The Trauma and Challenges of Womanhood in Saadawi Woman At Point Zero And Amma Darko Faceless
1.1 Background to the study
The modernization of African cultural customs is one of the difficulties women encounter. Women are impacted emotionally and psychologically by gender crisis issues. Throughout the beginning of time, males have abused and victimized women. Men have always loved dominating women in different houses, on the other hand. Women have historically had to deal with this since to be dominated, repressed, and mistreated is to be excluded from essential facets of human endeavors. Ah, what faithless little animals’ girls are! is what a female writer by the name of Benard Show says in reference to this. According to Shaw, African women are not exempt from being victimized, oppressed, or victimized by their male counterparts.
A patriarchal system of male headship and female subjugation in interpersonal relationships and marriage is practiced in the majority of African countries. This indicates that in African society, male headship and female obedience are both cultural and religious ideals. These beliefs pose obstacles to the gender equality promoted by modernity since they specify the place and function of sexes in African civilizations. This essay aims to demonstrate how certain African cultural and religious ideals contribute to the issue of gender inequality. This essay argues that these principles should be evaluated critically, and those that are shown to be detrimental to the welfare and overall growth of society should be abandoned. In this way, the relevance of African culture and values can be built and maintained to support
African women are acquainted with grief. Like in the movie: Pride and Prejudice, African women depend largely on marriage to survive. Ours is a society that throbs with harassed-looking housewives, women who smile while they suffer; women who are treated with disdain and supercilious demeanor; women who are socially relegated, politically ostracized and economically deprived; women who are no more than cooks in the kitchen, sex-machine and baby factories; women who are possessed by men like mundane and tangible properties that are transient and ephemeral. And to cap it all, women who are further restricted by tradition and religion.
Brown claims that these authors employ fiction to portray the patriarchal and colonial subjugation of African women. The authors understood the necessity for a voice to advocate for other women in order to end their sexism and enable both sexes to participate equally in both the family and public arenas. They use the literary voices they create to critique and subvert the oppressive patriarchal society. Kivai claims that female writers from Africa, like Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Akachi Adimora, have authored works that aim to end the marginalization of women and that their works inspire readers to expose oppression and inequality. These authors want to declare that there should be economic,
In furtherance of the argument on the importance of women writing about the female experience in literary texts, Aidoo submits that, ―Women writers write about women because when we wake up in the morning and look in the mirror we see women”.(45)
However, Bruner opine that many female writers try to bring into focus their femaleness/femininity and personal experiences in their narratives and in doing so highlight power differences between men and women. As a result, women scholars and activists have pioneered a literary canon built on sexual politics aimed at stamping gender and feminism into both criticism and theory. This is with the aim of replacing a tradition that is viewed as masculine and domineering by female critics like Showalter. She maintains that gender has become an analytic category whether the concerns are representation of sexual difference, (re)shaping masculinity, building feminine values or exclusion of female voice from the literary canon. (37)
Gender stereotype is the attribution of character traits, behaviours and social roles to men and women in society. Women suffer most as a result of gender stereotypes because often time positive characteristics are attributed to men whereas negative ones are attributed to women and this implies subtle gender inequality, sexism, and discrimination against women. (Dangarembga)
According to Dorn an African woman wants to escape the home confinement and exercise power and authority in her society so that she can actively participate in the public sphere. It is advantageous to have autonomous power because one can reach desired goals. For this reason, some women writers, as part of the “dominated individuals or groups are in perpetual search for forms of resistances, consciously and unconsciously, actively and passively” (Odiemo-Munara. 3).
Male dominance over women is revealed in the family set-up and how cultures and traditions are prearranged. This has resulted in depriving women access to power to exercise their actualities by contributing to the social, economic and political spheres. Some women have been limited to household roles of being mothers and wives so their contribution to the public sphere has been minimal. Over the years, African women’s writing has flourished in the 21st century and these writers have interrogated practices and institutions which are patriarchally constructed (Bouziani. 55).
