The “macho” and “tough” image that Barbadian males are expected to uphold is counterproductive and sometimes results in men getting into trouble, according to Director of the Department of Community Development Patricia Hackett.
Delivering the feature address this week at a leadership seminar hosted by the Barbados Workers’ Union at Solidarity House, Hackett said the traditional roles ascribed to men and women place both genders at a disadvantage, dictating the way they are expected to act, speak, dress and conduct themselves.
She said, for example, men were expected to take charge, to the point of being expected to provide for their partners even when they could not afford to.
“In Western society men are assigned the role of provider. So, for example, if a man has a girlfriend he is still expected to contribute financially to her household even though he does not live with her, or have his meals at her house. We expect men to be macho, tough, aggressive, dominant and self-reliant. Sometimes these expectations that we have placed on men drive men into a space where they sometimes hurt themselves,” Hackett, the former head of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, explained.
“If a man works for $400 per week and he has to take two buses to work and he has to buy lunch and his own house to support, then how can the girlfriend expect him to provide for her household as well? We have these expectations for men in terms of leadership which very often places them in a position that they have to sell something or themselves to live up to these expectations,” she added.
Hackett said at the same time women were taught to be “passive, obedient, submissive, nurturing and to rely on the male provider,” which, she said, was not realistic.
“The reality for Barbadian women and the rest of the women in the Caribbean is that they only have themselves to depend on. So we have this belief that we set as to how people should behave and then we can’t really live up to the belief that we have set because it is not reality,” she stressed.