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Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

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Abstract

From the foregoing, it is evident that women discussed in these studies are only given a false illusion of empowerment by men and the patriarchal society only to destroy and dash them in pieces after they have been exploited to achieve men’s and society’s  biddings. Mariama Ba and Buchi Emecheta seem to encourage women to take up a fight against men in order to wrest freedom for themselves as men will continually use them in their unchanging attitude. This paperwork has examined practical instances of post-feminist consciousness in African literature with Mariam Ba’s and Buchi Emecheta’s texts as guides.

It spotlighted instances in literature where the female sex proves wrong the myth of their low intelligence, passivity, docility inferiority and moral lopsidedness. Female characters in the texts proved that they are capable of performing equal tasks with men, if given the opportunity, and the question of inferiority of female to male gender does not arise. The paper submits that socio-economic empowerment is a tool open to the manipulation of both sexes. However, the African women appear to have seized this weapon from man and use it to their advantage.

It also believes that women are wining the battles of (re) ordering the society to emplace the pre-historic Engelsian regime or imaginary “mother-right” epoch, when women pointing towards that direction, more so when women have taken over many important duties hitherto performed by men. This fact is enough to confirm the emergence of an era and a “new” feminist philosophy that disproves the irrelevance of anatomical differences between both sexes, but seeks the creation of a matrifocus society. This is a critical paradigm shift that post-feminism envisages and advocates.

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

This chapter examines the background of the study in terms of patriarchy and masculinity. This chapter highlights some crucial arguments and definitions on these concepts. This chapter also examines the aim and objectives of this study, while the scope and purpose are not left behind. This chapter defines patriarchy as an ideology, privileges a male-centred society and encourages male control, it places authority, control, superiority and supremacy in the hands of the male, father, brother, uncle, provided that such person is a male in contradistinction to a female.

  • Background of the study

Patriarchy

Patriarchy as an ideology, privileges a male-centred society and encourages male control, it places authority, control, superiority and supremacy in the hands of the male, father, brother, uncle, provided that such person is a male in contradistinction to a female. For instance, in a gathering of a thousand of people, especially in most African societies, it is expected that even if the only male in such a gathering is a minor, he is supposed to bear rule over the rest nine hundred and nineteen-nine people who are females. This is as insulting as this ideology is to the female gender. The patriarchy ideology ‘‘is socially, culturally and religiously ingrained and operates through the exploitation, inferiorisation and dehumanization of women.

The ideology conceives women as objects of men’s sexual, economic and material exploitation’’ (Abigail Eruaga, 2014:44). Simone De Bueavoir, a renowned French feminist, views patriarchy and gender in the same way. She identify the concept as an invention of the male society where a “woman remains the ‘other’ and the object constructed by men” (60).  Patriarchy relegates the female sex to a position of insignificance and inconsequentiality where she visits with all forms of inhuman treatment. Some recent studies have associated male dictatorial attitudes with patriarchy.

V.S Naipaul, while analysis the nihilistic and repressive regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, the former Congo dictator, links dictatorship with patriarchy, and notes that the dictator realises his state of influence and power through revolutionary rhetoric and appeals to patriarchy (91). This a demonstration of the fact that men commit atrocious vices against women and society using patriarchy as a shield and defence for their actions.

On her part, Mary Jeannings bemoans male control, dominance and relegation of women in every sphere of the latter’s existence, ranging from the private to the public spaces. She regrets the prevalence of such practice men “whether as a father, husband or son at the household level, or village leaders and politicians at the village and state levels respectively” (112). It is opposite to note that all of the above unconscionable treatments are meted on the women in Buchi Emecheta’s ‘The Joys Of Motherhood’ and Mariama Ba’s ‘So Long A Letter’.

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Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

Masculinity

Researchers have, for a long time, studied masculinity from three broad perspectives in ways that have assisted social scientists and literary critics in the understanding of men and their lives. First are biological models which seek to understand how innate biological differences between the two sexes (male and female) define their social behaviors. Masculinity has also been studied through anthropological models that examine the male gender across culture to review the differences in the behaviors and attributes that make him a man. The third approach, which is more recent one, is the sociological models.

According to Kimmel M.S and Messner M.A. (1995), these models seek to examine masculinity based on how socialization of boys and girls assigned to each biological sex some sex roles. However, the three models above have been found to be grossly inadequate in the understanding of men and masculinity because each has been proven to be incapable of describing the totality of men’s experiences.

This study therefore focuses on the illusion of how men are made, what factors engender masculinity and “social institutions that sustain and elaborate it”. Illusion and archetype are two fundamental words relevant to this study that must be explicated in order to delimit their scopes. The word illusion in this context means what seems to be or exists but does not, in actual sense.

