What It Is Like Growing up Being Effeminate In Nigeria

 “By far the worst thing we do to males — by making them feel they have to be hard — is that we leave them with very fragile egos.”

— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author

I believe the term “effeminate” is a derogatory term to men who act a certain way as if to think there is a defined way to which a man should be. You may not like to say it, but it is all about TOXIC MASCULINITY. There is no one way to be a man.

I grew up in the western part of Nigeria, gladly, I have the best experiences in comparison to what my friends who grew up in other parts of the country have said, but there is one thing that is certain, we have all been called ‘sissy’ a couple of times.

“Toxic masculinity” is tricky. It’s a phrase that—misunderstood—can seem wildly insulting, even bigoted

Meka, 22 says boys seem to have been largely left out of the conversation about gender equality. Even as girls’ options have opened up, our lives are still constricted by traditional gender norms: being strong, athletic and stoic and when you are none of that, you are taken to be weaker or told ‘man up’.

He expresses the ideologies to the defined thoughts of other men around him “They think because you care for your skin, or extra neat, you are too feminine. You are therefore discouraged from having interests that are considered feminine. You are told to be tough at all costs. Boys need to be taught to be human, teach him that he has a full range of emotions, to stop and say, ‘I’m not angry; I’m scared,  my feelings are hurt, or I need help.’

If you are effeminate or have one as close friends, you have probably heard people mutter ‘He is Gay” ask really uncomfortable questions about your personality “Why do you behave like that?” or sometimes question themselves as if to think it is a test question “He Is Gay?” “Is he gay?” “I am sure he is” “Where you born this way?” because there is the assumption that there is only one way to being a man in this part of the world, basically Nigeria.

I spoke to fashion designer and stylist Ikechukwu Oscar (24) about growing up in Nigeria and being interested in fashion.

My dad never told me that he loved me, even though I know he does. He hadn’t hugged me either. Even now, I would love to hear him say it.

He recalls so many times his father had told him to act a man, and be strong, he would probably get cheated on if he continues this way.

Women are not the sole victims of toxic masculinity, men can be affected just as deeply by these acts. Even if men are not directly targeted by an act of toxic masculinity, the culture of it can force them to suppress their feelings in order to fit in with narrow expectations of masculinity that suggest emotions are weak.

I’ve heard of so many relationships ending because the man can’t express the way he feels. “We need to be more open to listening to how a man is feeling and push more for them to understand that it’s OK to feel things.”

The real problem with toxic masculinity is that it assumes there is only one way of being a man. Nowadays, if you’re a girl and you act like a boy, it’s considered cool, it’s normal. But if you’re a guy and you act like a girl, it’s different, it’s not as tolerated.”

So what does “toxic masculinity,” mean?

  • Maintaining an appearance of hardness
  • Suppressing emotions or masking distress
  • Violence as an indicator of power.

In other words: Toxic masculinity is what can come of teaching boys that they can’t express emotion openly; that they have to be “tough all the time”; that anything other than that makes them “feminine” or weak.

I don’t think it’s the work of women, to correct toxic masculinity, I think it’s the work of men like myself and you, and of course, women who need to be talking to our brothers, fathers, friends. At some point, we have to decide how to redefine manhood and masculinity for ourselves and then pass it to on to those around us.


It is a message for everyone – there is no new “war” on men, and there is no need for anyone to “prove” their masculinity through aggression, its time to put an end to toxic masculinity.

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