“You Know Men Are So Helpless!” – Are Women Subtle Enablers?


It was November last year, and my amazing husband and I had gone to New York to run some errands and pick up a few things. We also decided to stop by the Nigerian Consulate, since we would be in New York anyway. While there, we were acquainted with an older woman, who needed some directions to the closest train station; we gladly obliged. While striking up some light conversation on our way, she made a statement that has stuck with me all these months later.

This older Nigerian woman asked my husband if he needed help carrying the bags he had in his hands. Of course, he politely declined her help. Then, she turned to me and said, “You know, if it were you carrying those bags, I wouldn’t have asked to help you.” Somewhat puzzled by her assertion, I waited for her to explain and she did – stating, “You know men are so helpless.” I was stunned and completely taken aback by her statement, but did my very best to act like nothing had happened. However, I have since continued to turn that statement over in my mind and dissect it.

I have thought about that woman and wondered about her children: “Does she have male and female children? Was she one of those women who treated her sons differently from her daughters – treating them like kings and having their sisters wait on their every whim: like clean up their rooms, while they sat back and watched TV? Did she give them special favours that she did not bestow on her female children? What were the differences between what she expected of her sons and what she expected of her daughters – in the household and in life?” Then, I had the most depressing thought of all: “Isn’t it possible that most of this woman’s contemporaries think the same way, too? If so, aren’t we somehow doomed as a society?” The questions have kept coming in mind, and I continue to mull them over. I wonder if I’ll ever stop!

The issue is that I, for one, consider her statement so ironic, yet so sad; because it offers up an explanation of sorts for the trends we have in our society as Nigerians. Isn’t it sad that our men are groomed from an early age to learn that they are leaders of their households and workplaces, yet are given free passes to be “helpless”? It is little wonder, then, that so many Nigerian men blame everything besides themselves for their infidelities – because they have been taught that they are “helpless” and cannot control their impulses.

Even worse, too many of these men become perpetuators of rape, because they have never been properly acquainted with the word, “No”. I have heard too many Nigerian women assert that cheating is just “something men do” and so, have no expectations of fidelity in their relationships. No wonder the abomination that is domestic violence remains endemic and so widespread because so many of these men have not been raised to believe that they can and should change the way they deal with anger, because they’ve been taught all their lives that they are “helpless” to control their anger, emotions and actions.

We definitely need a revolution of sorts. Not necessarily the kind that requires riots and marching in the streets, but in that place that counts the very most and is at the bedrock of every society – right there in our families.

What are your thoughts on this woman’s statement about the “helplessness” of men? How can we show the men in our societies, who have been raised with this mindset, that the value of a true leader is in the way he shows his love and tenderness, in his ability to serve, and his strength of discipline and control of his impulses?