The oxford advance learner’s dictionary defines ‘’illusion’’ as “false idea or belief, especially about somebody or about a situation or something that seems to exist but in fact does not, or seems to be something that it is not” (783). This word is hereby used from its denotative meaning (ordinary dictionary meaning). In the same vein, archetype is define according to Abram M.H. (2012: 16) as a term that “denotes narrative designs,  pattern of action, character types, theme, and images which recur in a wide variety of works of literature, as well as in myth, dreams and even rituals”.

The word archetype in this study is also delimited to recurrence of ‘pattern of action, ‘character type’ and ‘images’ in literature not as a tool of analysis in this study. To investigate this illusion or false notion of being a man, the social constructionist perspective of how men are made through socialization process is adopted in the comparative study of male characters in African texts selected for this study. By social construction, it means what makes a man, a “real man’ is not a factor of being biologically male but that he becomes a man through socialization process. According to Kimmel and Messner (1995):

Men are born, growing from infants through boyhood to manhood, to follow a predetermined biological imperative encoded in their physical organization. To be man is to participate in social life as a man, as gendered being. Men are not born; but are made and men make themselves, actively constructing their masculinities within a social and historical context.

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

By implication, the social constructionist perspective which creates the illusion presupposes that though one’s sex may be male, his identity as a man is formed through his interaction with the culture that teaches him how to act in a script already written for him. The socio-cultural and historical imperatives of the man, therefore, create the illusion while the attempt to modify the script in order to fit in becomes the dilemma the faces that predisposes him to desperation and violence. Miescher, S.F and Linsday, L.A (2003) insist that;

 Gender constructions are embedded in dialectic. How men and women see and represent themselves and how gender relations are organized and promoted, are shaped by larger social, economic, cultural, and religious transformation (2).

For the Black African, to be a real man’ will require more than stereotypical hyper-masculinity to include being breadwinner, powerful, powerful, and heterosexual coupled with other biological traits as physique and aggression. According to Bozoli (1983), the African gender relation is a ‘’path-work of patriarchies’’ some of which are imposed by colonialism while others are derived locally as entrenched in African tradition. This construction is summed up in Illiffe (1995)’s definition of African masculinity known as African “Big Man”.

‘The big man’ represents the image of ambitious, self-made, hardworking male in history who have used their wealth (especially in people) to acquire political and economic power and dominance. The ‘big man’ continues to wield more power and influence meeting the needs of his followers and close relations. According to Illiffe, the ‘big man’ controls a “large complex, household…. Surrounded by his wives, married and unmarried sons, younger brothers, poor relations, dependants and swarming children” (94).

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Although this notion of African masculinity is contestable because Illiffe did not take into account “big men” considered to be stingy. However, it is a form of construction of gender articulated with wealth, age seniority and ritual authority (Amadiume, 1987) which has been altered by colonization, changing political and economic conditions.

Again, the fact that the ‘big man’ image definition is only limited to West Africa and Equatorial African makes it inadequate to capture Black African masculinity. This is where the illusion lies for the Black African who aspires to be the “big man” as a way of enacting masculinity within the context of his socio-cultural environment. No doubt, the Black African constructs his gender identity differently compared to the man in colour.

The black male in American society is in a dilemma, caught between two cultures and subjugated by racial considerations. To enact his masculinity becomes difficult unlike his Black African counterpart who is “reinforced by wealth, age, seniority and ritual authority”.

Robert Stapples (1995:375) contends that, “I see the black male as being in conflict with the normative definition of masculinity. This is a status which few, if any black males have been able to achieve. This is because masculinity as defined in ameriacn culture has always implied a certain autonomy and a mystery of one’s environment” (375). Manning Marable says

We cannot challenge racial and sexual inequalities both within the black community and across the larger American society unless we comprehend the critical differences between the myth about ourselves and the harsh reality of being black men (26).

This is the point of difference between what the Black American male is constructed to be and the stark reality of his identity as man, who is still carrying with him his slavery experiences and racial prejudice that define his manhood. No doubt, the family support system and the well-being of black males are crippled by poverty and racial discrimination. And this of course, has affected his role as a father, husband and breadwinner.

Robert further contends that the slavery experience has broken the “black man’s sense of family responsibility” and advances this as reason the black woman does not expect the “black man’s support in raising their children” (377). The black male in American society has his masculinity fractured by class and rules which determine how much of an actor he can be on the theater of performance in the script written for him. This is the illusion that makes manliness intractable for the black male within “American sexual politics”. According to McDonough C.J (1997):

This politics allow men control, however, only if they follow certain scripts, only if they perform an acceptance masculinity and are born into certain races or attain certain classes (6).