The Trauma and Challenges of Womanhood in Saadawi Woman At Point Zero And Amma Darko Faceless
Patriarchy is a socio-political system that insists that males are dominant, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and are endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak, and to maintain that dominance through terrorism and violence (Hooks, 1984, p. 1). Matos (2015, p. 1) indicates that globally, in the period 2010 to 2014 women’s share of the population ranged from 49% to 53% in each country, but in most cases women do not enjoy the same representation of power and equality within the private and public spheres. Through literature women resisted patriarchal settings so that all social classes can have equal representation in the private and public spheres. Many critics have studied and analysed women’s fiction writing, focusing on gender and female oppression.
Gender discourse is an important area of literary criticism with wide spread implications for gender equality and human development across sectors. Increasing attention is being accorded the negotiation of gender relations in contemporary African literature. The study is thus premised on the following propositions:
Gendered hegemony is more or less mentally integrated in a vast majority of both men and women, commonly allowing patriarchy to remain unchallenged, and even defended by both The gender of a person affects power-sharing and decision-making and this is manifested in men‘s control in families and public offices
However, Kabira and Burkeywo state that African women have been speaking for themselves through literature, and in this way they validate the meanings of being female. Their literature can no longer be ignored, therefore their contributions started to be appreciated. In their fictional works, they exhibit the changing roles of African women in their effort to reach self-actualisation and contribute to discourses on marriage, love, motherhood and nation building by bringing their experiences to the mainstream discourses and offering new perspectives (26). It is an intellectual commitment and political movement that seek justices for women and the end of sexism in all form and it is there from the above nation that the research seeks to examine the trauma and challenges of womanhood in Saadawi’s woman at point zero and Amma Darko faceless
1.2 statement of the problem
In Africa, many cultural practices are against women, for instance, no matter how a woman works, she cannot be considered being equal with a man because a man is stronger, physically than women. Without any doubt, men are stronger mentally and physically than women and men are always the head of every family, but does this fact create room for the oppression of female gender? Does this mean that the women should only be called upon when her husband is hungry or when time for child bearing comes? Does this also give room for women to be trampled upon by men? Most important should this above mentioned problems women faced in African society and our country Nigeria deprive women the opportunity of contributing to the development of our country Nigeria?
Another problems women faced in Africa society due to cultural practices is that, women are not allowed to marry more than one husband whereas men does. In the Christian religion, women are admonished to be submissive to their husbands, doing only the things their husband want them to do or approves of. Besides, they must be very obedient and submissive; they must obey their husbands at all times and never to refuse them anything even if it is not really convenient for the wives. Therefore, the above mentioned problems concerned the researcher to write on the topic, “the trauma and challenges of womanhood in Saadawi’s woman at point zero and Amma Darko faceless”
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this research work is to examine the trauma and challenges of womanhood in Saadawi’s woman at point zero and Amma Darko faceless”. The following objectives were based on the primary aim of the study:
- To examine the issues of socio-cultural injustice in the writings of Nawal El- Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Amma Darko faceless
- To investigate the socio-cultural injustice, sufferings, pains and cultural practices affecting African women.
- To analyses how the characters in the two novels suffered socio-cultural injustice with reference to African women
- to also suggest possible ways for the call of women’s freedom.
1.4 Significance of the study
This study adds to the growing number study on the travails and oppression faced by African women. It aims at contributing to the understanding of feminist context and recognises the presence of women who in history, have been ignored. This study hopes that analyzing literary works of African feminist fictional writers would help others to construct persuasive arguments on the same topic that help women to redefine themselves and take charge of their own destinies. In addition, this would also assist men to understand that it is normal for women to have autonomous power to realise their dreams. Readers of this study should understand what effective and non-effective rhetorical strategies are, and how it might be possible for women to be included in all spheres of life. This study contributes to interdisciplinary studies; particularly feminism. Interdisciplinary studies are important in opening avenues for reading and research.
