ArticlePDF Available


Popular notions of womanhood among most Ghanaian societies highlight the role of motherhood, particularly biological motherhood. It has been generally acknowledged, however, that family planning programs have not worked as well as they might have because they failed to acknowledge menfs fertility desires by focusing almost exclusively on womenfs gunmet need.h The current study investigates the meanings and significance of biological fatherhood and their relationship to constructions of masculinity among a sample of urban Ghanaian men. Data are derived from interviews on reproductive preferences and decision making among 11 men in 11 monogamous husband]wife dyads, held following a questionnaire survey among some 265 junior and senior staff/spouses of the University of Ghana in 1997 and 1998. It particularly addresses the associations men make among adulthood, marriage, manhood, and biological fatherhood. Results suggest that menfs associations between biological fatherhood and manhood, as indicated by notions of phallic competence, have important implications for marital stability, remarriage and extra]marital relationships.
CSM.0101.59/$14.00 • DOI: 10.3149_CSM.0101.59 • HTTP://DX.DOI.ORG/10.3149/CSM.0101.59
Among sociologists masculinity studies gained ground in the 1980s, par‐
ticularly in the area of gender studies where feminist researchers pointed to
the importance of understanding the ways in which men experience and enact
gender. Since the 1990s, this area of enquiry has grown in Africa and the im‐
portance of recognizing masculinities, rather than masculinity, has been under‐
scored to reflect the diverse and complex contexts in which masculinity is
performed. This emergent body of work has been influenced by discourses in
the global north, particularly Connell’s (1987) notion of “hegemonic” mas‐
culinities which implies that at any given moment a dominant—or hege‐
monic—form of masculinity exists in relation to other forms resulting in a
complex array of interactions and performances at various levels. The appre‐
ciation of these complexities led to a meeting on “Boys and Masculinity” that
took place at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa in January
ABSTRACT Popular notions of womanhood among most Ghanaian societies highlight
the role of motherhood, particularly biological motherhood. It has been generally ac‐
knowledged, however, that family planning programs have not worked as well as they
might have because they failed to acknowledge men’s fertility desires by focusing al‐
most exclusively on women’s “unmet need.” The current study investigates the mean‐
ings and significance of biological fatherhood and their relationship to constructions of
masculinity among a sample of urban Ghanaian men. Data are derived from interviews
on reproductive preferences and decision making among 11 men in 11 monogamous
husband‐wife dyads, held following a questionnaire survey among some 265 junior and
senior staff/spouses of the University of Ghana in 1997 and 1998. It particularly ad‐
dresses the associations men make among adulthood, marriage, manhood, and biolog‐
ical fatherhood. Results suggest that men’s associations between biological fatherhood
and manhood, as indicated by notions of phallic competence, have important implica‐
tions for marital stability, remarriage and extra‐marital relationships.
aUniversity of Ghana, Legon, Ghana.
The authors are grateful to the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments.
Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Akosua Adomako Ampofo, P.O. Box LG
73, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana. Email:
2005 and culminated in the book Fom Boys to Men (Schefer et al., 2007) that ac‐
knowledges the multiple versions of masculinity in southern Africa, as well as
resistances and challenges to “hegemonic” forms.
Few men fully conform to “hegemonic” forms. Messner (2007) notes that
it is “nearly impossible for an individual man to consistently achieve and dis‐
play the dominant conception of masculinity” and adds that, “this is an im‐
portant part of the psychological instability at the center of individual men’s
sense of their own masculinity” (p. 463). Ratele (2008) argues that intervention
work with males intended to make them more sensitive to gender issues has
failed to produce the desired impacts “because analyses of boys and men’s lives
have tended to be blind to the imbrication of the experience of maleness with
the experience of other significant social categorisations” (p. 515). In this paper
we observe, with Messner, that so‐called hegemonic masculinities are symbol‐
ically displayed as an “exemplar of manhood” around which power coalesces,
not just over women, but in relation to other men (p. 463). We argue that an es‐
pecially important anchor of the experience of maleness is that of biological fa‐
therhood—not only because of the authority and control fatherhood portends,
but also because of the symbolic significance of a competent, heterosexual, per‐
formative phallus. The absence of evidence for the competence of the phallus,
in cases of infertility, can lead to a questioning, or anticipatory questioning, of
a man’s masculinity.
While family studies in Africa generally, and in Ghana particularly, have
highlighted the importance of the family, and the value of children, the em‐
phasis has been on their practical and economic value and it has been argued
that as our societies “modernized” and these instrumental reasons for child‐
bearing declined, people would prefer smaller families. Today, popular notions
of womanhood among most Ghanaian societies continue to center on the
mother role, usually read in terms of biological motherhood (Anarfi & Fay‐
orsey, 1995). There is an understanding that women will be engrossed with
thoughts of childbearing, and that no normal woman would give up mother‐
hood voluntarily, except, perhaps, for religious (whether permanent or tem‐
porary) reasons. For instance, there are Ghanaian women who, since the
introduction of Christianity have become religious nuns in the Roman Catholic
Church, giving up motherhood voluntarily and permanently. In Ghanaian tra‐
ditional religion, we find some women in the service of the deity who observe
chastity temporarily, at least for the period of their training or in following the
rota of religious service. An individual who is dedicated to a deity is normally
chaste and allowed sexual union only after first seeking the deity’s consent.
However, outside of the foregoing examples, Ghanaian society generally
looks down on childless women, and barrenness is held to be a curse (Sarpong,
1977). Such are the pressures on women to achieve biological motherhood that,
unlike what has been the development in the global North, “modern” profes‐
sional women who want to advance in their chosen careers, even if unmarried,
do not consider giving up motherhood for a career (Adomako Ampofo, 2004).
Further, where a married couple remains childless, it is typically the woman
who bears the brunt of pressure, taunts, and even abuse, both from her hus‐
band’s family as well as, sometimes, her own. It may therefore seem unsur‐
prising that contemporary literature on childbearing and parenthood
(especially sociology and demography/population studies) has centered pri‐
marily on female fertility, particularly women’s contraceptive practices, and
has paid less attention to men’s needs and their desires around fertility and fa‐
therhood. Both scholarly and activist feminist critiques of the ways in which
women’s gendered social roles confine or limit them have also assumed that
since it is women who suffer the most from social stigma in cases of childless‐
ness, fertility studies should focus on them (Afonjo, 1990).1However, this lim‐
ited focus seems inadequate given that population research in Africa since the
1980s has shown a discrepancy between women’s fertility desires and their con‐
traceptive practices, as well as high levels of couple discordance when it comes
to fertility choices (Dodoo, 1995). It is now commonly understood that family
planning programs have not worked as well as they might have because they
failed to acknowledge men’s fertility desires by focusing almost exclusively on
women’s “unmet need” (Adomako Ampofo, 2004).
Demographic and Health Survey data from Ghana (Ghana Statistical Serv‐
ice, 1994, p. 73; 1999, p. 75; 2004, p. 115) show that over the 1999‐2003 period
there has been a relative increase in the number of men who want to have no
more children irrespective of demographic characteristics. Urban residence,
higher education and belonging to a higher wealth quintile generally increase
the likelihood of men wanting no more children. However, when these data
are analyzed for husband‐wife dyads, men generally continue to either want
more children than their wives do, or have greater say in the couple’s repro‐
ductive career plans (Dodoo, 1995, 1998; Ezeh, 1993). Where some attention
has been paid to men’s fertility practices it has been argued that because men
bear fewer of the costs of childbearing they experience less of a need to invest
in limiting family size than their wives (Blanc & Lloyd, 1994). While this is true,
we argue that an important reason why men have children is that this enables
them to be viewed as real men, by proving their phallic competence to father off‐
spring. Hence a failure to acknowledge and understand the link between men’s
identities and the pressures women face to bear children will minimize the
value of any discussion of gender, power, fertility, sexualities, and even
HIV/AIDS. Indeed, work carried out by Sarpong (1977) and Nukunya (1969,
1992) among the Asantes and Ewes, respectively (two of the three most popu‐
lous ethnic groups in Ghana) provides evidence that barrenness among both
women and men was abhorred. The fact that barrenness was, and generally
still is, easier to ascertain among women meant that women bore the brunt of
1 Clearly there is a history to this perspective given that in reality many women
were having children at the behest of their partners, their family and society at large.
society’s displeasure. However, this did not free men from the pressures to pro‐
duce offspring, a pressure compelling men to divorce and re‐marry, marry an
additional wife, or have children outside marriage (Adomako Ampofo, 2004).
