'Man a stud, man a fire': How not wanting to be labelled a 'gelding' has forced many men into reluctant fatherhood


Monday, March 25, 2019

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A check in just about any dictionary will reveal the term 'gelding' as a castrated horse or other equine such as a donkey or a mule. However, the term has been notoriously adopted into the Jamaican culture to describe a man who has not (yet) fathered any children — a culture which has been aligned to the stud culture deeply embedded in the system of slavery. As such, many men, out of fear of being ridiculed, have “bruk their ducks” just so they can graduate into the elite class of fatherhood, even if they remain relatively absent from their children's lives.

“Many will tell you that fatherhood defines their manhood,” said counsellor and youth pastor David Anderson, who works with young men in East Kingston.

“So having a youth is the ultimate sign that you are a man — and it's a belief that's as old as the multiple generations that permeate the Jamaican society.”

He said that while most of the men affected are from the working class, as these views often change with education, there are also middle and upper class men who hold this view, and will have children just to prove their virility to friends and family.

“While they may not have children in their youth, there are many who will become fathers just to say that they can. Because in our culture, if you get to 30 and have not sired a spawn or several, there's something wrong with you,” Anderson noted.

In exploring the gelding culture, All Woman sought to evaluate its current impact, and asked men if they have, or are considering having kids just because they don't want to be labelled.

Charlie, 30, labourer:

More while my brethren dem trouble me say a pure blank mi buss. Sometimes it makes me even want to test out if mi swimmers them really not working for real, but I don't want to do that then have to ask my girl to get rid of it because we're not in the position to really deal with a child how a child deserves to get taken care of. But I won't lie, I would want to know — but I am working on things man, a little roof over me and my girlfriend's head. We have already started to buy the material and things for the house and we will work on putting something down for a rainy day. So yes, to be honest, I feel pressured, 30-year-old man and not one child to carry on the legacy, but I don't want my youth to come and live with less than.

Omar, 34, chef:

I got my son when I was 19 years old and it was a big deal for me because at that age you know everybody wanted to big me up because “man a stud, man a fire”, but it never took very long for me to realise that I wasn't ready for a child — I really was child myself. I was in need of guidance so really it's my father who had to pick up the mantle and help me to raise my son until I was more mature to carry out some of the fatherly principles. So I would tell any young youth not to rush into anything because my father had to bear the financial responsibility to send me to college and help look about my son. I still am grateful, but it was not a good feeling that he had to be doing all that when I could have waited. So youths, make them call you whatever name they want to — do not get a child until you are ready to be a father.

Michael, 29, businessman:

It's a culture in the country, yes, so once you reach a certain age and don't have any children, people start to ask you what you're waiting for, regardless of whether you are in a financial situation [to support] a child. I haven't gotten any yet, and the pressure doesn't bother me; I don't plan to get one until I'm sure I've found the right mother for my child and the finances are in place.

Sean, 25, mechanic:

I got a child, but it wasn't planned, so it's not like I was doing it for hype or so that people wouldn't view me a certain way. But after getting one, I realise that a man is really more of a man when he is standing up to his responsibilities. Children will show you that. But a man can get a woman pregnant and still be a waste man, so that doesn't mean anything. The test is about who takes care of their youth.

Rayon, 35, YouTuber/video editor:

Personally, I'm not perplexed by this gelding stereotype. That traditional approach to life has long been outdated. It makes absolutely no sense bringing a child into this world to fight the same battles you faced when you have not created a product, a solution or business so that you can adequately care for them. I can speak from an authentic place because I have been there. Many men I grew up around fell in this trap of “having nuff women”. To them, they glorified that idea and practised as though it was some form of assets gathering. The lifestyle brings into this world a child or children without proper plans or thoughts of the future. But when they fast forward, they see another young man with ambition, going somewhere, is fully focused, who aims high and that picture reminds them of what they could have been. So in order to make themselves feel worthy, the one thing that they can use to “try” and break this forward-moving young man is the gelding speech.

McWayne, 25, financial analyst:

I think it's mostly in the black community, as they attach masculinity with being a baby daddy instead of a father. For me, I have certain goals that I must achieve before I get a child. Children are a big responsibility; I want to be able to match the joy that they will bring to me with a happy, safe environment. I want to be able to give them my time and attention, to be there on important occasions, and to take care of them.

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