Feminism has continued to dominate the temporary literary discourse as african societies are becoming increasingly of the urgent necessity t o liberate and fully exploits the potential of women to enhance peaceful co-exisence and socoi-economic development .as an introductory chapter the focus here is to provide the background to the study, outline the problem as well as the aim and objective of the study .it also specifies the scope ,limitations, and also the method the research employs for its analyses and its benefit to the society and scholarship .additionally ,the authors biography is briefly captured.
1.1 Background to the Study
Women in Africa, to a large extent, are virtually regarded as ‘second class’human beings who are meant to be seen and not heard. Their lives revolve solely around procreation, motherhood, merging into the man’s world without protesting, and “brainwashed into accepting their slavish status” (Fonchingong, 136). Acholonu (217) opines that the African woman is “trapped in the claws of the taboos and the restrictions that only help to propel male chauvinism.” The oppression and suppression of women is not peculiar to the African woman alone. It is a worldwide phenomenon that women have had to grapple with in the last few centuries. Katrack (163) has further stated that “as a female child grows from childhood to womanhood to motherhood, she is controlled and owned by her father, her husband, then her sons”, thereby ensuring the continuation of the subjugation of women in the patriarchal society.
According to Judith Astellara, quoted in Azuike “feminism is a proposal for social transformation as well as a movement that strives to end the oppression of women.” (3). The passive, docile and insignificant woman is thus replaced by an assertive, strong willed, courageous and hardworking woman who is ready to take her destiny in her own hands and to decide her own fate. Women are, in this changing role of social consciousness, refusing gtobe “somebody else’s appendage” (Palmer 39). The writer therefore has the responsibility of shaping the minds and social awareness of members of every society in order to ensure the emergence of a society that does not discriminate on the basis of one’s gender.
MolaraOgundipe-Leslie’s STIWANISM, an acronym for Social Transformation Including Women in Africa, seeks the transformation of the society that fully integrates women. This is aimed at changing and reshaping the minds of people, especially men, with regards to gender discrimination and inequality. Female writers are therefore concerned with the amelioration of the unfavourable condition of women by trying to change all political, economic, societal beliefs, norms and values that are detrimental to women. In other words, there is the need for reforms that can change the mindset of men and their prejudiced notions about women. These reforms and their enforcement will help reduce and eventually eradicate the subjugation of women that drives them to such extremes of anguish and despair that some even resort to murder as the only option for the attainment of freedom.
In a bid to liberate themselves from male oppression and dominance and also to better their lot in the society, women have tended to organize themselves into socio- political groups. This later metamorphosed into feminist movements. Through this process, they strive towards emancipating themselves and ensuring the attainment of equal social status and access to opportunities with the men. It is in the context of this feminist-reformist theoretical background that Zulu Sofola’sSweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’sHusband Has Gone Mad Again are analysed. In these plays, the stifling and oppressive social environments that women live in are aptly portrayed.
Indeed, Ngugi has rightly put it that “Literature does not grow or develop in a vacuum; it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social and economic forces in a particular society” (15). This statement lends credence to the fact that literature is a mirror of the society and draws from human experiences in order to give the true reflections of realities in the society. This social context thus explains why the term ‘verisimilitude’ aptly defines literature; for it is basically an imitation of life, as is lived in the physical world. The oppressive and dehumanizing situations women undergo in these plays seem extraordinary, but these are real life stories that have been modified and recreated for the society’s awareness. The plays, in effect, is a dramatic indictment of the oppressive attitudes of men towards women and children that they are supposed to love and care for. It therefore has direct relevance to our contemporary society.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Feminism has remained a topical issue in literary criticism with widespread implications for gender equality and human development across sectors. Increasing attention is being accorded the negotiation of women liberation in contemporary African literature. However, there has been a limited success in the struggle for gender parity in Africa. Negative stereotype of women as docile, passive and weak still prevail in most male-dominated societies. Despite the growing body of works on feminism, there is of prevalence of violence, subjugation and oppression and of women in African society. Consequently, this study investigates the depiction of feminism in the Nigerian novel and the different forms of gender-based role, violence and how Zulu Sofola and Ola Rotimi treat these issues in their plays. The strategies employed by the author for the liberation of female gender is also examined.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This research explores the subjugation, oppression and discrimination of women in a patriarchal African society. Zulu Sofola'sSweet Trap and Ola Rotimi'sOur Has Gone Mad Again are analysed from the feminist point of view as to critically investigate the oppressive expriences of women in Africa. The focus of the study is to analyse how patriarchal oppression and suppression of women encourages discriminatory treatment and infringement of women's right. also the various established norms and cultures that relegate women to subordinate positions are examined. In addition, the research explores the strategies adopted by women to battle with patriarchal oppression as portrayed in the plays.
