The Musa Mthombeni kind of love – why some think showing public displays of affection is not manly

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Musa Mthombeni, Liesl Laurie
Musa Mthombeni, Liesl Laurie
Photo: Instagram | @liesllaurie

‘He’s not acting like a man', 'it’s unAfrican' and 'real men don’t behave this way'.

These are some of the comments people on social media made when newlywed Dr Musa Mtombeni filled his timeline with public displays of affection for, and with, his wife Liesl Laurie-Mthombeni.

Since they made their relationship public, the PDAs have been consistent. 

Most recently, some fans were in awe of how much he showers his wife with love while others believe it is too much. 

All he did was share a picture of his wife in a red dress with effusive words of affection. 

And he of course trended. 

Although he's mostly stood his ground through it all and brushed the comments off, the backlash was very telling of the views many men (and women) still hold about what it means to be a man. 

Speaking to Drum, traditionalist Mlawu Tyatyeka agrees with the naysayers.

"It's taboo for a black man to do that," Mlawu tells us. 

"As a black man I cannot hug my wife in public or in front of my children. We cannot allow everything to be westernized. We cannot allow the west to dictate what love is to us. 

"We love our wives. We kiss and hug them at the appropriate time. We cannot just do that in front of children and in public."

"We are very much in love with our wives and we need to stop this thing of wanting to do things like white people as if our ways are wrong," he says. 

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He says he believes that children know that their fathers love their mothers and there is no need to be touchy in front of them.

"We never saw our fathers touching our mothers in front of us, but we knew they loved them and in turn, we love our wives too. Public displays of affection are wrong," he adds.

In a popular episode of Mzansi Magic's Mnakwethu, Musa Mseleku made similar comments when one of the couples kissed and held hands in front of him. 

“It shows that they’re still young because traditional men don’t like to be touched and kissed all the time,” he said.

At the time, many people on social media agreed with his sentiments that public displays of affection are not what black, traditional men do.

However, Mthuthuzeli Makayi (50) could not disagree more.

"I don't care who says what, it can never be wrong to show my wife affection anytime and anywhere. Whether it is in front of family elders, children or strangers," he tells Drum.

Mthuthuzeli – who has been married for five years – believes it is particularly important to show affection at home in front of children. 

"Children learn by what they see. Monkey see monkey do. 

“If a child grows up in an abusive or alcoholic environment, chances are very high that they will emulate that behaviour. So why don't we then have positive behaviours that our children can learn from? Boys must grow up knowing it's important to protect and love their sisters and mothers.

"Children must learn love from home. I also believe men should take their daughters on dates, it doesn't have to be expensive, ice cream and playing at the park is a date,” he says. 

“This helps when they are older so that older men don't try to lure or entice them by simply saying 'I love you' then the child ends up trapped in ugly situations. 

“They must know love from home. As men we should love our children and wives, loudly and proudly and not treat love like some dirty little secret," he adds.

Clinical psychologist Vella Maseko says people need to sit and reflect on why they are uncomfortable when they see a man loving his wife in public. 

She also says several things could deter men from being affectionate in public.

"It can be many factors and we cannot exclude socialization, trauma and religion.

"Poverty can also have an effect on man's self-esteem which may then deter him from wanting to be publicly affectionate when he doesn't even have money.”

Vella says even history has shaped the way men see themselves and their roles in relationships.

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"Families were broken by migrant labour systems when fathers left wives and children to go look for work in mines or railway stations. We do not know then the effects that may have had on how they show affection”.

She notes that some churches have also played a role in shaping beliefs, identities and positions that men take on. Even something like seating arrangements at church can influence these beliefs. 

"In some churches, men sit on one end and women sit on the other end. So the religion that was imposed on us as people also plays a role,” she explains.

Colonialization also hugely affected black people.

"Even the most traditionalist of people are, at times, still influenced by the west,” she says.

"A traditional man may not want to show affection to his wife in public because of not wanting to be controlled by the west, yet he expects his wife to cover her head. 

“The history of doeks comes from slavery and in ancient times black women never used to cover their heads. In this regard, the traditionalist is then being influenced by the west. 

"This isn't a cultural thing, it's a people thing. Humans are changing and they are becoming more emotionally expressive. It is neither wrong nor right to display affection publicly, it's a personal choice," she says.

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