1.5 Limitations of the study
The study is limited to the critical examination of the novels themselves, only of which it could have been beneficial to interview the authors – however due to time, logistical and resource limitations; this is not possible. The results obtained from this might not be generalized to all societies in Africa as the novels could have represented experiences of societies in which they are set.
1.6 Scope and Delimitations of the study
There are many women fictional writers in Africa, who have written against gender inequality, but this study is limited to two selected novels, which are set in Africa. Only fiction written in English is considered, as fictional works written in other languages fall out of the scope of this study. The two novels selected are of Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Amma Darko faceless
The research method that is used in this project is library research. The primary method is the use of Nawal El- Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and Amma Darko faceless. Internet, academic journals will be used to obtain further information. Secondary Sources include Kalu’s “Women in African Literature” (2000), McEldowney’s “African Women in Literature” (1999), Kumah’s “African Women and Literature” (2000), Ruthven’s Feminist Literary Studies (1984), Stratton’s Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender (1994) and Newell’s Writing African Women: Gender Popular Culture and Literature in West Africa (1997). The researcher conducted a close analysis of both primary and secondary texts, journals, critical essays and studies on the depiction of women characters in relation to aspects of culture, education and power were drawn from this data.
1.7.1 Bio-Data of Nawal El Saadawi
Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931, in Tahla, a small village outside Cairo in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. Her father was a government official in the ministry of education, his integrity as a man opposes corruptionthis gives El Saadawi a model of independent thinking and also taught herself respect. Her mother comes from an upper-class family but she died when El Saadawi is twenty five years.
In 1949, El Saadawi entered medical school; where she received her M.D in 1955 from the University of Cairo and a master’s degree in public Health from Columbia University, New York, in 1966.
Immediately after her graduation, she practiced psychiatry at the University Hospital in Cairo and eventually rosed to become Egypt’s director of public Health. She writes on women, particularly Arab women and sexuality and legal status. She later publishedAl-Mara Wal-Sira Al-Nafsi (1976) a text that tells about women and how they go through psychological conflict. The Hidden face of Eve 1977,Woman at point Zero 1975 and A Memoir from the women’s Prison published in 1983 that make her lost her job in the Egyptian government in 1972under the President Anwar Sadat’s Regime.
1.7.2 Bio-Data Nawal El Saadawi
Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931, in Tahla, a small village outside Cairo in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt. Her family was relatively traditional and get some what progressive. Her father was a government official in the ministry of education, his integrity as a man opposed to corruption gave El Saadawi a model of independent thinking and also taught herself respect.
El Saadawi’s mother came from an upper-class family; she died when El Saadawi was twenty five years. El Saadawi said about her mother that she would have been an early fighter for women’s rights, if she had not buried her beliefs in her marriage.
In 1949, El Saadawi entered medical school; she received her M.D in 1955 from the University of Cairo and a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University, New York, in 1966. Immediately after her graduation, El Saadawi practiced psychiatry at the university Hospital in Cairo and eventually rose to become Egypt’s director of public health. Since she began to write she has focused on women, particularly Arab women, and even more specifically on their sexuality and legal status. For some times she published nonfiction, such as al-Mara Wal-Sira Al-Nafsi (1976) woman and self-struggle, a text about women and psychological conflict and the Hidden face of Eve 1977, in Beirut. Woman at point Zero 1975 was partly based on material about women’s mental health that she had collected at Ayn Shams University.
A memoir from the women’s prison 1983 was published in Saadawi lost her job in the Egyptian government in 1972.
The magazine health which she had founded and edited for more three years was closed down. Long viewed as controversial and dangerous by the Egyptians government, El Saadawi was arrested in September 1981, along with many other objectors to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty by President Anwar Sadat’s Regime.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Gender crisis is one of the major issues in African female writings, Nawal El Saadawi and Amma Darko strong African feminist writers whose writings dramatise the issues of gender crisis patriarchal domination and gender biases in our contemporary African societies. Unlike Amma Darko, Saadawi writes on the obnoxious cultural practices that affect the female folks this, critic like Kammapoal Bawa opines that, Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero reflects the women’s predicaments in African society. She further posits that, the novel looks at a true nature of cultural identity to the subversive potential of creativity (45).
