A friend of mine had just broken up with his girlfriend, when they seemed to have been getting along quite fine. On asking him what caused the breakup, he said with ease that “she was not wife material”. I got even more curious because this phrase is often used to describe women that party too much or women who do not care at all or ‘enough’ about the domestic domain.
My friend clarified that she was not a party animal or lacking in domestic skills. She was however not wife material because she did not submit to him. At this point my feminist blood was boiling as I wondered how anyone would have the nerve to ask another human being to submit to them. I asked him what exactly this submission was all about, and what it entails. To which he responded that submission was about making him feel like a man.
‘Wow!’ I remarked, at the thought of how ambiguous that job description was. ‘How is she supposed to make you feel like a man?’ I asked. Before he could answer, I asked him, ‘and why don’t you feel like a man?’. I pointed out that it was rather obvious to me that he was a man, and I imagined it was that obvious to everyone else. If I had talked to him on the phone, without meeting him, I would be 99% sure (leaving room for any possibility) that he was a man. I continued to point out how his name, his dressing, and his demeanor all bore the cultural markings of being male. I didn’t need to undress him to confirm that his genitalia was indeed male. After pointing all that out, I asked him again why he didn’t feel like a man?’.
He rambled something about how I had misunderstood what he meant by ‘being made to feel like a man’. He said that it was not about being a man, biologically, but about having his ego soothed. That apparently, was what was required to make him feel like a man. The next question was how and why? How do you soothe the ego of a man, and why is it necessary for him to have his ego soothed for him to feel like a man? Why can’t he just feel like a man, based on his anatomy? And why is it the business of a woman to soothe his ego?
At this point, he was also equally angry with my questions, and he said that I was exactly the kind of woman his ex was. A woman who doesn’t care to understand and meet the needs of her man. Women like me, he said, are a pain in the neck for any man to have, and that is why we are labeled ‘girlfriend but not wife material’. His suggestion to me was that I need to change, or be single all my life, or even if I’d get married, I’d be miserable, because my husband would cheat on me with a woman that would pamper his ego. I was made to understand that men are created with the need to have their egos pampered, which is why the Bible is clear that women should submit to their husbands. It is the way God created man, and a woman who doesn’t understand that, needs to contend with an unhappy life.
I questioned that clause in the Bible, to which he responded, the Bible was the word of God, and should never be questioned. We should just obey it wholly as it is. At this point, it was clear that we would not agree, so we left it at that. On the same day, a local daily published an article about pampering the ego of a man in order to keep him. A woman in her 40’s working as a manager, gave an example of how she would pretend not to understand what was happening in the news, and would ask for explanations from her husband to make him feel smart. I sent my friend the article, asking him if this is what he meant. He never responded, and we never spoke again. My questions remain unanswered, what exactly does the word submission mean? Why do (some) men need it? And if it’s about being made to feel like a man, why don’t you feel like a man?