Have you watched the NESTLÉ Company’s advertisement on its Ideal Milk on television? The ‘scene’ begins with a reasonably young woman picking up a framed picture of herself and her little daughter. Let me call the young woman Madam Afua Mansah, and her little daughter Juliet. There is no male in the framed picture.
Is Madam Afua Mansah married, widowed or divorced? Or is it the case that she is married, but that picture was taken when her husband was away?
Madam Afua Mansah has hardly had time to admire the picture when the door bell chimes. When the door is opened, an elderly woman walks in, followed by an elderly man in fugu.
Let me call the man Mr. Thomas Osei, and the elderly woman Mrs. Mary Osei. Of course, it is a fair presumption that the two elderly persons are not only man and wife, but the parents of Madam Afua Mansah. Little Juliet warmly and smilingly embraces her grandmother. There is only a fleeting glimpse of Mr. Osei before he disappears from view temporarily.
The next moment, they all sit down to have a beverage, which, I suspect, could only be ‘Nescafé’ or ‘Milo’. For an infinitesimal fraction of a second, Mr. Osei is seen putting Ideal milk in his beverage before he passes the tin on to the others.
Not too long after, Madam Afua Mansah says, “My mother is quite an Ideal Lady.” Little Juliet also follows with, “And you are my Ideal Mum.” The picture then freezes, to be collected on the label of the Ideal Milk tin. In an earlier version of the advertisement, it was actually Mr. Osei who took the still picture. He is no longer seen as doing so. Just two fleeting moments for him. And that is all.
This account of the advert is not meant to be a criticism of NESTLÉ for snuffing out the man. After all, it is a fact of advertising life that advertising companies seem to think that women tend to make more appealing subjects for adverts.
In the business world, many corporate calendars feature more women than men. Women have increasingly been roped in to advertise a variety of products.
Perfumes and toiletries (obviously), cars, cigarettes (e.g. ‘Virginia Slims’). Alcoholic drinks, etc., are supposed to have greater appeal when beautiful women are pictured beside them, or made to appear to endorse them. A little suggestion of nudity (naked thighs or breasts) is intended to whet the appetite for the advertised products.
It has got to a point where an advert on ‘Contempo’ brand male condoms, rather shows a woman, and not a man, seductively advertising the six or seven types of the condoms. Why not employ a man who is going to use the condoms, anyway?
Perhaps, for the purposes of the Ideal Milk and the ‘Contempo’ brand male condoms adverts, the message is that men, whether as the male species of Homo sapiens, as husbands or fathers, have less appeal, or are a total nuisance, or a necessary evil, better not seen or heard.
Some of our misguided female gender advocates talk as if they think that, indeed, men are not needed at all in the lives of women. You have often heard the cry, “What men can do, women can also do and even do it better.” Unfortunately, sometimes, the behaviours of some Ghanaian men seem to reinforce the idea of their being irrelevant.
In the animal world, the domestic cock seems to think that as soon as it has fertilised the eggs of the hen, its job is over. Everything else – sitting on the eggs, hatching the chicks, feeding them and protecting them – is the job of the hen. Some men behave like that.
After sexually gratifying themselves, they deny the resultant pregnancy. They were not responsible. The poor girl may have slept with other men and got the pregnancy from them. They are respectable men in society. Consequently, the pregnancy, if broadcast, would disgrace them. Or they are happily married; what would they say to their wives? “Get rid of the pregnancy,” they charge.
Husbands of a particular socio-economic class have been known to run away from their wives, on being told that the wife has added triplets to the brood of eight children they already have. How would this husband be able to take care of the children and the wife? The solution? Run away.
Before the facility was introduced to make it possible for pregnant women to have their babies in state hospitals free of charge, there were a number of cases of such women being detained with their babies. Some of them managed to abscond from the hospitals. Where were the men who made them pregnant in the first place?
As a former headmaster, I can testify to the fact of women making sacrifices to ensure that their children had an education. In some cases, it turned out that these women had husbands. However, the husbands were not prepared to play their part in bringing up their children, though they could afford to do so.
There are female gender advocates, who are prepared to accord husbands a place in their lives. Unfortunately, some of them talk as if all that the husbands are good for is a 50-50 share in the household chores.
They argue that they and their husbands go to work and return home tired together. However, even where they claim that they share in the expense of running the household, they do not do a 50-50 share of the expenses.
The husbands take a lion’s share: electricity, water, telephone, medical prescription bills, school fees, etc. No, I have not forgotten the maintenance of the family car, the funeral donations, the care of the wife’s relations who come to stay with the couple, etc.
Where these wives pay part of the bills, they never make the husbands forget that it is not their (the wive’s’) duty to contribute to maintenance of the home. They do so grudgingly.
Let the husbands assert their position as the heads of the household, and they are quickly, directly or indirectly, reminded that they are not the be-all and end-all of the home. Woe to the husband who is not in financial control of his home.
He cannot open his mouth to criticise anything. He becomes the stranger in the home in the midst of the wife and children. The Ashanti’s call him “kunkoa”, literally, “husband-slave.”
There are many good men who, as husbands or fathers or both, are the pillars of their homes. They deserve a front role position. Without them, the home would disintegrate. They should not be consigned to the back-bench.
PS. The names adopted here have no reference to persons dead or alive.