Being Manly by Being “Womanly”: Supporting an Endo-warrior from an African Perspective

In the blazing heat of the day, an elderly man visited me. My wife was not around. He spoke to me in a concerned tone. Sensing that he has some burden that he wants to share with me, I encouraged him to feel free. After a deep sigh, he began talking to me with a voice that was marred with sorrow.

"I have something that I want to share with you that is sensitive," he said. "The community is concerned about you," he added. "They think something must be wrong with you." I was a new pastor in that area. I wondered what wrong I have done. When he saw the puzzled look on my face he said, "You are a man and a pastor, right?". I nodded in agreement. "It is not manly to fetch water for your wife. That behavior is womanly. People are saying that your wife used some traditional medicines to turn you into a foolish man." I laughed at such a thought because I knew that it was rooted in the misapplication of the African culture. It was against the principles of ubuntu that I hold so dearly. In a rural district where we fetched water from a borehole. It was about a kilometer from the house we were living in. I would push a wheelbarrow to the borehole and back. This was a joy to me.

In one class I attended, there was a heated debate on whether a man should do things that are considered feminine. The composition of the group was largely African men and few African women. While Christian, the controversy was more inclined to traditional thinking. Some went to the extent of saying that even in illness, no man should do dishes, wash clothing, and cook. I understood the background of the discussion. Although being an African, I did not agree with them. I think we can be manly by being “womanly”. As a man living with a woman that is struggling with endometriosis, I want to share ideas of becoming manly by being womanly. These are anchored in two cardinal principles that I value:

1.Defining my marriage: Since the early days of my marriage, I have not been bothered by what others think a real African man should do. Living according to a script that the world has written for me is not only intolerable but unacceptable. People (and this includes me) may suggest how you should run your marriage, get the essentials from their but define your marriage. Remember the words of Erwin W. Lutzer “Milk as many cows but make your own butter.”
2.Loving my wife unconditionally: I have learned to love my wife in spite of being childless. Marriage is not validated by procreation, love is the glue that cements it.

Below are the ideas I shared on how a husband can support an endo-warrior:

   a)Accompany your wife to the doctor. Companionship can never be replaced.
   b)Assist her to do some chores. Nothing consoles than a husband who cares.
   c)Prepare delicious meals for her when she is struggling with period pains.
   d)When others talk ill about her, protect her. Be her shoulder.
   e)Buy her fresh flowers and tell her she means a lot.
   f)Nothing beats the ministry of presence. If you have nothing to say, it is better to quietly sit with her with your arms around her.
   g)The ministry of touch makes a great difference. You can just sit by her bedside, and rub her back. Passionately touching her without saying much communicates that while she may not be in a position to provide you with sexual satisfaction (during the time of her illness), you still love her with passion.

I salute the endo-warriors who are enduring the pain. From a male perspective, they are manly indeed. I dedicate the words below to such women:

   o When a wounded soldier forgets about her woundedness, but picks up her gun and begins to fight for the cause of those she represents, I call it the warrior's RESURGENCE from the pit of pain to the pinnacle of praise.
   o When the wounds become deep and almost septic, and she still fights on, I call it the warrior's RESISTANCE of negative thoughts.
   o When it seems hopeless, yet she still charges like an injured buffalo, I call it the warrior's RESILIENCE in an unwelcoming environment.
   o When she decides to look at her wounds from God's angle, I call it the warrior's REEXPERIENCE of God's goodness.

I salute and celebrate men who support endo-warriors. From a female perspective, they have a mother’s love that lasts long. I dedicate my third poem in 2020 to them. It is written from an ubuntu approach and buried in my own African culture.

I am Still an African

I've seen it the in the way they look.
Their thought that real men don't cook.
Nor go down to the drinking water brook.
That's against our ideas in the culture book.
To me, it looks altogether very ooky.
Yes, I am still an African.

I have learned that marriage is not a race.
Neighbors and significant others to outpace.
It is a product of real love, joy and grace.
Undetermined by views from the public space.
From misguided boots, I chose to unlace.
With selfish ideologies to erase.
My darling’s artwork not to deface.
Yes, I am still an African.

Love ignores suggested gender roles.
In dust and ashes of shame, she rolls.
As she rushes to where true duty calls.
Rumbling past undesirable popular polls.
To help the one she endears and extolls.
With a soothing voice she calls.
Yes, you are still an African.

By Sikhumbuzo Dube,
Born to win, inspired to excel.