1.4 Scope of the Study
Although the plays can be interpreted from different perspectives, this research interrogates various dimension of feminism as depicted in Zulu Sofola'sSweet Trap and Ola Rotimi's Our Has Gone Mad Again. The study cross examines the treatment of in the plays. Furthermore, the research explores how Zulu Sofola and Ola Rotimi use characterization to depict the sterotype view, discrimination and marginalization of women in African society. The two plays treat different dimensions of feminism in Africa and they form the primary texts that will be used for analysis. In addition, articles and journals with related contents to the study will be analysed. Consequently, womanism will be used as analytical framework.
This research follows a textual and descriptive method based on a combination of traditional library research and textual analysis. The primary sources include Zulu Sofola’sSweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’sOur Husband Has Gone Again, while secondary sources include several academic articles, e-books, journals and books related to feminism. The two plays form the basic material for this research. In addition, an interdisciplinary approach was used while drawing views on feminism from the fields of Literature, Philosophy, History and Sociology. The analytical framework for this study is the feminist literary criticism.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Since the 1970s, patriarchal domination and marginalisation of women has been a central concern of literary studies in Africa, as feminist theory precipitated a critical debate around the representation of African women. Literature and society have strong relationship, and it is for this reason that this research becomes an imperative at this time. To this end, the research becomes of great significance to all who work for the liberation of women in Africa. Organizations and institutions working for the subversion of cultures and laws that oppressive women and the entrenchment of law to protect and guard against the violation of the right of the female gender will find support from a study devoted to the issue of feminism. It is, most importantly, believed to make significant contribution to the body of knowledge and serve as reference material for researchers in the field of literature as well as gender studies in the universities in Africa and elsewhere. It, therefore, helps to enrich current perspective on feminism in Africa.
This chapter reviews the concept ,kind and brief history of feminism as well as African literary works on feminism it also review feminist literary criticism and survey feminism in Nigeria literary scene.in doing this ,the research builds on and acknowledges previous works on feminism.
2.1 The Concept of Feminism
Feminism is derived from the word “femina” which means woman. Therefore, it will be pertinent to state that feminism is women-oriented and concentrates on issues that concerns women. It is a literary movement that tends to bring about a change in the society especially on how women are treated; it tries to discourage discrimination and humiliation on women; it focuses its attention on emancipation of women.
Lots of emphasis has been made on feminism and its stand in the African novel. Women are often relegated to the background and decisions made by men without their consent. Most African novels present female characters as sex objects, inferior beings, and those who must obey the rules made by men. Feminism has been described as having many faces based on the fact that it varies with circumstances surrounding it which can be cultural or historical. Whatever stands one takes, it will revolve around the gap between men and women.
Ogunyemi is among the scholars that would not want to be associatewith feminism and they coined their own words. She prefers using womanism. She defined feminism as movement that: smacks off rebelliousness, fearlessness, political awareness of sexism and an unpardonable (from the male view point)drive for equality and equity between sexes. It therefore instills fear in men though it thrills many women. The radical feminist can go as far as doing without the macho male to enjoy her liberty. She posits that:
Womanism, with its myriad manifestations, is therefore a renaissance that aims to establish healthy relationships among people, despite ethnic, geographical, educational, gender, ethical, class, religious, military and political differences (123).
On the same note, she describes Womanism as the Nigerian woman writer who is constantly aware of the negative connotations of feminist; the fear of being accused by the Nigerian males of allying with the white outsider has turned most Nigerian women writers towards womanism; a black outgrowth from feminism. (124) She further states that Womanism is black centered, it is accommodationist. It believes in the freedom and independence of women like feminism; unlike radical feminism, it wants meaningful union between black women and black men and black children and will see to it that men begin to change from their sexiest stand. (65)
By defining both terms, she tries to take a stand on where shebelongs.Similarly, Alice Walker prefers to use womanism and defines it as:
a black feminist or feminist of colour…committed to survival and wholesomeness of entire people, male and female…not a separatist, except periodically, for health…love struggle, loves the folk, loves herself…(xi-xii)
ObiomaNnaemeka also presents her version of feminism which she prefers to be called “Nego-feminism”and contends that:
Nego-feminism is the feminism of negotiation; second, nego-feminism stands for no-ego feminism. In the foundation of shared values in many African cultures are the principles of negotiation, give and take, compromise and balance…African feminism (or feminism as I have seen it practiced in Africa) challenges through negotiations and compromise. It knows when, where, and how to detonate patriarchal land mines. In other words, it know when, where, and how to negotiate with or negotiate around patriarchy in different contexts. (Nnaemeka, 377-378, as cited in Walker,1984)
Acholonu (3) uses the term “Motherism” as “Africa’s alternative to Western Feminism”. She believes that a motherist is a humanist and environmentalist. She recognizes that women fell in love and “respects the interconnectedness of all life, the ecosystem and the entire human race” (112).Alice Walker prefers to be called a womanist and upholds that “a womanist is a black feminist or feminist of
colour-committed to the survival and wholeness of the entire people, male and female… (but who) loves herself. Regardless” (Davies & Graves 5, as cited in Walker, 1984).
