had on family wealth and inheritance, dealing as well with conflict resolution given the divide between the inherited colonial laws and cultural practices.
The show keeps women as a frame of reference when there is a lot to unpack with masculinity. It is a lost opportunity to have a show by men not have conversations on manhood, masculinity in this era and generally talk to us about what it means to be a man in Uganda, and in the world. Here are some ideas for the production team (you’re welcome):
- Hey mister! Gendered forms of address
Women get to be called Mrs when they are married to signal their belonging to a man – while the men get to be called Mr at any point. During the first waves of feminism, women added Ms as another way to be addressed without any reference to the presence or absence of a partner.
What do men feel about Mr/Mrs/Ms? Do they feel strongly about their partners taking on their names, or do they want to take on their wives’ names? Can the kids hyphenate?Then with the increasing information and critique, we have found that even the gendering of address is a problem. What do men think about using gender-neutral forms of address? There are options like Mx.
- Sexual harassment: the power men exercise
Following #MeToo and more women coming out to address issues of sexual abuse, men have started to think about the ways in which they interact with women. They never thought as much about how they interacted in the workplace, what it meant when they said what they said or when they ignored the woman’s hesitation. It is important for this conversation to talk about power.
How do men feel about #MeToo? How are men listening to women? How are men questioning their power now? In these times, how are they expressing interest in women? How are they interacting in the bar and in the workplace?
- Consent and sex
While similar to sexual harassment, a separate conversation specifically about consent is needed. Here again, the conversation on #MeToo has highlighted issues of consent – and men should be thinking, and discussing, about how they date and how they engage in sexual relationships.
Do men understand consent? When do they assume consent? How are they seeking consent? Also, how are they giving consent? Are men always willing?
- Birth control for men?
Usually women are responsible for contraception in their partnerships. However, is it only them that should remember to take the pill, get an IUD, or decide even what the birth control plan looks? There have been many attempts to figure out contraception for men, and this year (2018), there is a hormonal gel that is going to be tried out in six countries – one of them, neighboring Kenya.
Who is responsible for contraception in the relationship? Is there a conversation on birth control within sexual relationships or is it assumed that one party will handle it? What are men’s preferences for contraception? Would they take the daily pill if it were available for them?
This was a great health topic, and more should be explored:
- Bromance: how do men love other men?
Men are brought up to be tough and not express affection, especially with their fellow boys and men. However, they do build longlasting relationships and ideally express their attachment and affection in some way.
What are the forms of address men in Uganda use with their friends? Comrade, bro, chief? And how can we unpack those – or are we unable to? How have male friendships evolved over the years, across generations? How do men take care of each other? What boundaries do they construct, why and how do they maintain them?
- Non-sexual relationships with women
Men will usually tease each other about friendships with women, and there is the assumption that all friendships across gender will lead to something sexual. But not every woman likes her male friend and not every man wants to sleep with their friends.
How do men form friendships with women? Do they always want to sleep with their friends? What are the complications of such narratives? What does it mean to not fit within this narrative?
This discussion about “friends with benefits” is interesting and clickbaity – but it would be interesting for such a platform to deconstruct masculinity.
- Boy clubs and how men do business
The “boy club” or “men’s club” has been around for a long time – from the “we went to Buddo together” to gangos who drink at the same bar and do business together. These are valuable connections that often allow men to do business and advance in careers – all over a bottle of Nile while watching some football.
What is the state of the “boys club” in Kampala? Do men close the big deals in the boardroom or in the bar? What has that meant for business in the country? Who gets to access these spaces and who gets left out of them? How do male executives who don’t drink navigate this space?
- Raising boy children in a slow economy
In a lot of homes, boys are pressured to show up – some of this pressure is directly applied while some comes from structural constructions in our society. Many young men and some under-18 have found themselves on lakeshores fishing, driving boda bodas and doing all kinds of work in order to make some money. There are those that have sold land to buy motorbikes; and those were supposed to be the more fortunate ones.
What happens to boys when they are not protected (by systems and by society)? What does that mean for homes and families; and for the nation on the macro level? What are the things a boy can become in this country – and how has that evolved over the years? What can we do?
- Weekend fathers: Being present in the home as fathers and partners
Many men within a certain social class spend less time with their families and more in the bars. They return home when the children are in bed and leave early for work before they’re up or after they’ve gone to school.
How are men fathering children? What do men know about their children? How are they being present in the home? Is being a partner and father about paying school fees and putting money on the table for the day’s needs? How do men learn about fathering? When is family time?
This was great:
*This is not an exhaustive list – that should be treated as suggestions that must be researched and fleshed out. The idea here is for NTV Men to deal with issues of masculinity and what it means to be a man in today’s Uganda, and not discussions on what women want or who or what a slay queen is.
It is also telling that the thumbnails (the YouTube video version of book covers) for the links I have chosen are images of women. Here is a platform that can be used to talk about boys and men, and how masculinity works (and could work). Let’s use it.