I’m a vicenarian cis-gendered man who to this minute, hour and day scuffles with the idea of masculinity. It has always been complex for me. Perhaps an easy peasy way of putting it would be to say, just like the development of most of my ideas, my personal concept of machismo has always been amorphic and unsullied.
I was raised by a woman and can rarely name a significant male influence on my life. To exacerbate it, I can count on one finger the number of friends in my neighbourhood whose fathers were even marginally in their lives. I don’t have memories of sitting under a Msasa or Mupane tree with a grandpa or pops who gave me life lessons on manhood. My perspective on fatherhood, how a man should treat a woman and what a “real man” does all come from the same place: I’m making this shit up as I go along.
Twice a day or more, I visit GQ, Esquire, Details, Players, FHM, Loaded magazines or Men’s Journal or watch male-focused programmes on TV just to see how other men are managing it. Which is why – when I look at how many of us frame masculinity, particularly in black communities – the notions of masculinity are not just alien to me, but remarkably self-destructive.
I stand to be remedied, but I don’t think I would be shooting farther than the truth when I say I believe the way we think about masculinity and manhood come from a complex alloy of societal prejudice and biology. Neo-liberal schools of thoughts would have us believe that all our preconceived notions of manhood are based on ancient social patriarchy, while regressive traditionalists advance the notion that some things just are – because of biology, Jesus or “that’s how things are supposed to be.” My grandma was less progressive about ideas, expression and thought, so I had the conditions of gender norms instilled into my psyche. I also happen to exist in a Black world that I always believed never valued masculinity, but the perception of it.
Introspective debates about the reasons for and the effects of the oddity of nuclear families and absent fathers or parents can be heard elsewhere, but one of its byproducts is that the linear passing of masculine values from father to son has manifested itself in a puzzling form: We have mistaken masculinity for maleness. In the absence of transferring the intrinsic generational values of self-sacrifice, reverence for woman and family-over-everything, manhood has largely been morphed into crotch-grabbing, hypersexual, fist-clenched, unsmiling and toxic braggadocio. It has separated itself into two sections: real men or kings and p*ssies/cowards or simps, as others on Twitter are calling it.
Note the connotation of the p-word. The p-word is feminine. Essentially, p-men have feelings; they emote and won’t bust guns when they snap. Kings or real men will. Real men don’t buy broads drinks at the bar because they can’t feed into the gold-digging cycle. Real men don’t love these h*es. P-word men do. In fact, p-word men “wife” these h*es and get their hearts broken eventually because all “women are manipulative” and all about the paper. Real men know it’s “masculinity over love”, so they don’t give in to or chase “alpha widows”.
For a minute, let’s take a detour to basketball real quick. Most players, if not all, are accustomed to believe the keys to the sport and getting more rings are slam dunks, cross-over dribbling and launching three-pointers. That person would be a better, more well-rounded player if he learned the fundamentals of defensive spacing, ballhandling, shooting form and the complexity of the bounce pass, but those skills require hours of dedicated coaching. Masculinity, particularly in black and brown communities, has become a dunk contest because we don’t teach the art of the midrange jump shot. We take contested threes instead of making a clean bounce pass. Shooting free throws doesn’t look pretty enough. Walking away from fights is immasculine.
We equate this fake masculinity with strength, so, conversely, femininity and anything that doesn’t fit into this paradigm is a weakness and a pellucid sign of a simpleton. It is not masculinity that we value, but hollow maleness. In this world, we do not make room for anything outside this dumbed-down definition of manhood. A gay black man should be blacklisted because he is not really a man under this fabricated falsehood, but we embrace our uncle with six children and three baby-mamas.
Manhood is simply one thing: Responsibility. It is sobering and unexciting. It is seldom applauded. It manifests itself in stability and strength. It is neither toxic nor poison, and this is a type of manhood we don’t talk about it. We don’t embrace it. We don’t even seem to value it.
In fact, it is this kind of humane maleness that Only-God-Knows-Who-Made-Him-The-Mouthpiece-Of-Masculinity and self-proclaimed Male Relationship Coach Tawona Shadaya is shoving to extinct. This fellow vicenarian brother has for a minute been pushing his warped ideas of what constitutes to “real masculinity”. An enormous population of right-thinking humans calls what he stands for “toxic masculinity and downright cyberbullying” but he and his echo walls package it as a “brutal truth”.
On Friday, a case happened where a neurologist named Lenon Gwaunza thought it was cool to openly confess his love and adoration of lawyer and politician Fadzayi Mahere on Twitter. In Gwaunza’s own words, the lawyer is “the most intelligent and beautiful woman” he knows and he figured that he’d “shoot his shot” on social media. The conversation quickly escalated from being about the two to vast COVID-19 fundraising schemes, date plans with corporate sponsorship, and being a ludicrous battle for professional glory that pitied medical and legal practitioners.