As a feminist writer, Saadawi depicts the importance of equal treatment in our African societies today, regardless of individual different cultures and gives to greater extent a standpoint of exchange in a society, where all individuals of the society are qualified for equality and thereby enforces an identity for the women’s folk and works towards achieving self-actualization as it affects women. In support of this, Mary Wollstone craft states that, women are not and should not be denied the same individual rights and privileges including the rights to education, learning and property of ownership (82).
Female critics have critically examined the cultural discrimination in Africa and how it affects the souls of the female ones. Femi Ojo-Ade for instance states, African women writers write on issues affecting the fellow women therefore, African cultural practices should eradicate the practices that affect the women. As a feminist writer, Saadawi’s where female children are seen as less important to the male ones. Thus, African writers like, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, NgoziAdichie and MariamaBâ and the rest of others write for equality for both sexes in the society. A critic like Bryson valeire states that, Nawal’s writings expose the issues of gender discrimination and violence as seen in Women at Point Zero. She further opines that, Nawal’s novels are told in:
Firstly, African women have been oppressed for so long and seemingly contributed to their own oppression because they fail to seek for their rights. Secondly, African women can be rendered whole again through conscious raising (15).
From the above, Saadawi’s Feminist aggression centres on women oppression, discrimination and subjugation by the male counterparts.
Moreover, Akachi Ezeigbo is one of the African best writers of her time. She had written novels, plays, poetry and children’s literature for the betterment of African societies. On this point, critic like Bhattacharji, Shreya says, one of the outstanding qualities of Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s exploration of the autobiographical genre is the creation of female-centred narratives. This is because her stories are not far removed from her lived experiences (132). Okafor,Hunsu says, “Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s The Last of the Strong Ones” is one of her best novels based on her narrative point of view (117). UduYakubu asserts that with a close reading of Ezeigbo’s works would “lead the perceptive reader to no other but the author herself” (175).
Based on Akachi’strilogy, Femi,Osofisan states that Akachi’s texts do not only bridge the numerical gap between male-authored and female-authored texts in Nigerian literature, they qualify her as a voice for women’s visibility and transformation in this tradition (67). Commenting on Adimora-Ezeigbo’s position in Nigerian literature, Patrick Oloko states that:
Having made some profound statements on the human condition by contributing to the ongoing reformulations of the paradigms by which women may be assessed in her vast publications re-imagining the female character, it seems rather obvious that this writer can no longer be conveniently ignored in serious discussions of Nigerian Literature (3). One of the “reformulations” as this researcher would argue in her writings is the deployment of female subjectivity as a technique that redefines otherness as a favourable concept capable of accentuating women’s positions as critical members of their societies.(4)
To Regenia, Gagnier Akachi’s female subjectivity is used in this study to mean the position of the female as subject…”as a subject to itself, an ‘I’, however difficult or even impossible it may be for others to understand this ‘I’ from its own viewpoint, within its own experience” (8).
