Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Rise and Fall of the New Man

A silent revolution is taking place in the emerging African communities in Australia. But not everyone is happy with the recent developments in the new order, as roles and responsibilities continue to change.

The point to note is that the once proud and powerful African men have swapped their traditional role as the sole breadwinner for more home duties, through no fault of their own. They are the victims of circumstances!

In the age of constant change, the traditional power relationship between men and women is breaking down faster than one could imagine. Gone are the dominant male ethos and the sharp distinction between the public and private domains. The division of labor along gender lines has all but disappeared; giving way to a more inclusive definition of roles and responsibilities. Hence, the rise of the new man!

In families where women have a measure of economic power and the freedom that goes with it, and where men are generally unemployed or under-employed, the definition of the breadwinner has changed forever. The glow of feminine power (and glory) is there for all to see – a development that has been more evident in the new and emerging communities than anywhere else in Australia.

Thus, for the first time in living memory, the hitherto powerless African woman has tasted the fruits of real power and freedom in domestic affairs. And having achieved the all important financial power in her own right, she is not about to relinquish control.

Thanks to the phenomenon of migration which has been a positive factor in women’s lives. And an absolute nightmare for the African men!

Now, the all powerful (and all conquering) male has become a sorrowful soul in exile; and no one cares.

In fact, as the female member of the household becomes the new breadwinner by default, it’s the hapless male who does all the cooking and cleaning and washing and ironing; albeit, for reasons of survival (although, deep down, most men still look to the “good old days”; obviously believing that staying at home with kids is a woman’s work). Indeed, this is a new and challenging development for the African man in Australia.

Nevertheless, the new man is a loving and caring man, who brings a lot of talent and creativity to the new society. He probably feels comfortable working at home; caring for his wife and kids; doing the daily battle for survival, while at the same time trying to come to terms with the demands of living in a post-industrial society.

But things are not always what they seem!

And even in the best of times, the new power relations is taking its toll on the African family; increasing tension at home and, inevitably, leading to a high rate of separation and divorce; especially among the new migrants and refugees.

Thus, having lost his traditional power and status in the new and ever-changing environment, the African man is a shadow of his former self – a dejected soul pre-occupied with status anxiety; forever dreaming of honor and respect!

Now, to add insult to injury, his self-image has been damaged beyond repairs. He thinks he could no longer discipline his children. Nor punish. Nor impose his will on the family, as he used to do in the old country.
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