Apparently, almost every Twimbo thought what Gwaunza and Fadzi did was funny and a humane thing to do but Shadaya, and a few others. The controvertible social media personality who spells out his engagement as a mission to ‘bring back masculinity’ wasted no time to put a Twitter thread entitled The Simp & The Alpha Widow which somehow sought to explain Gwaunza and Mahere’s matter.
In his usual largely macho and dismissing tone, Shadaya insinuated that for Lenon a “simp” to pander for a woman’s attention by “shooting his shot” on the TL was a clear testament that he lacked the poise to approach a woman. As he “figured he’d be ignored,” Lenon thus employed worship like words in his address to “pedestalise Mahere “like a Goddess’.
Upon realisation that Gwaunza was “a simp”, Fadzi who is derogatorily referred to as “The alpha widow”, thought it was only brilliant to expediently “use him to push her own agendas,” whatever those were.
“Kings, if a woman is giving you terms & conditions for a date, she isn’t interested. You’re never an alpha to any woman who make you wait in any form,” advised Shadaya.
As the story continued, Shadaya added that Lenon’s relentless pursuit to please Fadzi by giving in to her requests was an embarrassment, not only to himself but “the entire manhood”. Everything the “nice guy” does, from the gift giving, constant praise is consciously or subconsciously done to gain her approval or avoid disapproval, Shadaya said.
In his assessment, Shadaya, who happens to be pursuing a master degree at an institution he can’t disclose “for privacy” sake, said that the story of Fadzi and Lenon presented the world with “a guy who despite being academically & financially successful is a simp.”
“This guy lacks masculine assertiveness. And we also have a woman who climbed the ladder so high, that she doesn’t know how to be a woman anymore. She lacks feminine attractiveness,” he wrote.
“Conclusion: if this dates(sic) does take place, which I probably think will since the simp will do everything it takes to make it possible. It really won’t lead anywhere, just one of those dates, a simp gets used,” concluded Shadaya.
Just for reference, this is the same Shadaya who once said that ‘women age like milk’ and ‘men age like wine“. According to his gospel, men need to be in a relationship where they are “needed, respected, trusted” and told that they are “good enough”.
Just under two weeks ago, he had a feverish exchange with radio personality Misred after she tweeted a self-love photo, celebrating her worthy. Somehow, the charming pile of tainted testosterone better known as “coach” Shadaya hijacked the conversation from being about self-love to being about a “male-female” philosophical debate on women’s gullibility to the “baby daddies” cycle.
Since then, there’s been a lot of renewed talk about toxic masculinity, particularly amongst observers. In all of these dialogues, perhaps what has been most striking is how some section of men instinctively equate masculinity with toxic behaviour, as if the two are synonymous and inextricable. In other words, we have a lot of folks too lazy to do the work of basic discernment, let alone personal accountability.
For all his seemingly tremendous insight and intellect on ‘real manhood”, Shadaya has glaring blind spots when it comes to forthright masculinity. How disappointing is it when it is coming from clearly a person entirely capable of sound judgment and coherent, measured thoughts?
In Shadaya’s world, men place the weight of the world on women: wanting of them, asking of them and taking from them. They expect women’s hearts to be homes when men are in need but rarely offers the same refuge in return.
While “real and influential” coaches on masculinity are using their platforms and voices to shine a light on the perils and misconceptions of masculinity within the black communities, Shadaya uses his platform to build the “perfect” image of stone-cold masculinity by destroying the institution of feminism, which he legibly confuses with misandry. He is not alone on this quest: the fact that there is a galvanisation to support him despite what he stands for is not only a manifestation of generational assault on women but a telltale of how deep and wide detrimental masculinity has taken over our community. The increment in his following, RTs and Likes is very much about how his echo walls give him the power and resources to keep doing what he does.
This is bigger than Shadaya. Our community has created a brute idea of masculinity that only listens to women when it serves men. We don’t give women the space to be heard, the space to be safe and the space to celebrate themselves lest they would be left undressed by masculinity. As black women continue to fear sharing their truth, knowing they will be called liars and have their worlds torn apart by men like Shadaya and his apologists, we have to ask ourselves, are we creating the monsters or are we the monsters?
Calls have been called numerous times to cancel, report or mute him but as incessant as the credence he champions, Shadaya is still standing and only getting bigger. Apparently, he has no intention to defuse the situation and concoct a response that will save his orbital bone from a compound fracture. Let us hope and pray that he either has a good ass insurance plan if ever he ever wants to pursue a career as a men relationship coach. Or a vibranium orbital bone to fight humanity for the rest of his life for what he belives.