The current study seeks to investigate the meanings and significance of fa‐
therhood and its relationship to constructions of masculinity in a sample of
urban Ghanaian men. Specifically we examine what biological fatherhood
means to these men, and the lengths they would be willing to go to in order to
ensure that they achieve it. We are also interested in the associations men draw
between biological fatherhood and marital stability, as well as questions of re‐
marriage and extra‐marital relationships. Below we review pertinent anthro‐
pological and sociological factors, followed by observations from the current
The Ghanaian population is made up of a number of distinct ethnic groups,
which are usually made up of clans; therefore, a great deal of variety exists in
the way family systems are organized. Yet many of the underlying principles
in corporate descent groups are similar among the different ethnic groups.
Members of a lineage “trace common descent from a known ancestor”
(Nukunya, 1969, p. 25), either imagined or putative, and who can be a person
or an animal, the latter constituting the clan’s totem, or protector. The descent
system determines succession, property inheritance, control over resources,
and residence patterns, to name but a few rubrics. Lineage members have both
rights and obligations. Their rights include a place to live, care of others when
in difficulty and access to land for cultivation. The lineage is, therefore, “al‐
most always a corporate group ... it has a leader ... owns property ... and mem‐
bers meet regularly to discuss matters of common interest” (Nukunya, 1992, p.
16). Obligations of lineage members include helping needy members, uphold‐
ing the lineage’s good name, promoting its unity, deferring to ancestral wishes,
and obedience to the lineage head and other elders (Gyekye, 1997; Nukunya,
1969; Sarpong, 1977).
Above all, it behooves members to ensure the very survival of the lineage
through marriage and procreation. Thus, childbearing is central to both matri‐
lineal and patrilineal ethnic groups in Ghana. However, marriage and child‐
bearing have different implications for matrilineal and patrilineal peoples.3
2Akan proverb.
3Even though intermarriage will mean that these data are not precise, we can glean
from the 2000 census that about 49.1% of Ghanaians are matrilineal while 50.9% are pa‐
trilineal (Ghana Statistical Services, 2001). Among these the largest cluster of groups be‐
long to the Akan (matrilineal) and the Ewe and Ga‐Adangbe groups (patrilineal).
Among the Akan, it is the woman who is obligated to produce descendants for
her lineage, however, her family will publicly acknowledge her husband for
giving them children since he makes the fulfillment of this obligation possible.
If there is a suspicion, for whatever reasons, that the husband is incapable of
having children (say, it is known or rumored that he is impotent) a woman’s
(maternal) family is likely to suggest that she divorce him. Among patrilineal
groups this obligation to beget offspring for the lineage rests on the man and
a husband will bestow special public honor on his wife at the time of the “out‐
dooring” of a baby.4Generally, prolific childbearing was honored among all
groups, and mothers of twins, triplets, and a tenth child were held in special es‐
teem (Sarpong, 1977). Fertility is so important that most ethnic groups had spe‐
cial ceremonies to commemorate a girl’s “entry into womanhood” and a good
portion of the female initiation period was taken up with instructions regard‐
ing the secrets of sexuality, how to be a good wife, and elementary aspects of
mothering.5Nonetheless it is noteworthy that although initiation rites are com‐
mon across much of Africa for both females and males (frequently including
circumcision), comparable rituals for boys are limited to a few smaller ethnic
groups in Northern Ghana.6
Thus, the need for children to continue the family pedigree implies that
procreation is one of the most important reasons for marriage. Kyei (1989), for
example, asserts that among Ghanaian Asante, “a man and his wife owe it as
a duty to themselves and to their lineage to have children” (p. 49). Further,
since in traditional Ghanaian metaphysics procreation is meant to perpetuate
the lineage, and the “lineage is made up of the dead ancestors, the living mem‐
bers of the community, and even those yet unborn” (Okyerefo, 2001, p. 107),
men and women who refuse to marry and procreate are perceived as self‐cen‐
tered and greedy. And since it is a man who generally asks for the hand of a
woman, among patrilineal people a man who refuses to marry and procreate
calls forth the extinction of the lineage and, therefore, of the clan or ethnic
group. However, even where such scorn is reserved for the woman among the
matrilineal Akan, a man who refuses to marry and/or have children is viewed
with suspicion. Among the prerequisites of ancestorship is adulthood, which
one generally reaches only when one marries and assumes responsibility for a
family. This means that bachelors are equally disqualified given an implied re‐
fusal to help increase the number of his relatives. Such a person is useless, “his
name should be blotted out of memory” (Okyerefo, 2001, p. 110; Sarpong,
1974). Sarpong (1977) documents the practice of sticking thorns into the soles
4New babies are “outdoored,” that is, presented to their parents’ lineage members,
a week after they are born. Although the outdooring of babies is virtually a universal
custom, such ceremonies are particularly festive among patrilineal people.
5The performance of female initiation rites has declined markedly over the last few
6The majority of ethnic groups in Ghana do not “circumcise” females.
of the feet of the corpses of the childless so that they could not return to the land
of the living as ancestor spirits7.
Ghana today generally remains a “patriarchal” society in which the father
wields, or is expected to wield, ultimate authority over the household, which
includes his wife (or wives), children, and other relations or tenants. Indeed,
not too long ago the fathers, the older males, determined not only who could
marry but also when marriage was to take place (Akyeampong, 1997). The fa‐
ther could thus augment his social, political and economic influence through
the biological daughters and sons he could marry off. Since the man usually
had economic control over his entire household, including his wife, he also ex‐
ercised social control over his family.
It must be acknowledged that fatherhood is but one aspect of Ghanaian
masculinity. Apart from fatherhood, seniority is another important aspect of
masculinity. Based on his study of the paradigmatic concept of
panyin (liter‐
ally: elder) among the Akan, Miescher (2007) observes that in “many African
societies, gender has a close relation to seniority” (p. 253). Two groups of mean‐
ing of the term
panyin should be understood. First,
panyin denotes “an old
person” or “an adult,” as opposed to “a child.” In this instance ɔpanyin also
refers to “status and achievements” marking one as “a gentleman, respectable
man” or “person of rank.” The second meaning relates to
panyin as “a figure
of authority” such as “a chief or one who belongs to a chief’s council of eld‐
ers.” The position of
panyin demands maturity and honor. It is not a perma
nent position; one has to prove worthy of it through good conduct, generosity,
sound reputation, and rhetorical proficiency. A misbehaving elder can lose peo‐
ple’s respect to the same extent that a chief who misbehaves can be “destooled”8
for bringing dishonor to his office. As a generic term,
panyin above all sub‐
sumes gender. Miescher argues that “seniority has been crucial to the con‐
struction of identity as gender” in Akan societies in Ghana where both men
and women have “a different understanding of how they wield power” (p.
254) and that for males wealth, generosity, and wisdom are critical in defining
masculinity. However, Miescher also contends that fatherhood “is important in
7Not everyone who dies and maintains some contact with the living is an “ances‐
tor.” Ancestor spirits are venerable, and welcomed, and people name new members of
the lineage after them. For a spirit who was not an ancestor to return was seen as a bad
8Kings in Akan and Eweland, as in most of Southern Ghana, sit on stools that are
imbued with the spirits of the state/kingdom. Among the Akan when a man becomes
king he is literally assisted to sit on the throne three times, supported on each arm by
an elder. His regalia include a staff, sandals and so forth. Destoolment involved the lit‐
eral removal of the chief’s sandals from beneath him to reflect that he would now go
“barefoot” like a commoner.
reaching both adult masculinity and senior masculinity” (p. 255). Thus, a man
without children could not aspire to become a respectable elder, that is, the ul‐
timate man in many ways.
Men in Ghanaian society today continue to assume enormous control over
their families, particularly because they are “the main controllers of money”
(Oppong, 1981, p. 109), whether in matrilineal or patrilineal societies. But even
more, biological fatherhood augments a man’s status as he can lay claim, not
only to the labor of, and authority over, his wife or wives, but also with respect
to the children of his own loins. While these rights extend to kin beyond bio‐
logical children, including nieces and nephews among the Akan, the prefer‐
ence for biological fatherhood extends beyond obligations to the lineage and
status prescriptions.
