If you are lucky enough or even unlucky enough to be of the male sex in a romantic relationship, you are expected to be ‘a man’, ‘the man’ of the relationship. And being ‘the man’ of the relationship does not come cheap. It costs money. A lot. You’re expected to foot the bills. Sometimes all of them! You quite naturally feel that you should be the man for the job. And the female whole-heartedly accepts to accept you as such: the sponsor, financier, the bankroller, the man. The male is the man. He should be in charge. He must be in charge. He should be the one with the money. He must be the one who spends, even splurges! And it’s because you are the man.
The females are to be the beneficiaries, the recipients of the man’s ‘manliness’. They are supposed to be laidback. They are supposed to shrink themselves so that the man has enough space to feel free to be be his man. They must not threaten the man with their money. The man should have it. And it is how we have been socialised to see romantic relationships. We don’t raise children to see romantic relationships as partnerships in which the differences between male and female are desirably key to their proper functioning. Rather, we raise boys to see themselves as natural bosses in relationships. Boys are raised to take care of girls: girls are raised to be taken care of. In other words girls are taught from the outset that when they are ready to go into romantic relationships or marry, they ought to get a man who can take care of them. Our boys are taught to be men when they grow.
Many men even before they get married to their gilrfriends( or fiancees), they would have taken care of them: paying school fees, paying rent, changing wardrobes, providing for daily expenses, buying phones and credit, footing the bills of birthdays and Valentine’s day… and lately buying pizza.
Now when men begin to take care of ladies even before they propose marriage to them, it cements their entitlement to them. They should call the shots. They should call the tune of the relationship and the ladies must dance to it, after all, they pay the piper: they foot the bills. When the ladies attempt to assert their rights or act as equal partners in a naturally unequal partnership, it irks the men. The men then resort to every strategy available to silence them and continue to dominate, including physical violence.
At the root of violence in many relationships is the taking-care-of( bill-footing) phenomenon. Of course there are many other causes, but bill-footing clearly accounts for a chunk of these cases.
In most “violence in romance” cases, including the recent stabbing that happened on the University of Ghana campus, the men consistently rationalise their dastardly acts with having taken care of the ladies. They say something like: “I have been taking care of her so she has no right to do this or that.” Implied in this statement is that they( the men) would have been more restraint if they hadn’t taken care of the ladies.
What if we raised both boys and girls to see romantic relationships as partnerships in which either party can spend, in which men do not feel coerced to be the providers, in which ladies don’t find it odd to spend? What if being female or male didn’t matter, but whoever had resources felt unhampered by cultural notions to take charge of the relationship?
Or what if in romantic relationships, men just stopped taking care of ladies and ladies refused to be taken care of?
For now, they is a near crisis situation of violence in romance and me must all do out bit to address it before it takes or destroys more lives.