Giving boys feminine names robs them their masculinity

A mother holding her son. (Courtesy/iStockphoto)

When you want to get Kenyans attention, either introduce a product that wakes up sleeping men or Okra to women. Alternatively, just introduce a matter that antagonises the genders and you will have comments streaming in from TikTok to the backstreet of Isiolo town.

One of the hottest topics started by motivational speaker Robert Burale recently was the matter about Kikuyu women giving their sons female names. The subject has generated a lot of interest and hot debate from across board. Where I come from, I have seen men not only take so much pride in their masculine family names but also go a notch higher to acquire names that appear dangerous. It is very common to hear a Luo man refer to the other as Ondiek, Nyang’, Otoyo and so on.

If you care to find out, these are all names of dangerous animals with nothing beautifully fancy about them or their ways of life. In the lead up to finishing primary school, the boys came up with all sorts of names scribbled on the walls and roof rafters. Saddened by the fact that they were leaving after eight years, they sought ways to be remembered eternally by the community behind.

Names such as Omange wuod Mbita, Jim Wuod Jabilo, Janabi Wuod Osimbo et cetera et cetera were written all over in erasable ink and chalk that sadly would be wiped out in record time anyway. Give it to them, they tried to leave a masculine mark emphasizing on their surnames. Burale’s topic thus touched a nerve that touches on the pride of men and the pursuit of independence for women.

You see, I said masculine mark because the boys hated feminine names despite adoring their mothers. None of them ever wrote Jonathan son of Mary or any pointer to the fact that they had reputable mothers in the community like the great Domtila from Karachuonyo. In fact, not even the boy whose mother Nya’Ramaba was widely respected for her exploits in farming aimed to immortalize that bit of his heritage. Instead, he scribbled his father’s name, a humble man who lived a quiet life - the family name.

This century has forced the society to adjust on the seams under great pressure and tension. Quite often, the seams have had to burst open to accommodate the newness of things in a myriad of areas and the transformations thereof. Of course, life is transient. The best dancers exit the stage at some point and some beautiful stories may just fizzle out. The same way, family, as was previously known, has adjusted to new formations that can cause confusions in naming, too. The Burale subject has deep cultural rooting and ramifications.

Logically, there are grown men who have argued that in the Kikuyu culture, children were named after the head of the household. What happens when the head of the household is the woman? Certainly, the kids take up her name either because she is the sole parent available for referencing or the man is pegged back by other dynamics.

Maybe he is deadbeat or he could be married and his family names must be protected for his legal children strictly. From an emotional standpoint, women, out of anger, have also fed their children false information about the Kikuyu and, by extension, the African culture of naming. Over time, single mothers have succeeded in sowing the seeds of confusion on the young men under their care to spite their former lovers and to assert their dominance.

We have consequently corrupted any pride the boys might associate with a man’s surname and injected large volumes of gynocentric perceptions into their systems. In effect, we have mentored a generation of male feminists who find everything wrong with the men behind their creating and would hate to identify with them, choosing to be Wa Njeri or wuod Mary. This thing is a manifestation of a systemic gender warfare that is rooted in bitterness that has no boundaries, and many young men, owing to the various dynamics find themselves fighting from the enemy’s frontline.

While the West have had their fair share of gender issues that we are intent to ape, the independent women out there have never fancied giving their male children names that are feminine in nature.You see, Mwangi wa Gathoni is like the Kenyan equivalent of a man supposedly called Dolly Jessica in the West. It is outright repugnant to meet a man with such a name even if he were the most handsome man under roof.

How do you report to your friends that a man called Jesicca is hitting on you and you like him? That prospect will be questioned even before they ask to see his well chiseled jawline. With such a name it is hard for a man to qualify from the group stage of the tournament.

But, assuming he ascends to the road test level, tell me which woman would be excited to moan out the Jessica aloud name even with the support of Okra? What I am saying is that a masculine name even brings a balance on the relationship, makes one feel the company of a man and encourages the weaker gender to moan even with the weakest attack on her hardened walls while taking the test drive with a new applicant.

It explains why a girl with a beautiful surname inherited from her father suddenly can meet a rogue Nigerian and simply adopt a Fwufwu name. The effects of these changes are detrimental to the boys.


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