Biological fatherhood is encoded by lineage expectations but lineage and
power do not exhaust its cultural semantics. Fatherhood is also about identity
because it contributes to the package that makes up the individual man’s com‐
pleteness as a man. One sure sign of manhood is the ability of the male organ,
which in Ghanaian social discourse is often referred to as “manhood,” to per‐
form. And since not everyone can enter a couple’s private space to see what
goes on there, children become the direct manifestation of such performance
abilities. To “be a man” in Egypt, comparably, means to be “a virile patriarch
who begets children, particularly sons” (Inhorn, 2002, p. 344) and men will go
to great lengths to mask, rather than address, eventual impotence.
Widespread reports in 1997 in Ghana of the vanishing sexual organ (that is,
penis) reputed to have been caused by some spiritually powerful men and the
fear this episode aroused, underscores the importance of potency for manhood.
Yamba (2001) describes the anxieties surrounding this emphasis on perform‐
ance in his discussion of “shrinking penises” in which a mere rumor that some
people were going around causing the penises of other men to shrink led to
pandemonium and the lynching of some alleged perpetrators. Reportedly, evil
persons were able to curse a victim’s penis and make it shrink merely by com‐
ing into contact with him. Yamba observes, through research he conducted in
Ghana, the Sudan and Zambia (with reference to HIV/AIDS prevention) that
African men’s perceptions of their sexual identity affect and shape their sex‐
ual behaviour” (p. 2). He asserts that the preoccupation with the phallus, epit‐
omized by fears regarding “penis shrinking,” reflects that the phallus is “the
quintessential symbol of manhood” (p. 2).
This preoccupation with the phallus is, however, closely linked to men’s re‐
productive concerns, Yamba observed among West African pilgrims in the
Sudan on their way to Mecca. Among this group sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs) were prevalent because of frequent visits to prostitutes as a means of
sharpening their virility. Keeping the phallus agile, for these men, in spite of
dreaded consequences, “has to do with men’s sexuality and sexual identity,
which is connected to men’s potency and therefore their ability to reproduce.”
Thus, the real fear that would stop them from going to prostitutes and seek
treatment was that they might be unable to reproduce if that potential was dev‐
astated by STDs. When “that ability is taken away … some men might feel they
have stopped being men” (p. 3). So while “being virile and potent” is cherished
as “the very symbol of maleness,” Yamba asserts that “the risk of not being
able to get children seems socially a more terrible prospect” (p. 5).
Sackey (2006) concurs that “the male sexual organ ... is a most important
component of the Ghanaian man, which he would do anything to protect and
vitalize” (p. 293). Consequently, the vanishing sexual organ episode epitomizes
“the masculinized self‐construction of sexual and gender superiority and dom‐
ination” making any idea “that impinges on this powerful ideology” a humil‐
iation of “masculinity” (p. 300).
While the concepts father and fatherhood are often used interchangeably it
is important to distinguish between a man who is a biological father and one
who undertakes the “fatherhood role” (Morrell, 2005, p. 86). Formalized forms
of fostering have always existed, and been encouraged, to allow families to
train and care for the children of kin. Indeed much has been made of the value
of the extended family in Ghana through which individuals who might other‐
wise have not had a leg up in life are brought up by maternal or paternal rela‐
tions. Among the matrilineal Akan, the fact that maternal nephews and nieces
belong to a man’s family while his own children do not, meant that many
young people could count on prosperous uncles to look after them and guar‐
antee their education.9Nonetheless formal adoption has not formed an im‐
portant part of discourses of parenthood in Ghana and even today is frequently
discouraged if it is perceived by others that one is considering this as an alter‐
native to biological parenting.10 For example, according to Nukunya the Anlo
Ewe “insist on biological paternity” (Nukunya, 1992, p. 39) and Giwa‐Osagie
(2001) relates the obsession to be a biological father and the unacceptability of
strictly alternative forms of achieving fatherhood among many societies in Sub‐
Saharan Africa. He describes the practice of making social arrangements
through male relatives to allow an infertile man to father surrogate children as
9A popular Highlife song, “Wɔfa (uncle) wɔhɔ,” literally, “Uncle is there” was com‐
posed to reflect the tendency by some young people to sail idly through life knowing
someone was obligated to care, and provide, for them.
10 A number of unmarried women in their 30s and 40s known to the first author
narrated how their families discouraged them from adopting children and suggested
that if finding a suitable husband was proving to be a challenge, they might consider
having a child with a suitable married man.
though they were his biological children. For many Ghanaian men today adop‐
tion is still not likely to be accepted as replacing biological fatherhood; thus fe‐
cundity, paternity and biological fatherhood seem almost inseparable, and
form a core feature in the construction of manhood.
Further, the sex of the child is also important in men’s identity construc‐
tions. In patrilineal societies male children are particularly preferred because
they ensure the continued existence of the lineage, and no matter how many
children one has, failure or inability to produce sons suggests a certain inade‐
quacy even among matrilineages (Kyei, 1989). So, while it is women who must
get pregnant and give birth to the children that will continue the lineage, it is
the men who provide the “seed.” In Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood
(1979) she describes the joy and gratitude that the central figure Nnu Ego even‐
tually feels toward her second husband, Nnaife, after he enables her to bear a
son. Nnu Ego had initially looked down on the short, unmanly, pot‐bellied
man with the pale skin and puffy cheeks. However, when proven able to give
her a son, something her more handsome and muscular first husband, Ama‐
tokwu, had not been able to do, she reorients her assessment of his masculin‐
ity. Ama Ata Aidoo, the renowned Ghanaian writer, paints a similar picture in
her novel Changes (1991). The back cover of the Feminist Press edition of the
book notes that “Changes portrays the conflicts between professional women
whose lives have changed drastically and men whose lives and cultural as‐
sumptions remain unchanged.” In the story we meet Esi, whose husband Oko
is under pressure from his family to allow them to get him a “proper wife …
to get him to make more children” (p. 39). Although Oko sincerely loves Esi, he
is concerned that maybe he has shown his love too openly and allowed Esi too
much control. Oko and Esi have one daughter and he would like more chil‐
dren, particularly a son. He ponders his mother’s and sisters’ suggestions that
he produce some other children “outside” and feels that maybe he needs to
take charge of his wife and his marriage. One morning he says to Esi, “My
friends are laughing at me,” to which her response is silence. He continues,
“They think I’m not behaving like a man” (p. 8). An argument ensues. Then
Oko rapes Esi. It would appear that for men notions of authority, control, viril‐
ity, potency, and the ability to father children are so inextricably linked that if
a man is unable to show that he can make his wife pregnant this becomes an
indictment on his “manhood.”
As already alluded to, male infertility (and by extension male impotence)
could be treated through surrogate fatherhood and, within the family, by nat‐
ural insemination (Giwa‐Osagie, 2001). When the family was convinced that
their son was infertile, his brother or another very close relation could be called
on to have intercourse with the wife and so enable her to bear children for the
infertile brother/relation. Before such a relationship starts, the wife would have
been counseled by her husband and/or a close relative such as an elderly
uncle/father or mother‐in‐law. The matter would never be openly discussed
outside the family and the progenitor of the children could never claim pater‐
nity (Giwa‐Osagie, p. 51). Obviously society’s expectations that individuals
procreate “naturally” is so strong that they accede to such surrogate father‐
hood so that men can be seen to have biological children. The child is valued
first, perhaps, in so far as it embodies and perpetuates the genes of the family.
If a man has a duty to impregnate the wife of his infertile brother, it is to save
the face of the family. That way at least the genes come from the same family.
Ideally, however, a man should beget children of his own seed. Biological
fatherhood is a mark of manhood; impotence detracts from manhood. “The
desire to have children in any Asante home is so strong that a husband, to be
worth his salt, would go to any length in order to have an issue in every union”
(Kyei, 1989, p. 49). The two main driving forces in an Asante man’s urge for bi‐
ological fatherhood, then, are “to prove his manhood and also to discharge a
very important obligation: that of passing on the names of his forebears from
one generation to the other” (p. 53).
Chinua Achebe (1994) makes a similar assertion in his novel Arrow of God:
“Unless the penis dies young it will surely eat the bearded meat” (p. 143). This
assertion, an Igbo proverb, “paints a very vivid picture of a patriarchal society
with its social arrangements guided by unwrien rules which are, however,
internalized and observed by the individual members of the community”
(Okyerefo, 2001, p. 116). The novel depicts marriage as an important social in‐
stitution which an individual enters into as an alliance between families and
whole clans, thereby promoting peace among neighbors. The proverb, thus,
portrays adequate sexual intercourse as a natural sequence in the service of the
marriage institution (Achebe, 1994, p. 117).
