Betty Muindi and Njange Maina
It is said that women cannot keep secrets. Well, they still can’t. However, it turns out that gossiping is not a women-only affair—men these days seem to be taking the crown when it comes to ‘juicy fill me in’ kamukunjis.
Doriella Nyambs, a technical support employee in an IT company in Nairobi, knows this only too well. Recently, when having a drink with a friend, a mutual male friend joined them. What shocked her was the manner in which the guy was tittle-tattling about his friends and colleagues, both male and female! “Within an hour of our sit-down, the 33-year-old man had told us about the people’s personal behaviour including who slept with who and his female colleagues affairs with the bosses. Sometimes, you could see that he was exaggerating on some details,” she recounts.
Purity Mugure affirms that modern men do not just gossip while in the company of women—they also do it with the boys. She remembers one evening when her ex-boyfriend called her to inform her about his intention to watch a football match with his friends, but forgot to end the call. For 15 minutes, she listened with disbelief how her ex and his friends went on and on talking about their female colleague, “I could hear them talk about how their lady supervisor was having an affair with the general manager, thus her fat salary and quick promotions,” she remembers.
“What happened to the good old days when men only talked about four things; work, sports, small talk and general talk about women? I was shocked that grown-up men could zero down their talk to tiny details of what so and so wore to work,” she wonders.
Daniel Mutua, a chef who although denies engaging in gossip, is of the opinion that the practice is common among men. “As humans, we also have a powerful drive to know what goes on in other people’s lives,” he says. He, however, makes an exception for rumour mongering that destroys reputations.
In general, he believes gossip is a force that ties together social and business networks. And in the workplace, it serves a purpose. “To me, it is a way to see behind the curtain of employer pronouncements, so that you are not left in the dark about the ongoings in the workplace,” says Mutua.
And now thanks to social media platforms and text messaging, men no longer have to wait to see each other face to face to share a gossip. Listen to call-ins radio programmes, especially those that discuss societal issues and many are from men who are not ashamed to give in details their experiences with their wives and women among other titbits.
A poll in February this year on 1,033 adults in the UK could also be a reflection of Kenyan men. The survey conducted by BMRB Research, a market research agency, concluded that men are by far the worst culprits when it comes to gossiping. One in five men said they spent at least three hours of their day gossiping mainly at work with the main topics including women colleagues and who is in line for promotion. Other places of gossip included the bar, while watching a game.
One in 10 men like to dish the dirt on other people, compared with four per cent of women, while more men than women are guilty of spreading rumours, according to the poll. Some 55 per cent of men said they gossiped at work, compared with 46 per cent of women whose top topics were family feuds, old school friends, fashion errors and what neighbours are like.
Among men, the favourite subject is old school friends, the sexiest girl at work, promotions, salaries, and their best friend’s conquest, the survey found.At home, 17 per cent of men confess they were more interested in pillow talk than sex, with only 10 per cent of women saying the same. However, a fifth of girlfriends and wives said they preferred to gossip with a friend than their partner.
But why have men turned into gossipers? Dr Kabii Thuo, a sociologist, says social change and socialisation of the male gender is to blame. “Man is no longer the traditional boy who is tough and detached from the women. Nowadays, boys grow up getting a lot of social support from women,” says Kabii.
“There is also so much half information going around too fast that it’s hard to take time to digest as men have been socialised to do. This creates room for gossip as a secondary source of information that is passed fast,” adds Kabii
And while gossip gives women a way to compete in a non-physically threatening manner, for men it helps build their self-confidence. Sociologist James Thuo of Societies Today, says men are likely to engage in gossip, to boost their egos. Thuo cites a study in which men were found to be interested in a debate where they are talking of their achievements and dominance over women. “From the study, we found that men felt better when talking about their achievements and when criticising women’s behaviour,” he says.
Thuo also adds that gossip among men should be encouraged, as it relieves pressure that usually builds up when men refrain from speaking. “Many men portray introverted nature, especially at the workplace or in social gatherings of mixed gender, as such, they reserve a lot of talk to themselves. When they get an opportunity among themselves, they spit out all the words they want to say. t almost gives equal pleasure to drinking alcohol,” adds Thuo.