WOMEN, CULTURE AND FEMINIST

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ABSTRACT

The roles that women are assigned are protected and enforced by the men because it gives them power and control over the women. Child bearing gives a woman an identity according to the cultural set up. This work focuses on the female protagonists in order to highlights the reaction from the society on individuals who refuse to operate within the acceptable scheme of things. By refusing to operate within the boundaries of power as set by culture, they make voice for the voiceless women in Africa. Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun and Ama Ata Aidoo‘s  Anowa identify how men use dramatic texts as a vehicle to cross-examine the complexities of the African  woman’s life in relation to culture and gender. Through in-depth study, critical appreciation, and critical textual analysis of the plays, this research work explores feminist insights into both Osofisan and Aidoo’s philosophical reflections on the plight of women and girls in contemporary African society.

Key Words: Women, Culture And Feminist.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

 

  • Background to the Study

Women over the years have been in the spotlight, in different spheres of life, both for positive and negative reasons; not only in Africa, but all over the world. However, in most of the instances, women are in underprivileged positions. This has generated a lot of reaction from activists, both male and female, to advocate for the cause of women. Many of their causes have yielded positive results such as the promotion of the education of the girl child in Third World countries, and empowerment of women worldwide. Thus, before the girl child became the primary focus for example, there had been several burning issues.  Prominent among these issues are inequality and marginalization of women.

Hooks defined feminism as a liberation struggle that must exist apart from and as a part of the larger struggle to eradicate domination in all its forms (22).She also defined feminism as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression (viii-ix).Morris defined feminism in the correlation to patriarchal ideology. She defines feminism as a political perception based on two fundamental premises which are that gender difference is the foundation of a structural inequality between women and men, by which women suffer systematic social injustice, and that the inequality between the sexes is not the result of biological necessity but is produced by the cultural construction of gender differences (1).

Feminism came to the limelight to stem some of the issues. It is a reaction to the status quo. Feminism has evolved over the years through different forms and also generated branches to suit specific purposes. Feminism is an offshoot of western civilization but has been incorporated in the general African epistemology on women studies. The stereotypes against females have led some intellectuals begun to make serious attempt to correct those misconceptions. They have succeeded in doing this through literature. They have proved to Africa and to the world that females are who they are regardless of their gender. They have also declared that a female life does not have to revolve around a man’s life to be meaningful.

Female writers have started agitating for their freedom from societal bondage and have begun to engage in the seemly impossible tasks. Literary works have been written to tell their own story. Females have proved to be independent of the male gender. Females have been advocating for their rights by disobeying patriarchal laws. They have been able to prove

that gender has nothing to do with intellect and individualism and recent years, females have contributed immensely to national development.

Literary texts have been written to change the perception of the world that the fact that most females are not as physically strong as the males, it does not connote that they are also intellectually weak. If women are given the same opportunities as men, are equal to the task of performing the same duties in academic, political, economical and many other aspects of life. The relevance of feminist perspectives in African drama helps to identify the different view point of feminists in African dramatic genre. The societal expectation such as getting married, helping husband, not capable of contributing to the development of the society, passiveness and being docile cannot be totally isolated from the concept of feminism.

The concept of feminism is very old and has been in existence for centuries. It is  something that is likely to continue for a long while if it is not properly handled now because society does not seem to recognize the fact that females are in no way less significant than males and others deliberately chose to ignore it.

Literature reflects the set of ideas and moral attitudes belonging to a society, the process of class struggle and so on. Therefore, any literary work can establish the society’s viewpoint toward a particular issue. In most societies, particularly in Third World ountries like Nigeria and Ghana, women are considered inferior to men in social, political and economic aspects due to patriarchal ideology. Hooks is of the opinion that patriarchal domination shares an ideological foundation with racism and other forms of group oppression, and that there is no hope that it can be eradicated while these systems remain intact. This knowledge should consistently inform the direction of feminist theory and practice (22). Patriarchy have made women to be deprived of possessing economic, social and political power because they believe that such achievements are only meant for the male folk and that is what Tyson points out:

The belief that men are superior to women has been used, feminists have observed, to justify and maintain the male monopoly of positions of economic, political, and social power, in other words, to keep women powerless by denying them the educational and occupational means of acquiring economic, political, and social power. (86)

Similarly, Habib (52) indicates that for most of this long history women were not only deprived of education and financial independence, they also had to struggle against a male ideology condemning them to virtual silence and obedience, as well as a male literary establishment that poured scorn on their literary endeavors. Madsen states, in the preface of her book Feminist Theory and Literary Practice, that many texts by women “express the same concerns as feminist theory: the unique experience of women in history; the notion of female consciousness; the definitions of gender that limit and oppress; and the cause of women’s liberation from those restrictions” (ix). It is also the researcher’s strong opinion that female Ethiopian writers do fight, in their literary creations, against the patriarchal ideology that has been pervasive in the society for many generations. Furthermore, feminist works are good examples of females’ strength in all social, economic and political spheres in their society.