In the light of the notion of masculinity as command over women, father‐
hood can thus also be understood as a “central part of unequal and oppressive
patriarchal relations, an estate opposed to motherhood” (Morrell, 2005, p. 86).
We agree with Morrell, however, that fatherhood can be “woven as a desirable
feature into the fabric of masculinity” (p. 86). The purpose of this paper, then,
is to further explore how men view fatherhood in Ghana, and how biological
fatherhood encodes masculine identity and practices of husbandhood. The def‐
inition of fatherhood we use in this paper, then, refers to “the traditional bio‐
logical father ... with his own children,” that is biological fatherhood (Eggebeen
& Knoester, 2001, p. 384).
The data for the current paper come from interviews on reproductive pref‐
erences and decision making among 11 men in 11 monogamous husband‐wife
dyads, held following a questionnaire survey among some 265 junior and sen‐
ior staff/spouses of the University of Ghana in 1997 and 1998.11 The University
of Ghana, located in the capital city and the Greater Accra Region, has three cat‐
11 The survey was interviewer‐administered, conducted in the respondents’ homes,
separately for men and women, and on average lasted between 30 and 40 minutes (see
Adomako Ampofo, 2004, for a fuller discussion of methods and data).
egories of staff: junior staff, senior staff (mainly technical and support staff),
and senior members (teaching faculty and administrators). The categories of
junior and senior staff were selected by default because the study was based on
a census among staff who lived in a particular “staff village,” which did not in‐
clude senior members. After the survey, 30 couples representative of the range
of aitudes and behaviors (that is, including typical and infrequently occur‐
ring perspectives) were short‐listed for re‐interviewing from among respon‐
dents who had previously agreed to be re‐interviewed, out of which 11 couples
were re‐interviewed.
Topics covered in the interviews included reasons why people get mar‐
ried; the significance of bride wealth; aitudes to polygyny;12 unacceptable
spousal behaviors that would lead to divorce; remarriage; gender and division
of family responsibilities and decision‐making; conflict resolution; family plan‐
ning, contraception and decision making; perceptions about the strength of
childless marriages; and adoption. Each respondent was interviewed (by the
first author) separately from her or his spouse; interviews generally lasted 1‐1.5
Table 1 describes the characteristics of the eleven husbands in the sample.
They were between the ages of 30 and 59 and had levels of education ranging
from primary to tertiary, with two (a lawyer and a research assistant) holding
a university degree. Only one of the husbands had no children at the time of
the interview, and the average number of children for the other men was four
with one man having eleven children. Four of the men had one or more chil‐
dren with women other than their current wives; in two cases these children
were born during a previous marriage/relationship, and in the other two cases
the children were born during the course of the current marriage.
In the next section we examine the following issues: 1) what biological fa‐
therhood meant to the interviewed men; 2) men’s aitudes toward adoption;
and 3) the associations the men made between biological fatherhood and the
stability of marriage, including questions of remarriage and extra‐marital re‐
All eleven men acknowledged the importance of biological fatherhood in
Ghanaian society, linking this to notions of adulthood, responsibility and phal‐
12 Polygyny in Ghana is legal where a couple are married under customary or Mus‐
lim law. According to the 2003 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 8.1% of urban
men, 15.9% of rural men and 7.5% of men in the Greater Accra Region have two or more
wives (GSS, 2004). For a man to have more than one wife where a couple are married
under the Ordinance would constitute bigamy. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for
men married under the Ordinance to have more than one wife, often first discovered,
so go the anecdotes, at their funerals. Polyandry is illegal under any circumstance and
there has been some advocacy to make polygyny illegal as well.
lic competence, efficiency or power. Based on several research findings, the in‐
terviewer asked the men why they thought that men seem to want to have
more children than their wives, especially since all of the men felt that children
were generally closer to their mothers than to their fathers. Most of the men
intimated that the mere fact of having children is a sign of manhood, both so‐
cial and physiological. As 47‐year‐old Kwame stated, men actually boast about
their manhood by holding up their children as evidence thereof, “Ei! I have got
five children and you have only three and you say I am your co‐equal (laughs);
that sort of pride!” Akwasi also referred to the appearance of masculinity by the
image of several children when he said,
In Ghanaian culture ... men used to boast by the number of children they
are able to produce; fifteen, eighteen. So at times when somebody dies, they
will say he has 59 grandchildren and so on and so forth ... [to be proud]
that they have produced and are powerful. (italics indicate authors’ em‐
Indeed, when one reads through the obituary announcements in the news‐
papers it becomes obvious from the roll call of children and grandchildren how
important this legacy of descendants is. Thus marriage as a social institution is
firmly associated with childbearing, as noted by Kwame who makes an im‐
plicit connection between the two:
NameaAge Highest Level Occupation Number of
of Education Children
(total/with wife)b
1. Nortey 53 Tertiary Principal admin. asst. 2/1
2. Akwasi 55 Secondary Lab. technician 4/4
3. Yao 53 Middle Hall porter 5/5
4. Cudjoe 42 Secondary Draughtsman 3/2
5. Tony 32 Secondary Assistant librarian 0/0
6. Kwame 47 Commercial Administrative asst. 3/3
7. Gabriel 52 Middle Works superintendent 5/5
8. Ayittey 53 Tertiary Research assistant 2/1
9. Kobla 45 Post‐Secondary Accounts clerk 3/3
10. Kodzo 40 Tertiary Lawyer 3/3
11. Wireko 60 Primary Driver 11/7
aAll names have been changed.
b”Total” refers to all the children the individual man has; ”with wife” refers to children
born to the couple.
Well, in Africa if you are a man or a woman and if you get to some age and
you don’t marry, they don’t regard you in a society, especially in the fam‐
ily which you are from. Because if you grow without children, you may get
sick, you may get weak, you can’t call someone’s child to help you in doing
anything. And, eh, I think it’s a pride for an African to marry and get chil‐
dren so that if you grow, they can take care of you.
According to Kwame everyone will need help in their old age, and that help
should come from one’s children, and these children one can expect from mar‐
riage. Thus the idea that anyone would get married and decide a priori not to
have children was generally considered to be strange, if not outright irrespon‐
sible and selfish, by the men. Hence, a childless marriage was seen as no mar‐
riage. Nortey reflects this, arguing,
They [couple] need to raise a family, which is the most important thing
because one definitely expects that at some point in time you have to
marry ... one of the things that is expected of being African.
He goes on to explain some of these “African notions”:
You want to have a child [because of] the respect that goes with somebody
who has a dependant. You see, if you are there and you don’t have any re‐
sponsibilities, people do not respect you. And if you take a wife, and you
happen to have children too, a lot of respect comes with that.
Here Nortey seems to engage with Miescher’s perspectives on becoming an
panyin—the ability to marry, have children and have these be dependent on
you as a sign of your power and authority. It is not just marriage and author‐
ity over a wife that makes for being an elder, but the children and dependents
that become a mark of wisdom, ability to provide, generosity, and hence earn
Only four of the men considered adoption a valid route to fatherhood;
however, two of these stressed that adoption was not an alternative to biolog‐
ical fatherhood, but merely a means to augment it, or to provide support for a
needy child. Two men indicated that while adoption was, perhaps, a good prac‐
tice for other societies, they would not have chosen this route to fatherhood
themselves. The remaining five ruled adoption out unequivocally. Adoption is
“difficult” in African societies, noted 53‐year‐old Ayittey, because you will be
“given a name”—and this naming seeks to suggest that one is irresponsible or
incapable of having children, both signs that one is not a real man. Particularly
problematic are the many busy bodies who will whisper to the child that “this
is not your mother/father,” says 47‐year‐old Kwame who would only consider
adoption if it could be totally secret. And Nortey, who had his second child
outside marriage argues, “I can accept adoption where you feel that you want
to help somebody, so even if you have your own children you can adopt a child
as a charitable decision. But as a replacement of your own children, that one I
don’t accept that that should be.” Tony, who after eight years of marriage had
no children at the time of the interview but whose wife had a daughter prior
to their marriage, said, “Actually, I would find it [adoption] very difficult and
I think it will tell on me very much.” He goes on to link his feelings to fears of
having his phallic competence questioned:
I wouldn’t want the situation where maybe people will be saying that I
have no child of my own, and you know in our society that is what they
say, maybe I am not able to produce children, so I am bent on having my
own.... It will take a man with a strong heart to cope with that situation for
a long time. (italics indicate authors’ emphasis)
Akwasi, whose wife had two children prior to their marriage, and who en‐
countered a lot of pressure from his mother and ridicule from his colleagues,
also draws on similar associations with phallic potency when he says that
adoption would allow people to suggest that he has “used his something
[penis] to make money.” This he said with reference to the belief in, and cor‐
responding idiom of, people spiritually “selling” something that is really pre‐
cious to them, such as a child, a wife, a parent, and not infrequently one’s
phallic potency, in exchange for riches. Indeed, Akwasi disclosed that since he
was doing relatively well financially during the years before he had children
with his wife, and especially before she bore a son, such rumors had been
spread about him—“at times they tease me that I don’t know how to do the job
[perform sexually] because [I] don’t have a boy.” His mother’s psychological
pressure, constantly asking him if he would not “bring forth a child” before
she died did not help matters either as he tried to deflect such direct and indi‐
rect questioning of the integrity of his phallus onto his wife by insisting she try
harder to get pregnant.
