My family and I went to visit our relatives in Lesotho for the summer holidays in 2017. I loved the place and the people and I got to meet new people. I made a new friend, Sambo, who was a cool guy and about my age though I was taller than him.

One day we went to swim at a nearby lake. Well, not me, because I don’t know how to swim. Once I told him and other guys that I don’t know how to swim, they started lifting me up by force and threw me in the water. I kicked, screamed and tried to swim. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I remember swallowing a lot of water, screaming and calling my mother.

Then when I thought I was drowning and dying, I remember being pulled out of water and vomiting water afterwards. They were laughing at me, calling me names like ‘Ausi’ which means a lady. They said I am not a man.

This incident reminded me of a lot of stuff. Like when I was home in SA, and I dated a girl named Tshepi. She was beautiful and attractive. One day she was home alone and called me to her place to chill. When I was there she started undressing me and kissing me. I said no, I wasn’t ready. That’s when she laughed at me, saying I’m gay and not man enough to have sex with her. She told her friends and I was a laughing stock to her friends and even my friends.

Now there I was in Lesotho, insulted by others, saying I’m not man enough. What I found out is that this stereotype of ‘being-a-man’ is not only present in one country. It is a worldwide belief that is so confusing.

Let me ask you, what is a man? When I say that someone is a man, what first impression do you get? What comes to your mind?

I think I am not the only one who is confused about this term ‘man’. Is a man a person who is strong, fearless and heartless? If you are not willing to have sex with a girl who wants to, does that make you less of a man?

Different people have different criteria that they use to characterise boys. If you don’t fight back when you are provoked, you are not a man. If you don’t sleep with more than one girl, you are not man enough. If you show your fears and emotions, you are not a man.

Let’s face it, we are all lost in ‘being a man’. That’s why many cases of women abuse are escalating every day in our society. Some girls say that if a man doesn’t beat his wife, he doesn’t love her and he is not man enough.

Boys, how many times have you been told to man up or to be a man? How many times have you all been forced to do something just because that’s ‘manly’? Maybe you have lost count. We end up doing things we are not comfortable doing because we are trying to fit in. Our fathers put us through the most and we are taught from a younger age that a man is supreme, but they don’t see what the damage it causes to our minds and beliefs.

Girls, how many times have you all told boys to be a man? Have you all been told to man up? No, I don’t think so. If being a man is to be strong, wise and great, then why don’t you all ‘man up’? Y’all don’t want to be strong, wise and great? Does gender discrimination not at an early age in simple ways?

Before you can tell other people to man up, think about this: what is a man? Is a man so much more special than a woman? Then when you tell others to man up, you would have a clear understanding about your definition of man. Let’s not let past myths cloud our understanding and spread nonsensical beliefs in people’s mind. We are all the same.


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