Such masculinity is an unattainable feat for the Black American male because the masculinity that defines his existence in reality is not female, not gay and not black. McDonough C.J. argues: “what it means to be black and a man in this society is extremely affected by traditional concepts of colour-coded masculity” (8).

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

  • Statement of the problem

It has been observed that women’s oppression is the first, most widespread, and deepest oppression in the world especially in Africa. Oppression of women is the most profound in the world culture because it is found among all races, ethnicities, classes and cultures. The customary practices of many contemporary societies are biased against women and serve to subjugate them to men and to undermine their individual self esteem.

Using Africa as an example, it is a fact that the cultures of African communities approve such practices as preference for male child, payment of bride price, female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM), negative attitude towards childlessness, degrading widowhood practices and inheritance practices that discriminate against women.

The traditions of some communities also approve giving away girls in marriage early and without their consent. The overall impact of the negative cultural norms has been to engender very low regard for women, entrench a feeling of inferiority in the individual woman and place her at a disadvantage vis-à-vis her male counterpart. As a result of gender-based cultural norms and practices, women become conditioned into accepting social debasement of the type associated with widowhood rites and self-imposed abuses of the type that denies female children good food.

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Even in urban centers and in civilized circles, the stereotype gender roles make women overplay their feminity by accepting that they are weaker sex, overemphasizing their dainty nature, viewing their ambition of some members of their sex as omnions and regarding exceptional achievements as untoward competition with men.

  • Aim and objectives

Aims

  • One of the aims of this project is to explore the concept of feminism in Buchi Emecheta’s ‘The Joys Of Motherhood’ and Mariama Ba’s “So Long A Letter” and relate it with the contemporary issues in Africa.
  • Another aim of this project work is to investigate African feminism in Buchi Emecheta’s “The Joys Of Motherhood” and Mariama Ba’s “So Long A Letter” and also relate it with the present situation in the African communities.
  • It is also the aim of this project work to analyse different was of women oppression and to formulate suitable recommendation in order to end the evil practices.
  • Finally, this project work is also aimed at putting an end to domestic violence against women.

Objectives

  • One of the objectives of this project work is to investigate the discriminatory laws and customs, and politics against women in the society as portrayed in Buchi Emecheta’s “The Joys Of Motherhood’’ and Mariama Ba’s “So Long A Letter.
  • The objective of this study is to present adequate solution to child marriage and early pregnancy, and domestic violence against women.
  • Finally, the objective of this project work is to reveal some harmful, dangerous, uncultured, outdated and barbaric treatments, which are very detriment to their health.
    • Hypothesis/Research question
  • What is feminism as a concept?
  • What is African feminism?
  • What is the relationship between African feminism and other feminism?
  • Why do women always the victim of domestic violence?
  • How can women oppression be eradicated in the society?
  • At what level has women oppression and domestic violence harmed the society?
    • Scope of the study

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

This project work is focused to cover the concept of feminism, African feminism and variants of feminism in Africa. It is equally imperative to point out that one of its prospects is that African women should not be marginalized in any way.

  • Purpose/Relevance of the study

This work deals with the relevance and prospects of feminism in Africa. In order to achieve its intended objective, the chapter discusses the meaning or definitions of feminism, aim of feminism, variants of feminism, some harmful practices against women in Africa, and relevance and prospects of feminism of feminism in Africa.

This project is designed to advance the cause of women. It is a struggle o end male chauvinism. It also ensures that women have equal right with men. It aims at combat all forms of discrimination- social, personal, economical, legal, literary, which women suffer simply because of sex. It also aims at eradicating or at least limiting gender inequality, and promoting women’s rights, interests, issues in the society of patriarchy, a system which oppresses and marginalizes women through its social, economic and political institutions.

Feminism in Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood and Mariama Ba So Long A Letter

  • Chapter of Summary

This chapter has successfully examined the background of this study, statement of the problem, aim and objective, hypothesis/research questions, scope of the study, and purpose/relevance of the study. This chapter defines patriarchy as an ideology, privileges a male-centred society and encourages male control, it places authority, control, superiority and supremacy in the hands of the male, father, brother, uncle, provided that such person is a male in contradistinction to a female.

For instance, in a gathering of a thousand of people, especially in most African societies, it is expected that even if the only male in such a gathering is a minor, he is supposed to bear rule over the rest nine hundred and nineteen-nine people who are females. Finally, this chapter also captures the concept of masculinity and many more as a threat to the society.

Mr. Harrison

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