Some men also pointed to other reasons that make adoption difficult to ac‐
cept. They explained that the child will not give the “proper” respect to the
parent when s/he discovers that s/he is adopted, citing examples in which
adopted children who were disciplined would yell at their parents, “you are
not my mother/father.”
Only two men, Kodzo and Kobla, stated they would have considered
adoption, had they and their wives not had any children together. Kobla and
Kodzo both had initial fertility desires that were less acute than those of their
wives. Kodzo wanted two children but his wife wanted three (they eventually
had three), and Kobla, who himself had eighteen siblings, would have been
content without children while his wife wanted four (they eventually had
three). Clearly these two men differ from the others in that they do not seem to
measure their sense of being men by whether they father children or not, nor
did their children’s sex seem to maer to them. Kodzo is a successful lawyer
who appeared to draw a lot of his sense of self‐worth from his profession.
Kobla’s ability to define a counter‐cultural construction of manhood, according
to him, derives from his drawing on Christian beliefs to define what marriage
and parenting mean. For him, according to biblical scriptures, marriage is the
union of a man and a woman and should be seen as complete even without
The interviewed men were unanimous in their opinion that the probabil‐
ity of marital survival in the case of childlessness was slim in Ghana, and re‐
flected on the pressures that a childless couple would experience from friends,
family, in‐laws and even people they had no relationships with. Indeed, all but
one of the men indicated that they and/or their wives had experienced un‐
wanted pressure around issues of childbearing at some point in their marriage.
When the interviewer posed the question, “Some people say that a marriage,
if there are no children, in our African culture, cannot work, cannot survive,
would you agree?” Kwame’s unequivocal and impassioned response was,
“Hundred percent!” and Tony’s reference to such a marriage as “empty” pin‐
pointed the feelings of most of the men. Ayittey explained that since he was
the only child of his mother (though one of twenty of his father) he felt a lot of
pressure from her and her family to have children.
Five men were certain that had their own marriages been childless they
would not have survived, three of them indicating that they would have di‐
vorced their wives and/or had children with other women in order to become
fathers. Akwasi, whose wife came to the marriage with a son and a daughter
was emphatic that had she not borne him children she would have had to go.
In fact, in the separate interview with her she complained about Akwasi’s in‐
sensitivity to her difficult pregnancies and his pressuring her to have children,
particularly a son, resulting in her going through four additional pregnancies
(her sixth child—the fourth with Akwasi—was a boy) even though after her
fourth child (second with Akwasi) the doctor had advised her not to have any
more children.
Yaw, who believed his marriage could have survived childlessness, con‐
ceded the family pressures that would have occurred and the possibility that
they could have been injurious to his marriage. He acknowledged that the in‐
direct pressures that come from a wife, via her family, could affect the mar‐
riage because a woman too needs children and a “real” man should be able to
help her achieve these—especially since women, unlike men, do not have the
option of having multiple partners.
AA: [T]he family will come and say, Yaw, go and marry another woman?
Yaw: I know the pressure will be there but it depends on you.
AA: You think you can withstand the pressure? Maybe when you were
Yaw: I may or may not, because maybe the pressure from my wife’s side
may be too much and that will make me not to withstand [sic] it. Be‐
cause not only the men are in need of children but the women too. I
may not bother too much but my wife can bother because of
the pressure from her relations and friends.
AA: So that can make the marriage break up?
Yaw: Yes.
Although five of the men were certain that their own marriages would
have survived childlessness, three of these, Wireko, Kwame, and Nortey, indi‐
cated that they would probably have had children outside marriage or mar‐
ried an additional wife in order to achieve fatherhood. Both Wireko and Nortey
in fact have children with women other than their wives although these chil‐
dren were born after the birth of children with their wives. Kwame, who has
three children, all of them with his wife, noted that “people will talk, but if I
love my wife so dearly and see that this is the situation, I will like to get another
woman.” Tony, whose marriage had remained childless after eight years, and
whose wife had a daughter prior to their marriage, lamented bitterly, and
seemed to concede defeat against the battle of becoming a father with his wife
when saying:
They [his family] want me to take another woman [sardonic laugh] whom
I should make pregnant. I should start playing around with another
woman and if she gets pregnant no one will ask this one (his wife) to go
Although he seemed to love his attractive young wife, he said he had given
himself “two years” and then he would indeed pursue another woman. The
bitterness, anxiety and helplessness he felt were evident as he tried to make
sense of their childlessness. Medical tests did not provide any clues as to why
they should not have children, and his wife’s ability to conceive was evident
given her daughter, leaving him to contemplate his masculinity and consider
a partner change (or addition) as an option to rectify this serious deficit.
The interviewer had the sense from her separate interviews with husbands
and wives that the two men, Kobla and Kodzo, who said they would have con‐
sidered adoption if they had not had children, had relatively close relation‐
ships with their wives. This was reflected in several observations: the fact that
both spouses in these interviews spoke fondly, often smiling, about their part‐
ners; they gave similar responses on questions about their marriages; the cou‐
ples did many things together and discussed issues relating to their families
and personal lives. In Kobla’s case, he was very involved in the daily child care
and domestic work (Kodzo lived out of town during the week but indicated
that when he came home on the weekends he was not interested in domestic
chores hence they had hired domestic help). Both men also had a strong sense
of their marriage being their own business (“it’s our marriage and nobody in‐
terferes”), and they both had more positive attitudes toward gender‐equitable
relations as expressed with reference to notions about shared decision making
and women’s roles. Kodzo was somewhat derisive of people whom he con‐
sidered to have several children simply to make a statement about their own
identities. He narrated the story of his father, who had 19 children, and the
pride he took when they all visited at weekends or on holidays, their cars lined
up in the village for all to see. Sixty‐year‐old Wireko who has 11 children, 7
with his wife, was another man who seemed to have a very warm, close rela‐
tionship with his wife saying, “I would never have left her, no matter what. I
will never leave my wife, for better or for worse ... but would rather get some
children outside the marriage. In fact I would not have so many, maybe two,
for anyone to see that I have children. I would never leave her.”
Our study confirms previous research suggesting that becoming a father is
important to Ghanaian men, particularly for symbolic reasons: it would prove
that they are responsible adults and husbands who can “take care” of a family,
as well as that they can “perform” sexually as men. Men can avoid the taunts
of other men able to pride themselves on pristine signifiers of masculinity (chil‐
dren, sons) by doing the same. While the sense of responsibility to the lineage
and looking forward to becoming a respected elder can be seen to be important,
anxieties about sexual performance may seem to trump lineage fidelity.
The importance of phallic performance as a signifier of masculinity is not
limited to Ghanaian men. North American studies have shown that although
some men are becoming more caring and involved as fathers, in order to retain
their male identities they must also be seen to fit the more traditional mascu‐
line image such as in being physically muscular or athletic (Wall & Arnold,
2007). It may be that the specter of a sensitive and caring man is gaining ac‐
ceptability; however, notions of a real man who has ownership of his phallus
(Messner, 2007) persist. Such may be suggested by the Gallup polls ratings of
then president Bill Clinton sky‐rocketing after his sexual alliances with Mon‐
ica Lewinsky (Messner, p. 472). Clinton would have morphed from “emascu‐
lated house‐husband to stud muffin ... from pussy to walking erection” (Ducat,
2004, cited in Messner, p. 472).