In Africa, procreation is the most common expectation governing marriage. A woman‘s ability to secure her marriage rests on her ability to give birth. The primacy of womanhood to African women has been elucidated by Oduyoye thus:
“Womanhood is a highly valued role open only to women but desired by men and women as well as the society as a whole; it is the channel by which men reproduce themselves and continue the family name and it is the channel by which women actualize their psycho-religious need to be the source of life. Often, procreation is described as if women are simply ―Objects of genetic and social transmission”(45)
Oduyoye‘s analysis of the primacy of motherhood to African women reveals some attempt at a comparative analysis as per the importance of childbirth to men and women. Whereas for men procreation constitutes a duty call since it is the channel by which men continue with the family name, for women, childbirth goes beyond ensuring survival of the human race. Women see in it their ability to procreate, their very essence it is fulfilling since the birth of a child supposedly fills a vacuum in a woman‘s life. It does not bring only physical joy to the woman; it assures her that her ability to procreate makes her acceptable before God and man. Ann Oakley has argued that being a mother is held out as the primary feminine goal. She writes:
“Women hood settles women down and provides a focus for feelings of feminine responsibility. It is fulfilling – both of the social expectation and of the personal desire – though its capacity to satisfy the latter is not so great in reality as in anticipation (when babies are clothed in a mystique that red and squalling infants do not have).More than this, the very sentimentalization of womanhood is a problem for women in becoming and being mothers, since it poses the insoluble dilemma of tracing perfection in imperfect circumstances (Oakley, Ann,198:86)
As an important marker of female identity, womanhood to most Africans and especially most African women is considered the major role of the female. According to Sarpong, womanhood ―is the principal if not ultimate end of marriage.( Sarpong, 1974:69
According to John Gills (1996:174) womanhood is the sovereign means of female identity formation. Gills (1996:174) asserts, giving birth ceased to be something that happens to a woman and became the ultimate source of adult female identity formation( Gills 1996:174). Gills‘s assertion points to a rather disturbing generalization which considers procreation as a duty for every woman. The woman who refuses to procreate or who, for one biological reason or the other, cannot procreate automatically comes under severe criticism for interrupting nature‘s original plan. Sarpong (1974:69) says:
“The greatest calamity to befall an African woman is to be barren.The idea that women occupy important spaces in society cannot be overemphasized. According to Naana Horne, ―Matrilineal kinship recognizes woman as the very source of intergenerational connectedness. Indeed, Darko‘s descent from a matrilineage explains partly the space she gives to motherhood in her novels. The attendant challenges mothers face in the political and the socio-economic domains of the woman nurturing the matrilineal kinship system of the Akans(in Ghana) . Furthermore, problems such as economic hardships, patriarchal and cultural demands, woman violation by men, domestic violence against, as well as the irresponsible behaviour of some men have rendered many women voiceless in Africa to the extent that women who are mothers cannot mentor their children, especially not their daughters, to become mothers or to make their views heard in public. Womanhood, in Africa, is fraught with a myriad of problems and these problems have made motherhood a paradox—that which brings joy and reward whilst at the same time reducing the woman/mother to the level of an object conditioned to suffer shame and abuse. The received view that all mothers have automatic love for their children has been radically interrogated by world changing situations as well as African women writers. It is based on these problems that this study examines the violation of the right of women in Africa novel.
Despite these considerable difficulties, African women, especially writers, are becoming a force to reckon with in their societies. They have always played significant roles as storytellers, warriors, nurturers, and healers besides the obvious ones as wife, mother, daughter, and sister. The fact that women writers like Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo, Buchi Emecheta, Mariama Ba, Bessie Head, and Tsitsi Dangarembga have been writing and reflecting women’s special concerns makes a case for gender equality in Africa. The works of these women offer insight into various dimensions of African women’s perception of themselves, their roles, and communities. This research joins the voice of these women to challenge the stereotypical image and inequalities expressed towards African women in African societies through the values held within the society. (47)
According to Jewkes, African societies are patriarchal. Patriarchy is a hierarchical social system in which dominant males have controls over females, children and other “weaker” and marginalized people6 (1423). In a patriarchal society, this kind of social control penetrates all levels of society and all social institutions, including the institution of marriage. The control of males over females specifically has been linked to one major social issue, namely gender-based violence. In this regard, most African governments have passed laws in an attempt to curb gender-based violence. According to Ngena, in 2006, for example, the government of Zimbabwe passed the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). A newspaper, the Herald, reports that the purpose of the DVA is “to allow maximum protection for survivors of domestic violence, provide relief to survivors and long-term measures for the prevention of domestic violence” (7).
