One of my favourite books by a Ghanaian woman is Faceless which was written by Amma Darko.
It is a book that discusses the problem of street children, gender roles and the lingering effects of superstitious beliefs on the lives of women and girls.
In a part of the novel I have come to love, one of the characters called Kabria shed light on the two concepts of “weaponised incompetence” and “domestically lazy men”.
Although her husband was seen in the novel as better than other men simply because he came home everyday and did not abandon his family, for reasons best known to him, he acted clueless about domestic issues.
Kabria’s husband was also not proactive about ensuring that Kabria had better finances, such that he updated his car and yet made Kabria feel terrible each time she asked him for money to fix her old car.
By far what stood out for me in their marriage was this. It was the statement made by Kabria where she said that although women are seen as the “weaker sex”, women often work at the office and still return home to do domestic work. She went on to comment about how her husband who never contributed to domestic chores, complained about how tired he was each day he came home from work.
This was even if he regularly saw his friends after work for drinks because in his words: “A man has to let off steam”. For his wife though, there was no such opportunity to “let off steam” because she woke up early to prepare the kids, took them to school, went to her job, brought the kids back, went to the market and began to prepare the dinner for him.
This backdrop of Kabria and her husband is the reality of several women. From Nigeria, to Ghana and even to India, lots of women around the world have internalised the idea that women are weaker than men, but still do much more domestic work than their supposedly physically stronger husbands.
This is in addition to the fact that more women are working outside the home either out of choice or just plain financial necessity.
But why does any of this occur? Why is it that men who have more muscles than women and are actually physically stronger than women do not contribute effectively to the domestic upkeep of the home? Why is it that most men intentionally do nonsense cooking and cleaning, weaponise incompetence so that the women in their lives are forced to do it all the time?
This is even if some of these men were stellar cooks and had sparkling apartments prior to marriage.
Furthermore, why is it that women hardly question the domestic laziness of most men? Instead most women actually take joy when a healthy man compliments her for being a “wife material” who comes from her house and washes three day old plates in his sink? I don’t agree that women are the “weaker vessel”.
Women’s bodies have their own unique form of strength in childbirth and menstruation which men do not have; same way men are actually physically stronger than women such that they have an advantage in sports, thereby making the separate male and female categories in sports necessary.
The placing of women as weaker vessels is a misogynistic ploy to downgrade the strength of women in childbirth and also a ploy to insist that women’s bodies are not strong enough vessels to hold the good in the society.
But I digress. If women are seen as weak, then why are we doing a lot more domestic work than those who are the societally accepted stronger vessels? It is only logical that men do a lot more domestic work than women if we are to follow the logic of physical strength. Rather, most men are intentionally lazy because they see women as made to serve them.
Speaking with Enobong*, she shared that it is not only women in relationships who encounter the unhygienic audacity in men.
In her words: “I had an acquaintance, omg! I couldn’t even breathe in his kitchen. Couldn’t breathe baaaad. Plates from three days ago. Spaghetti, indomie, packs. I walked in and right there in the middle of the “living room” area was a dirty shoe, I believe he played football with it.
How can you leave plates for daysss and just dump indomie packs all over your kitchen counter. Me, that small sand under my leg, I want to die. Brother had a whole beach in his house.”
The stark reality is that until women remove the desire to be attached to a man in order to receive leftover respect, several women will couple up with domestically lazy men who still have the audacity to demand cleanliness from women.
We must raise boys and girls to adequately contribute their domestic and childcare bits so that future households are free of resentment and anger.
*Name changed to protect identity
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.