However, the importance of the “performance” of the penis beyond the
sexual to include childbearing would appear to be particularly salient for
African societies where children are widely valued as an end in themselves.
Considering the plethora of African work that identifies the importance of “the
family,” it is important that we begin to pay more attention to the importance
of children from a less functional or instrumental perspective. Needed are stud‐
ies that seek to understand the “value” of children and the culture of parent‐
ing in its variable guises—functionally, as sources of labor for example; cul‐
turally, as markers of identities; and socially, in terms of parent‐child relation‐
ships. An appreciation of the complex connections between family
responsibilities, social expectations, identity constructions and policy is needed
to impact social change so that fatherhood can indeed be “woven as a desirable
feature into the fabric of masculinity” (Morrell, 2005, p. 86). This has a poten‐
tially extensive impact of policy implications. For example, in 2008 the gov‐
ernment of Ghana instituted a policy of free maternal health care including
maternal insurance and access to antenatal and delivery services. While this
has greatly burdened health care administration (staff employment has not in‐
creased nor have facilities been improved), there has been no discussion of the
relationship of this implicit pro‐natalism with the reproductive work of moth‐
ering, let alone parenting or fathering. Might men have greater opportunities
to sow their seeds of phallic competence and proudly display the results
thereof without fear of the immediate costs?13 To better appreciate the stagna‐
tion in the transformation in gender relations we must, as Ratele (2008) sug‐
gests, understand the ways in which a diverse array of social categories are
implicated in constructions of masculinities. As has been argued elsewhere
(Adomako Ampofo, 2004), it is only when men have available to them a larger
range of acceptable scripts of manhood, including being childless, that they
may become less oppressive to women and other (childless) men. These alter‐
native “masculinities” would have to accommodate voluntary and involuntary
childlessness, and the options to be a father through other than biological
routes such as fostering and formal adoption.
Achebe, C. (1994). Arrow of God. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday.
Adomako Ampofo, A. (2004). By God’s grace I had a boy. Whose unmet need and
dis/agreement about childbearing among Ghanaian couples. In S. Arnfred (Ed.), Re‐
thinking sexualities in contexts of gender (pp. 115‐138). Uppsala: Nordic Africa Insti‐
Afonjo, S. (1990). Changing patterns of gender stratification in West Africa. In I. Tinker.
(Ed.), Persistent inequalities: Women and world development (pp. 89‐209). Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Aidoo, A. A. (1993). Changes: A love story. New York: Feminist Press.
13 Preliminary observations in Tema General Hospital, a large district hospital, in‐
dicate that since the implementation of this policy there has been an upsurge in the
number of husbands who stride into the hospital to take their wives home. Hitherto
husbands were often difficult to find since if bills were unpaid they risked losing face
when accosted by health personnel (Kwame Ampofo, personal communication, June
Akyeampong, E. (1997). Sexuality and prostitution among the Akan of the Gold Coast
c.1650‐1950. Past and Present, 156, 144‐173.
Anarfi, J. K., & Fayorsey, C. K. (1995, November 13‐16). The male protagonists in the
commercialization of aspects of female life cycle in Ghana. Paper prepared for the
Seminar on Fertility and the male Life Cycle in the Era of Fertility Decline, Zacate‐
cas, Mexico.
Blanc, A. K., & Lloyd, C. B. (1994). Women’s work, child‐bearing and child‐rearing over
the life cycle in Ghana. In A. Adepoju & C. Oppong (Eds.), Gender, work and popula‐
tion in Sub‐Saharan Africa (pp. 112‐131). London: James Currey.
Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and power. Stanford, CA: Standford University Press.
Dodoo, F. N.‐A. (1995). Explaining contraceptive use differences: Do men play a role?
African Population Studies, 10, 15‐37.
Dodoo, F. N.‐A. (1998). Men matter: Additive and interactive gender preferences, and
reproductive behavior in Kenya. Demography, 359(2), 229‐242.
Eggebeen, D. J., & Knoester, C. (2001). Does fatherhood matter for men? Journal of Mar‐
riage and the Family, 63(2), 381‐393.
Emecheta, B. (1979). The joys of motherhood. London: James Currey, Ltd. [1994 in text?]
Ezeh, A. C. (1993). The influence of spouses over each other’s contraceptive attitudes in
Ghana. Studies in Family Planning, 24(3), 163‐174.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). (1994). Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 1993.
Macro International Inc. Calverton, Maryland, USA.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). (1999). Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 1998.
Macro International Inc. Calverton, Maryland, USA.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). (2001). 2000 Population and housing census of Ghana.
Accra: GSS.
Ghana Statistical Service (GSS). (2004). Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS)
2003. Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), and ORC Marco
Calverton, Maryland, USA.
Giwa‐Osagie, O. F. (2001). Social and ethical aspects of assisted conception in Anglo‐
phone sub‐Saharan Africa. World Health Organization document. Retrieved July 30,
2008, from‐health/infertility/9.pdf
Gyekye, K. (1997). Tradition and modernity: Philosophical reflections on the African experience.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Inhorn, C. I. (2002). Sexuality, masculinity, and infertility in Egypt: Potent troubles in the
marital and medical encounters. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 10(3), 343‐359.
Kyei, T. E. (1989). Marriage and divorce among the Asante: A study undertaken in the course
of the Ashanti Social Survey (1945). Cambridge African Monographs, 14. Cambridge:
African Studies Centre.
Messner, M. A. (2007). The masculinity of the Governator; Muscle and compassion in
American politics. Gender and Society, 21(4), 461‐480.
Miescher, S.F. (2007) Becoming an Ɔpanyin: Elders, gender, and masculinities in Ghana
since the nineteenth century. In C. M. Cole, T. Manuh, & Mischer, S. F. (Eds.), Africa
after gender? (pp. 253‐269). Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Morrell, R. (2005). Youth, fathers and masculinity in South Africa today. Agenda (Spe‐
cial Focus on Gender, Culture and Rights), 84‐87.
Nukunya, G. K. (1969). Kinship and marriage among the Anlo Ewe. London: The Athlone
Nukunya, G. K. (1992). Tradition and change in Ghana. Accra: Ghana Universities Press.
Okyerefo, M. P. K. (2001). The cultural crisis of Sub‐Saharan Africa as depicted in the African
writers’ series—A sociological perspective. Frankfurt a/m: Peter Lang.
Oppong, C. (1981). Middle class African marriage. Hemel Hempstead: George Allen &
Ratele, K. (2008). Analysing males in Africa: Certain useful elements in considering rul‐
ing masculinities. African and Asian Studies, 7(4), 515‐536.
Sackey, B. M. (2006). The vanishing sexual organ phenomenon. In Ch. Oppong, M. Yaa,
P. A. Oppong, & I. K. Odotei (Eds.), Sex and gender in an era of AIDS: Ghana at the turn
of the millenium (pp. 287‐302). Accra: Sub‐Saharan Publishers.
Sarpong, P. (1974). Ghana in retrospect: Some aspects of Ghanaian culture. Tema: Ghana
Publishing Corporation.
Sarpong, P. (1977). Girls’ nubility rites in Ashanti. Tema: Ghana Publishing Corporation.
Schefer, T., Ratele, K., Strebel, A., Shabalala, N., & Nuikema, R. (Eds.) (2007). From boys
to men: Social constructions of masculinity in contemporary society. Capetown: University
of Cape Town Press.
Wall, G., & Arnold, S. (2007). How involved is involved fathering? An exploration of
the contemporary culture of fatherhood. Gender and Society, 21(4), 509‐527.
Yamba, B. (2001, October 5‐7). The wailing song of male sexuality: A valedictory note on
African masculinity, sexuality and maleness in the times of AIDS. Draft paper pre‐
sented to the Nordic Africa Days, “Social Construction of Male and Female Sexual‐
ities in Africa,” Uppsala.
... Connell's (1995) ground-breaking research on men and masculinities has played a critical role in many studies on men and masculinities (see Diabah, 2020;Adomako Ampofo et al., 2009;Tsang et al., 2019). Like Connell (2001), some of these studies have discussed a more complex conceptualization of masculinity (hence the term 'masculinities') to refl ect the many possible ways of "being a man" in a particular context (Ruxton and Burrell, 2020, p.11). ...