The politics of patriarchy have suppressed women’s voices and dominated social discourse and social action to the benefit of men and detriment of women. It is crucial for men to be a part of feminist agency. If feminism is to attain its goal of liberating women, men must be a part of the struggle. Indeed, men probably bear more of the responsibility for ending oppression of women since patriarchal men have been the main perpetrators of that very oppression.

 

  • Scope of Study

The subject of feminism is very broad and may not be fully exhausted in this research, considering the various types. The focus of this work will therefore look at some aspects of feminism and African feminism and  how it is relevance is reflected in the texts selected. These writings will be in the context of feminist writing where Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun and Ama Atta Idoo’s Anowa will be used as elements of discussion and analysis in this work.

 

1.3 Statement of Research Problem

Feminism has been discussed in different contexts with diverse categories and implications. Molara Ogundipe-Leslie‘s interpretation of feminism acknowledges the different ways in which it can be understood within the African context. The writings of African women go a long way to reflect the true identity of the African woman and her conditions. Femi

Osofisan and Ama Atta Idoo are African writers, some of whose works truly tell the situation of the African woman. This research, therefore, examines Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun and Ama Atta Idoo’s Anowa, to ascertain how women are portrayed for the purpose of social stereotypes and contracts. Based on these works, the study highlights the meaning of womanhood and stereotypical notions attached to a woman in specific African contexts and its place in the changing world. Descriptive and interpretative methods of research were used to analyze all the plays which results in findings of feminist ideologies in the works of the two playwrights.

Furthermore, there are so many controversies surrounding the idea and existence of feminism in Africa. The selected plays were, will therefore be examined within the theory of feminism and African feminism, to validate these assertions. The definition and components of a woman might not be so essential since a woman is visible because she has peculiar features which are characteristic to her. Being a woman is not only physical but psychological as well; psychological in the sense that, there are men who believe they are women mentally. Mention must also be made of those who undergo sex change, whereby a male is transformed into a woman. The thoughts and perceptions about women differ from person to person. However, women in the context of this research will focus on people, naturally born women. Outwardly a woman is a being with breasts and female genitalia. People have varying views about the physical appearance of the woman.

 

1.4 Research Questions

Some studies have been conducted by applying different approaches of feminist literary criticism. However, considering the seriousness of the matter, it is very difficult to say that many

studies have been made in the area. This study is devoted to revealing the images of female characters in the selected texts. Therefore, this study tries to answer the following questions:

  1. How are the female characters portrayed in the selected plays?
  2. What are the positive and negative images ascribed to the female characters in the selected plays?
  3. Are the female characters portrayed as victims of patriarchal ideology?
  4. What are the qualities of the female characters depicted in the selected plays?
  5. How is feminism exemplified in the selected plays?

 

1.5 Objectives of the Study

The main aim of this study is to analyze the images of women in the selected plays; Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun and Ama Atta Idoo’s Anowa. The specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To examine how writers view the female characters;
  2. To show the qualities of the female characters;
  3. To reveal the reactions towards those who dared to disobey patriarchal laws.
  4. To examine the feminists perspective in African drama.

 

1.6 Significance of the Study

This study intends to show the unfair treatment and bias against women in the patriarchal society. It will be valuable in combating gender bias that the African society has. Secondly, it will also reveal the strength and determination of women in struggling to achieve their goals like men. As a result, it will induce the society to recognize and acknowledge the role of women in the African society. Thirdly, it will also enhance the development of feminist literary criticism in Africa by opening up other avenues for further research.

1.7 Methodology of the Study

This study is basically descriptive analysis in nature. The texts that have been selected for the study; Femi Osofisan’s Morountodun and Ama Atta Idoo’s Anowa, will be read critically and will be analyzed from feminist perspectives using Socialist feminism. In addition to the primary texts, secondary data like library materials and different sources from the Internet will be used to enrich the analysis of the selected texts and writing the review of related literature. The writer of this thesis selected relevant extracts from the plays under study and applied cultural and African feminism to critically examine the portrayal of female characters.