The introduction of the DVA draws attention to the reality and effect of power imbalances in African marriages. According to Mungwini, surprisingly, The Domestic Violence Act of 2007 was even opposed by a group of married Shona Christian women. This they did through the media8. Mungwini further claimed that these Christian women aimed at “protecting their marriages” against those “who claimed to champion women’s rights” but “were not genuine at all but wanted to destroy families and marriages”(9). Attitudes such as these serve to reinforce patriarchy in society. It illustrates how women are socialized into accepting “the way things are”, namely that men are superior to women and are entitled to total freedom and to women’s dedicated unquestioning service. These socialized views contribute to women not daring to challenge men and their behaviour, irrespective of how damaging and unjust that may be. The reason for this is articulated by Baloyi as that the “headship of man in the house has been of greater importance”10 than fairness or the well-being of women. The man’s role is to be honoured and supported as it is.
This affects African Christians as well and due to culturally defined customs and principles that govern male-female relations, some Christian men and women find it aberrant to challenge the status quo. Even in some Christian homes, marital relationships are defined mostly by culture. To oppose these roles is to oppose culture and cultural structures. That, for many, is unthinkable. It is important to state that cultural elements that impinge on people’s lives in the way that patriarchy imposes on the relationship between the sexes are essentialist. Outcast avers that: “Essentialism refers to the existence of fixed characteristics, given attributes and ahistorical functions that limit the possibilities of change and of social organisation” (11). According to Bourdillon, a renowned researcher of African culture, “a man’s character to an extent lies in the traditions in which he was brought up and the experiences he has undergone, but anyone can change, especially under the influences of outside pressures
Discrimination is one of the major travails faced by women in Africa. Discrimination against women means any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of the marital status, on a basis of equality of man and women of human rights and fundament freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
Wikipedia asserts: “discrimination against woman is the attitude and beliefs in relation to the female gender, such beliefs and attitudes are of social nature and don’t normally carry any legal consequences”. For the purpose of this research, discrimination against women therefore is defined as unfair treatment to women because of their gender. Many discriminatory acts are done against women by the society, laws, and tradition etc. All these have negative effects on both the society and female folks. Sherry .R. believes that: “the judgment that works about men are ‘general’ while works about women are ‘narrow’ tells us something about the way in which our culture has evaluated the relative importance of the experience, of men and of women” (2).
Culturally, the female folks are known to be less important in making laws, training children, speaking their minds, females are always very silent. Men are the one who have the right to make laws which women must obey. Even in families, it is discovered that mothers training children do not have a say over the children they gave birth to, this example is seen in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. A father beats the children, yet the mother cannot do anything.
In the same way, female children traditionally are not recognized; they are seen as assets through which they can send the male children to school, while females are not always sent to school. James A. reports: Nnu Ego and her husband, Nnaife, give up everything so that their eldest son, Oshia can have the benefit of an education.”(2). the leftover money, if there had been any, would go to educate their second son Adim, there was never any thought given to educating their daughters. Daughters were seen as investments. Daugarembga .T. say:
“can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother, learn to cook and clean, grow vegetables.’’ (34)
Culture blames women who are not able to bear children especially male children; they are beaten and accused of witchcraft. Emecheta B. says:
“pity your ideal; Amatokwu almost beat you to death because you did not bear him a son” (49). Women are also treated as less important as they can be replaced at anytime like new clothes and shoes without quarries. Updike. J. reports that:
“Agbadi in the Joys of motherhood married few women in the traditional sense, but as he watched each of them sink into domesticity and motherhood, he was soon bored and would go further a field for some other exciting tall and proud females” (10).
Emecheta .B. states that:
“She was not surprised when Amatokwu told her casually one evening that she would have to move to a nearby hut kept for older wives, because his people had found him a new wife” (10).