... Like Connell (2001), some of these studies have discussed a more complex conceptualization of masculinity (hence the term 'masculinities') to refl ect the many possible ways of "being a man" in a particular context (Ruxton and Burrell, 2020, p.11). As Adomako Ampofo et al. (2009) also note, this has been emphasized as refl ecting the diverse and complex ways in which men experience the world and, thus, perform their identities. ...
Full-text available
With data from YouTube, this paper examines some masculinity issues raised by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TEDx talk ‘We should all be feminists’ and some selected interviews. She problematizes the masculine ideal of suppressing emotions and acting tough and uses them to gauge how masculinity can be described as a ‘cage’. To exemplify how this ‘cage’ might look like in reality, I draw on evidence from the literature on masculinity and men’s health as well as data from an unpublished document on discourses of fear and anxiety among male COVID-19 survivors in Ghana. Using the concept of hegemonic masculinity, I argue that the plethora of evidence in the literature suggest that (hegemonic) masculine norms indeed constrain men in ways that may have dire consequences, not only for their ego, but also for their health; hence, Chimamanda’s call to change the existing discourse is in order. Focusing on the ‘cage’ metaphor (including its qualifiers), however, I question Chimamanda’s description of masculinity since it suggests as though there is no room for contestation – something which weakens her own call for changing the narrative. The paper therefore proposes going beyond the kind of cage Chimamanda equates masculinity with, to make way for the needed interventions.
... 26). Colonial employment policies also impacted notions of masculinity and restructured gender relations by training men for paid work, paying them a so-called family wage that assumed wives merely managed, but did not contribute resources to the home (Adomako Ampofo, 2001;Adomako Ampofo et al., 2009;Lindsay, 2005;Miescher, 2007;Smith, 2017). In the British colonies, a woman who worked in the civil service was required by law to give up her employment when she got married. ...
... Today, masculine ideals are associated with men's supposed roles in capitalist economies as heads of households, income earners, and providers (Adinkrah 2012;Adomako Ampofo et al., 2009;Lindsay, 2005;Manuh, 2001;Matlona 2016;Smith, 2017). Failing to meet these societal expectations of being a "real" man weakens a man's social position and may contribute to extreme stress, conflict, depression and other mental illnesses, and even suicide (Adinkrah, 2012(Adinkrah, , 2014. ...
... If Ghanaian nationality seemed to be the main source of identification for those mixed-race Ghanaians, belonging to a specific ethnic group and an intimate knowledge of ethnic relations in Ghana was also used as a strategy by a few participants to reinforce their Ghanaianness and distinguish themselves from outsiders. Moreover, it positioned them within a lineage, which is a central social organising principle in Ghana (Ampofo, Okyerefo and Pervarah 2009) and a fundamental principle of citizenship (Kobo 2010). So, in addition to claiming a broader identification to the Ghanaian nation, Amanda, Lina and Emefa respectively asserted: 'I am Ashanti'; 'For me, I always say I am Fante'; and 'They [my family] say I am Ewe so they speak Ewe to me. ...
Full-text available
This article explores the multifaceted ways in which race impacts on processes of identification with the Ghanaian nation for mixed-race Ghanaians. Using a constructionist approach to identity, which highlights the agency of actors, the article underscores the shifting and racialising nature of national identity in transnational contexts. The article argues that whether they were born and raised in Ghana or they grew up in a Western country, mixed-race Ghanaians mainly identify as ‘Ghanaian first’. Their affiliation to Ghana stems both from growing up in the country and from being identified as black outsiders in countries of the white Western world. In both contexts, identifying as a Ghanaian is a source of pride and empowerment. However, their membership of the Ghanaian nation is often contested in their everyday life by the majority black-identified Ghanaian population, based on ethnoracial (non)authenticity premises. As such, mixed-race Ghanaian participants actively shape their Ghanaianness to justify their right to belong.
... Cusack and Manuh (2009) note men perceive their women as their territory over which they have staked their ownership. In other performances, men are to be providers and protectors of their families (Ataborah & Adomako Ampofo, 2016;Miescher, 2005; Odoi, 2019), exhibit outstanding leadership qualities, be heterosexual, and further have the ability to father a child most importantly a male child and be virile (Adomako, Okyerefo & Pervarah, 2009;Odoi, 2019). ...
Full-text available
IntroductionA general perception in Ghana is the notion that same-sex practices are despised. While this may be the case on the face level, a close examination suggests that individuals in their private lives are more open to these practices. This study sought to show that masculinity performance is a lens from which phobia for male same-sex practices can be explored and understood.Methods The study uses interviews carried out in 2017 and 2018. Twenty individual and four group interviews were collected from females and males aged 12 to over 70 years. The data was carried out in English and other local languages and audio recorded.ResultsThe findings confirm that in contrast to the notion of universal intolerance towards male-to-male sex practices in Ghana, there exists some level of acceptance. The motive behind engaging in the practice of engaging in sex with other men as a means of earning income was welcomed among study participants in contrast to practicing it as a means of pleasure.Conclusion The study concludes that internalizations of gender ideologies and expectations are critical to the (non)acceptance of male same-sex practices, rather than existing arguments of demonic possession and the practice being alien to Ghana.Policy ImplicationsThe findings reveal that there is a need to expand sensitization on sexualities in Ghana. It calls for researchers and policymakers to attach a critical lens to assessing same-sex relationships in Ghana: how they are depicted and their consequences for the security of same-sex loving persons and non-conforming genders.
... Although many researchers continue to study the discursive constructions of masculinity and femininity in matrilineal societies in Ghana (for example , Miescher 2005;Adomako Ampofo, Okyerefo, and Pervarah 2009;Adomako Ampofo and Boateng 2011;Adjei 2016), there is limited academic research on the meanings of masculinity in northwestern Ghana, a patrilineal society. For instance, Kojo Yelpaala's focus is on the political structures of the so-called acephalous settlements of the Dagaaba and the (colonial) processes that led to these becoming "centralized." ...
Although there is growing debate among feminist scholars on how fathers often socialize their male children to aspire to embody specific values and behaviors, there is limited academic research on how fathers themselves construct and represent masculinity in Ghana. This article draws on data from six focus group discussions held with forty men to foreground men's negotiations, expressions, and representations of masculinity among the Dagaaba in northwestern Ghana. Our findings suggest that men in rural northwestern Ghana are likely to embody hybrid masculinities where traditionally hegemonic masculine ideals—such as men being seen as independent breadwinners—and contemporary gender-conscious norms—such as men as supportive partners—interact in complex ways. Yet the hybridization of masculinity both challenges and reinforces patriarchal gender arrangements in subtle ways. By maintaining a keen interest in their heteronormative breadwinning role as a model of masculinity, educated and gainfully employed men are critical of patriarchal norms that may be destructive to feminist discourses, yet their representations of masculinity indirectly embolden male hegemony in marriage relationships. Our findings further reveal considerable ambiguity in how men define themselves as supportive allies of feminist discourses by endorsing gender egalitarianism, yet none of them visibly challenges why women cannot also be breadwinners.
... Regardless of the vast contribution made by the second and third-waves feminist theorists on the domestic violence, many women today appear to suffer substantially from violence within the household; they are unwilling to report it for fear of breaking up their relationships and being ridiculed, due to the importance of marriage in some societies. For instance, the value placed on marriage in the Ghanaian culture allows women to accept domestic violence, and, therefore, fail to report incidents of violence for fear of divorce [13]. Moreover, women in some ethnic groups or tribes in Ghana are blamed for acts of abuse by their husbands or partners on the hypothesis that they might have done something to deserve it and this deters them from reporting such occurrences for their partners to be reprimanded and corrected [14]. ...
