“You mean no one on your team told you [John Dumelo] not to [hug women] because it is predatory and gross? Do you know you can be nice to women without being creepy? As in not grabby, and respectful of women’s personal spaces and bodies?” ~ Nana Ama Agyemang Asante, broadcast journalist and radio commentator, Citi FM, Accra
What is the best way to hug a woman? Well, it depends on the kind of woman and her station in life. Let’s not muddy the waters at the incipient stages of this issue by asking whether her marital status should matter. It is an offence and indeed a predatory and chauvinistic sin to ask a woman her marital status. A woman is a woman, married, single or divorced. Society should spare us the thinking that a Ms. necessarily needs to transition into a Mrs. to be a full woman. In most cases, a Mr. is enough for every non-achiever.
Fine boy for Valentine
The pain of living with pedantic and over-exacting people is that they give you reason to question your most honest intentions when you show them affection. It could have been better or it was too forward. You need to be careful when buying such people gifts or saying hello when the weather is too cold. You might offend them into thinking you don’t know much about climate change. The motive is right when it sits well with their world view.
Should the occasion matter when we hug our friends and loved ones? What about St. Valentine’s Day? Perhaps that is where celebrated actor and farmer John Dumelo went wrong when he resolved to avail his good looks a little too much on a surprise visit to university students in their rooms on Valentine’s Day. Video clips show excited ladies jumping in bemused exhilaration when they saw their handsome screen icon at their door. Like seriously? John Dumelo visiting me in my room to be my Valentine?
A fine boy for Valentine. It must be better than all the chocolates in Ghana and the flowers in Kenya put together. Good gesture. Well, Nana Ama Agyemang Asante of Citi FM thinks it is predatory and gross for a man to go hugging women on Valentine’s Day. On John Dumelo twitter handle, he had written: “My surprise visit to Legon yesterday was to spend Valentines with all the single ladies on campus. #spreadthelove #legon #Valsday.”
Followers of the two media personalities tore into each other, questioning the real propriety of the actor’s gesture and Nana Ama’s pedantic views. In defence of Dumelo, a follower asked: “What’s predatory about this? Their [ladies] reactions and the smiles on their faces alone made it so obvious and evident that they were happy hugging John Dumelo. It’s not as if the hug was imposed on them. You are a feminist and so what? Madam Nana Ama, take a seat at the back because you are tired.”
Another tweeted: “Isn’t it Nana Ama of CitiFM? She surmises that something is always wrong. She addressed Mr. Dumelo with considerable discourtesy with her orchestrated barracking. See how her aroused apoplexy over a friendly gesture is causing a backlash. She’s just excessively pedantic always.” After what seemed like a roasting, a follower came to her rescue: “Nana Ama never cited feminism as her premise for finding what John Dumelo did gross and predatory. But somehow her feminist stand was dragged into it.”
Nana Ama is not the only critical female voice on radio today. I know a few at another English-only media organization in Accra. These are brilliant journalists who wear their convictions on their sleeves. Should it matter that they are women, even strong women, or feminists? If a man had made the same comments, would we have rushed to dish out insults and cynical remarks to effect a backlash? Is it not a manifestation of the predatory and gross masculine overtures Nana Ama is accusing Dumelo of?
Grab while you can
Nana Ama uncovered our hypocrisy when some male Twitter followers of Dumelo teased ‘ko nie’. To Nana Ama, the comments suggest that “you know what it means for a man to access all-women spaces so I know you understand it was predatory but admitting it would mean admitting that you prey on women too.” Is she pedantic for questioning attitudes and behaviours that reinforce the ‘grab while you can’ mentality of creatures with testosterone?
Let’s dignify the question we asked in the beginning with some answers: What is the best way to hug a woman? The other day, I attempted to hug a pretty lady to express my appreciation for driving long hours to visit me in my office. Immediately, she registered a mild protest: “Oh sorry Sir, I don’t accept hugs from men. It makes mefeeI I am being taken advantage of.” She didn’t however feel she had taken advantage of me and my wallet when I took her for lunch at a fancy restaurant in East Legon. She also demanded that I give her money for spending time with me. And oh, can you find a job for my brother? In other jurisdictions, ladies pay for coffee on the first date. Around here, ladies are taught to grab while they can and still be ladies.
My paranoid ex-girlfriend also refused to hug me because she was married. Would the hug take you away from your husband? She placated me with the Pentecostal hug when she realised she had been unreasonable. Whom does a hug benefit? Women should come to that urgent realisation that men are not always thinking of sex or invading their private spaces when they are nice to them or respond to their flirtatious advances. We are also emotional beings who find comfort in love and affection. Women need men in their spaces. Once you get in, you are a predatory rapist. This is how fragile masculinity started.
In extreme cases, toxic masculinity will be an adequate response to pedantic Nana Ama Agyemang Asante. The concept portrays men as violent, unemotional and sexually aggressive. It also means men can never truly understand women and that men and women can never be friends. Is that what Nana Ama is advocating? Maybe Nana Ama needs a hug, too.