Women should not be treated as if they are nothing. They are human beings. Women are also seen as what can be traded for money with the bride issue in Africa. The way many parents present bride price is like they are selling off the child. For instance, many people are afraid of getting married from the eastern part of Nigeria, not because there are no good girls, but because of the huge amount of money demanded as bride price by parents. (p.32)
Emecheta says: “the longer she stays in school, the higher the bride price that is expected on her. Also in Amina, Amina could not further her education because her father wants her to get married. Amadi .H. comments:
“It seems we are marketable objects to be disposed off with speed, to the highest bidder and when we have been sold off into marriage, it seems we are expected to sit meekly in the houses of our lords, nursing our thoughts and feeling within the enforced privacy of a silence we have never asked for…. Women are not commodities sold to get money they should be free just as men are free”. (45)
When others replace women, they are ‘pushed aside’ and forgotten. Ukochi C. reports:
“She was not surprised when Amatokwu told her casually one evening that she would have to move to a nearby hut kept for older wives, because his people had found him a new wife. My father is desperate…. I am sorry Nnu Ego, but I cannot fail my people”. (32)
Because of the replacement, Nnu Ego cries to her chi to save her. “O my chi, why do you have to bring me so low?” Amatokwu insults and blames his wife Nnu Ego for her childlessness. “I am a busy man. I have no time to waste my precious male seen on a woman who is infertile.”(34).
Polygamy breaks home and widens the gap between husband and wives. Emecheta B. says; “father, my position as senior woman of the house has been taken by a young woman” (33).
Polygamous practices bring discrimination, usually polygamous situation. The first woman is forgotten, the man begins to treat the new woman especially in many cases and mostly when the man dies, there are always problems in sharing of the property of the deceased, which lead to killing one another.
While on the one hand, Nawal El Saadawi has been criticized for writing in favour of the women. Alia Mamdouh is one of the critics who criticize El Saadawi for turning her writings into “a lab to show sick samples which are deformed and which she represents as generalized social types” (12). On the other hand, Meneesha Govender argues that “women in Egypt are seen by Western scholars to exist within an extremely oppressive patriarchal social system that places enormous store in the tenets and laws of Islam (a religion considered by the West to be the epitome of religious fundamentalism and cultural or social oppression’’ (54).
To Mezu, when Woman at Point Zero is taught in the Western classrooms, some students, reviewers and critics tend at times to read the noveland her other works what the works entails” (240). In the same vein, Nora Drosihn has claimed that despite El Saadawi’s opposition to neo-colonialism, Woman at Point Zero “is an implicated novel with Western discourses as seen in her reproduction of Orientalist stereotyping feeding into Western tendencies of simultaneously superiority and fear of the Middle East and especially Islam” (62).
The author writes because she feels pain and suffering and thus wants seek for the eradication of the social injustices mated on the women. Her works aims at raising awareness of the patriarchal oppression; she also takes part in community service. For example, Hunt & Longinotto praises Saadawi’s hidden Faces where she distributes food to the poor and gives goats to young illiterate girls to help them become economically independent. They become goat herders and are able to support themselves by selling goat meat and milk. Also as a psychiatrist, her works help young women with psychological problems precisely in Arab communities” (6).
In this context, El Saadawi is keen to highlight the sufferings of women and unveil her mind by telling her fellow women the concrete truth about their identity, subjectivity, rights and the historical injustice imposed on them. Furthermore, George Tarabishi one of Egyptian critics observes that in Saadawi‘s novels, men in general are portrayed as having a hairy chest like that of a monkey and prominent belly like that of a pregnant woman and their bodies are always huge and smell of tobacco (172). He further saysthese men do not always have respect and human sympathy for their wives due to the so called oppressive and cultural practices.
Critically, from Saadawi‘s view point, the male characters treat their wives offensively and they are patriarchal in nature and they are also too tyrant in all they do. Gohar for instance viewed Firdaus as a wife who is enslaving in her first marriage” (182). The author also opines that when Firdaus marries the old man, she works as a housewife while he sits and monitors her. She views her marriage to this man as being like prostitution of the lowest form (99). Looking at the famous critic, Ernest Emenyonu in his article entitled Iconoclasm or Radical Realism Socio-political Portraits in the Fiction of Nawal El Saadawi and Amma Darko observes that:
By accident or by design, both Nawal El Saadawi and Amma Darko, depict in their fiction, male characters who even when striding as macho men, are indeed moral weaklings. In Saadawi‘s male characters, they are debility bothin psychological and physiological as well as approaching neurosis. The result is these men are ridiculous and ludicrous. While in Alkali, the men are portrayed as inadequate in masculine tasks. They are wimpy, degenerate, retarded and emasculated. They live a zombie like type of existence, systematically becoming irrelevant in family leaderships until their roles are taken over by the womenfolk (220).