Full-text available
Globally, women continue to struggle in their quest for gender equality and the right to full participation in society, especially the developing world. In Ghana, it appears the importance of women has largely been considered only in terms of their role as a wife, mother or homemaker rather than in a broad context, where women are considered social partners contributing towards the growth of the country. This has implications for women’s autonomy in decision-making in matters vital to reproductive health, including uptake of maternal and child health services. Women’s education is crucial in averting the existing social and religious norms to give more voice to women to commensurate their significance in modern society. The government of Ghana has also failed women because of its gender-biased policies. It is recommended that the government of Ghana and policymakers amend their policies to include those that enhance the rights of women and girls, and at the same time eradicate class differences from social justice and human rights perspective. The beneficial consequences will be economic growth and development and reduced rates of maternal and infant mortality in Ghana. Keywords: Feminist issues; Gender equality; Discrimination; Sexuality; Women autonomy; Maternal mortality in Ghana
... Regardless of the vast contribution made by the second and third-waves feminist theorists on the domestic violence, many women today appear to suffer substantially from violence within the household; they are unwilling to report it for fear of breaking up their relationships and being ridiculed, due to the importance of marriage in some societies. For instance, the value placed on marriage in the Ghanaian culture allows women to accept domestic violence, and, therefore, fail to report incidents of violence for fear of divorce [13]. Moreover, women in some ethnic groups or tribes in Ghana are blamed for acts of abuse by their husbands or partners on the hypothesis that they might have done something to deserve it and this deters them from reporting such occurrences for their partners to be reprimanded and corrected [14]. ...
Globally, women continue to struggle in their quest for gender equality and the right to full participation in society, especially the developing world. In Ghana, it appears the importance of women has largely been considered only in terms of their role as a wife, mother or homemaker rather than in a broad context, where women are considered social partners contributing towards the growth of the country. This has implications for women’s autonomy in decision-making in matters vital to reproductive health, including uptake of maternal and child health services. Women’s education is crucial in averting the existing social and religious norms to give more voice to women to commensurate their significance in modern society. The government of Ghana has also failed women because of its gender-biased policies. It is recommended that the government of Ghana and policymakers amend their policies to include those that enhance the rights of women and girls, and at the same time eradicate class differences from social justice and human rights perspective. The beneficial consequences will be economic growth and development and reduced rates of maternal and infant mortality in Ghana.
... Available scholarly information indicates that traditional male role orientations (e.g., masculinity and power distance) and male sexual behaviour may heighten the risk of HIV and other STDs infection among sexually active men in Ghana (e.g., Adomako et al., 2009;Anarfi, 2006;Tsikata, 2007). Specifically, cultural orientation allows men to be sexually domineering (i.e., have multiple sexual partners that increase their risk taking) (Anarfi, 2006;World Health Organization, 2007). ...
Full-text available
Introduction This current study sought to investigate the association between male circumcision status and engaging in multiple sexual partnership among men in Ghana. Methods Data from this study come from the men’s file of the 2014 Ghana demographic and health survey. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were conducted among 1,948 men and the level of statistical significance was pegged at p<0.05. Results Results revealed that men who have been circumcised were more likely to engage in multiple sexual partnership (AOR=3.36;CI:1.14-9.89), compared to those who have not been circumcised. With the covariates, men with primary level of education were more likely to have multiple sexual partners (AOR=2.01; CI:1.10-3.69), compared to those with no education. With wealth status, men with richest (AOR=2.27;CI:1.04-4.97), richer (AOR=2.05; CI: 1.03-4.08), and middle wealth status (AOR=1.83; CI:1.01-3.34) had the highest likelihood of having multiple sexual partners, compared to those with poorest wealth status. Conversely, men who professed the Islamic faith were less likely to engage in multiple sexual partnership (AOR=0.58; CI: 0.36-0.94), compared to Christians. Similarly, men who resided in the Brong Ahafo (AOR=0.51; CI: 0.26-0.99), Upper East (AOR=0.41; CI:0.19-0.89), and Ashanti regions (AOR=0.39;CI: 0.20-0.78) were less likely to engage in multiple sexual partnership. Conclusion Based on the current findings, educational campaigns by stakeholder groups (e.g., Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Commission on Civic Education, civil society, educational institutions) should sensitize the sexually active population at the community level to consistently use condoms, especially when having multiple sexual partners, even when a man is circumcised. Campaign messages must clearly emphasize that male circumcision should not substitute precautionary measures such as delay in the onset of sexual relationships, averting penetrative sex, reducing the number of sexual partners as well as correct and consistent use of male or female condoms regardless one’s social standing.
We investigated transgressions in the context of in-law relationships in Ghana. In-laws form an integral part of the family structure in Ghana. However, psychological studies on in-law relationships in this country are rare. The current study interviewed thirty-seven individuals, aged between 32 and 76 who had been married between 2 and 59 years, from two regions in Southern Ghana. Through semi-structured interviews, participants described transgressions in-laws commit in the context of marriage. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically. Findings revealed two major transgressions: role failure; and failure/resistance to changes in the in-law relationship. For children-in-law, failure to discharge roles as child bearers and meet financial obligations were considered as transgressions. Transgressions committed by parents-in-law include poor conflict handling, failures associated with customary postnatal care duties, privacy violations, and usurpation of daughter-in-law’s cooking rights. Findings have implications for couple and family interventions.
Full-text available
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Full-text available
Arnold Schwarzenegger's celebrity status allowed him to project a symbolic masculine persona that was effective in gaining political power as California governor. The well-known violent tough-guy persona that Schwarzenegger developed in the mid-1980s contributed to a post—Vietnam era cultural remasculinization of the American man. But this narrow hyper-masculinity was often caricatured in popular culture and delegitimized. In the 1990s and 2000s, Schwarzenegger forged a credible masculine imagery by introducing characters who were humorously self-mocking and focused on care and protection of children. Schwarzenegger's resultant hybrid masculinity, the “Kindergarten Commando,” represents an ascendant hegemonic masculinity always foregrounding muscle, toughness, and the threat of violence and following with situationally appropriate symbolic displays of compassion. The equation of toughness plus compassion composing the Kindergarten Commando is asymmetrical, with toughness eclipsing compassion; this has implications for the kinds of policies that U.S. elected leaders advocate. Republicans utilize this masculine imagery in national politics to gain voters' trust in times of fear and insecurity and continue to employ a strategy that projects a devalued feminized stigma onto more liberal candidates.
This is a paperback version of Marriage among a Matrilineal Elite: a Family Study of Ghanaian Senior Civil Servants, Cambridge Studies in Social Anthropology No. 8: Cambridge University Press 1974. It is a study of conjugal and kin relationships among a set of urban, educated, Akan Senior Civil Servants in Accra. As well as contributing to data on marriage and family life in West Africa it is an exercise in methodology, in which the aim is to evolve ways of documenting and comparing two major aspects of conjugal family relationships: the divisions of labour, resources and power between spouses and the extent to which the conjugal family is a functionally discrete unit in a number of domestic activity areas. This analysis leads to examination of marital continuity and change among urban migrants from a region characterized by matrilineal descent and inheritance. it seeks to contribute to a cross-culturally valid sociology of families in transition.
Africa is a continent with high rates of infertility, including a so-called infertility belt around its center (Ericksen and Brunette 1996; Larsen 1994). Although much of this infertility has been attributed to infectious scarring of female reproductive tracts (World Health Organization 1987), “male factors” remain an under-appreciated but a significant cause of infertility in Africa and elsewhere (Irvine 1998), contributing to more than half of all cases of infertility globally. Among the male factors leading to infertility is sexual dysfunction, including problems of impotence, ejaculation, and intromission (vaginal penetration), whereby sperm are unable to enter the female reproductive tract. Indeed, problems of sexual potency and male infertility are conventionally conflated in the popular discourses of many societies, as both are associated with losses of “virility” and “manhood” (Webb and Daniluk 1999).
La prostitution en Afrique a generalement ete presentee comme un phenomene principalement urbain et capitaliste, la ville permettant l'anonymat necessaire a la prostitution. Cet article etudie la prostitution des femmes Akan en milieu rural et dans les premiers noyaux urbains de l'ancienne Cote d'Or (Ghana actuel) pendant les periodes precoloniale et coloniale, du XVII e siecle jusqu'en 1950. La sexualite, la politique et l'economie morale sont abordees a travers une approche d'anthropologie historique des genres et des relations de pouvoir. Il existe une difference fondamentale entre les prostituees et les femmes publiques, generalement des esclaves placees sous l'autorite de l'elite politique des villages et des villes. La fonction instutionnalisee des femmes publiques permet d'eclairer la perception de la sexualite, les relations de genre, les mutations de ces relations dans un contexte de changement politique. A la fin du XIX e siecle le pouvoir colonial a officiellement aboli l'institution ancienne des femmes publiques et en a fait une activite de prostitution ou l'autonomie relative des femmes a ete effacee.
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.