Monday, April 27, 2009

Gender Factor In Igbo Culture

By Wisdom Nwaiwu, The Tide

We cannot envisage, or imagine life without sexuality. Human existence hinges to a large extent on sexuality. This assertion is predicated on the assumption that our personality, behaviour, emotions and attitudes stem from our sexuality. Human beings possess a hereditary psycho-physical potential for the reproduction of human species and this is carried out by sexual experience.

The concept of sexuality can be defined in many ways notably in terms of our gender identity or in the sense of being male or female. Sexual identity becomes significant in our lives as soon as we are born. This can be observed even in the dresses of baby boys and baby girls, which vary. As children grow older, the males tend to identify with their fathers while the females imitate their mothers. Then, as soon as maturity sets in, sex takes on a new meaning. We tend to experience new feelings about people of the opposite sex and eventually may engage in various types of sexual behaviour.

Within the Igbo cultural milieu, sexual behaviour and necessary schemes in developing the ability to get along smoothly and pleasantly with the opposite sex especially among the youths is remarkable.

But it is necessary to correct some cultural misgivings about human sexuality in order to appreciate the positive reality of the concept of human sexuality.

The term sex or gender refers to the biological differences between a male and a female. A lot of factors have been identified as responsible for biological determination of sex. There are patterns of chromosomes that determines gender. Notably, males have an XY pattern while females have XX chromosomonal pattern.

However, it is not intended here to go into the details of biological determinants of sex but those physiological appearances which determine sexual identity.

Boys and men tend to have heavier bones and muscles than female. The two sexes play different roles in life and to become a man psychologically the male must learn to feel like a man. Part of his feelings, thinking and acting comes from experiencing the contrast between himself and girls. Part to it too, lies in the experience of being attached to girls and in associating with them in the role of the male.

When we are faced with the question of why the sexes are different, the most obvious reason is that they are built differently and the differences in structure influence their needs, interests and preferences. The reason this is less obvious to many people is that the sexes differ because society makes them different.

For instance, even as children, the types of dresses presented by parents and relations to male children differ from those of females. Gradually, they grow to think themselves differently.

Furthermore, from the aspect of social and cultural perspection, one homogenous factor that looms large among the Igbos is sex roles. Sex roles involve the set of behaviour and attitude that are determined to be appropriate for one sex or the other in society.

Boys and girls are taught appropriate behaviour for their particular sex, and are encouraged to reflect these behaviour in their life styles. By the time they are mature young adults, they must have learnt the cultural norms regarding sex roles and sexual behaviour.

Since he has been taught these sex roles, the young male begins to think of himself as a boy and as being different from the girl in interests, strength, appearance, attitude and abilities. In this process too, the girl will identify with her mother. This means that she will feel herself like her mother when she washes dishes, sweeps etc. similarly, the boy will identify with his father.

Nwaiwu wrote in from Aba

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