Based on Emenyonu’s point of views, men in African society lack good qualities of men and human respect for themselves in terms of how they treat their wives. They also behave as nonentity, weak in love, mentally retarded, behaves like cow and they are so foolish in abusing their wives. Thus reinforcing the existing systems of social inequality and introducing oppressive forms of social stratifications, this seems to reflect the experiences women have had all over the world as they seeking for their independence and equality. Barbara Harlow also comments that:
“Firdaus’s story is the history of an Egyptian peasant girl victimized by the conservative indigenous traditions of her country and exploited by the post-colonial corruption which characterized Egyptian society and government, particularly under Anwar Sadat. The women in this novel are affected both emotional and Psychological trauma (137).
El Saadawi therefore attacks social injustices and argues that the system African cultural practices exploits, oppress and dominates the rights of these women.
From the above views, El Saadawi’s and Amma Darko writings, calls for the emancipation of women from the shackles of male oppression. They advocate love between men and women as the principles that should guide every home in Africa and also kicks against the social-cultural injustice and oppression that the women pass through.
The Trauma and Challenges of Womanhood in Saadawi Woman At Point Zero And Amma Darko Faceless
‘Trauma’ theory has its origin from the early 1960s, from various social concern such as “recognition of the prevalence of violence against women and children (rape, battering, incest); identification of the phenomenon of post-traumatic stress disorder in (Vietnam) war veterans; and awareness of the psychic scar inflicted by torture and genocide, especially in regard to Holocaust” (Sprengnether 250). The ideas of trauma, memories of trauma are fundamentally important in shaping one individual as it causes further damage to the psyche. ‘Trauma’ is usually defined as an injury to the body or psyche by some type of shock, violence or unanticipated incident and it usually results from adverse life experiences that devastate an individual’s capacity to cope with a threat they may be faced with (Van der kolk, 1996). And usually, there are diverse types of trauma such as complex trauma that includes exposure to traumatic events which are usually severe and invasive; post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma caused by sexual abuse, etc. Both the female protagonist that is taken for study undergoes various traumatic events caused by the prevalent patriarchal society.
In relevance to it, the theory of ‘trauma’ is interrelated to the notion of ‘abjection ‘and ‘pain’. In her work, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, Elaine Scarry talks about the ‘creators’ and ‘sufferers’ of pain. According to her ‘pain’ resists language and destroys it, as a result sounds like cry, groan etc. forms replacing language. The protagonist, Celie in the novel The Colour Purple breaks language by adopting the mode of writing. Her use of writing as a mode of resistance helped her to transform from a voiceless to a woman with a voice. Moreover the concept of ‘abjection’ as deployed by Julia Kristeva in her ground-breaking work Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection.
According to Bataille’s analysis, the terms ‘abject’ and ‘abjection’ existed in various languages but had not been used in scholarship. Epistemologically the word ‘Abjection’ comes from the Latin abicere, which means ‘to throw away’ or ‘to cast off, away, or out’. In English the term ‘abject’ is listed as an adjective which has two similar meanings: (1) extremely unpleasant and degrading: living in abject poverty. (2) Completely without pride or dignity: an abject apology (OED, p. 3).2 From the above definitions we see that the terms ‘abject’ and ‘abjection’ can be used in different but related senses to refer to an operation (to make abject) and a condition (abjection).
Thus both these novels explore the theme of ‘womanhood’ and the traumatic situation they had to undergo to attain the ambiguous stages of it. Therefore, taking the above critical theory as base, It also attempts to show the condition of women through the experience of black female protagonists who is doubly colonized, first at the hands of patriarchy and second by the colonial masters.