Ogundipe-Leslie views that African feminism for me, therefore, must include issues around the woman’s body, her person, her immediate family, her society, her nation, her continent and their locations within the international economic order because those realities in the international economic order determine African politics and impact on the women. There is no way we can discuss the situation of the African woman today without considering what the IMF policies and World Bank are doing to her status and her conditions. (Ogundipe-Leslie, 228) She later disassociates herself from the word “feminism” and prefers using STIWANISM because the issues that revolves around using feminism. It means Social Transformation Including Women in Africa and she postulates that it “is about the inclusion of African women in the contemporary social and political transformation in Africa” (230).
It is obvious from the above that most women writers do not want to associate themselves with feminism but there are some that accepts it, to the extent of calling themselves “happy feminist” in the likes of ChimamandaAdichie and Ama Ata Aidoo in a keynote address in which they gave the opinion that when people ask me rather bluntly every now and then whether I am a feminist, I not only answer yes, but I go on to insist that every woman and every man should be a feminist- especially if they believe that Africans should take charge of African land, African wealth, African lives and the burden of African development. It is not possible to advocate independence for the African continent without also believing that African women must have the best that the environment can offer. For some of us, this is the crucial element in our feminism. (Adichie, 47)
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese in her essay, “Placing Women’s History in History” argues that feminism places women at the center of history by recognizing their peculiar roles and contribution in the shaping of history (29). Filomena Steady views that feminism is about the issues that affect the African women and they are out in liberating themselves in order to be free. Charlotte Bunch in his opinion states the importance of theory in feminism when he states that:
Theory enables us to see immediate needs in terms of long-range goals and an overall perspective on the world. It thus gives us a framework for evaluating various strategies in both the long and the short run and for seeing the types of changes that they are likely to produce. Theory is not just a body of facts or a set of personal opinions. It involves explanations and hypotheses that are based on available knowledge and experience. It is also dependent on conjecture and insight about how to interpret those facts and experiences and their significance. (Hooks, 30)
Nnolim (248-261) took a different stand in his definition of Feminism and sees it as an image of “a house divided”. He views that women are fighting themselves through the ways they present their female characters in most of their novels. M. J. C. Echeruo makes a critical assertion to the task that lies ahead for African Feminism when he states that the task that remains is for African Feminism to establish the general and theoretical bases for making the hard choices which Dr. Acholonu says lie ahead between a radical dismantling of patriarchy and a zealous movement or reconciliation and compromises. It is a task to keep African women and all those others who write on the African condition busy for a long, long time. Udumukwu in his book Signature of women affirms: Women’s distinctive approach to various situations and problems posed by life and living in Africa has drawn increasing attention in recent times.
The latter part of the twentieth century witnessed the growth of an enormous volume of literature written by women and for women. This literature has underscored the view that the images of women usually found in literature have been created by men without any true reference to the peculiarity of women’s experiences. In African literature, for instance, men have mostly written of women in their own context as sexual objects, as mothers of children as daughter and as mistresses and goddesses. These female stereotypes turn out to conform with the traditional patriarchal view of the woman as inferior to man. (Udumukwu, 5)This was the situation in Africa before women started writing and concentrated on a common theme which Udumukwu refers to as “the recognition of the need to place women at the Centre rather than at the periphery” (Udumukwu, 5).
Kate Millet, who is a radical figure in second war of feminism, views that Patriarchy subordinate the female to the male, it treats the female as inferior to male and this power is exerted directly or indirectly, in civil and domestic life to constrain women…Millet recognizes that women as much as men perpetuate these
attitudes and the action out of these sex roles in the unequal and repressive relations or dominations and subordination in what Millet calls “sexual politics” (Millet, 173). Nnolim sees feminism as an image of “a house divided”. He views that women are fighting themselves through the ways they present their characters in their novels “With so many African female writers unsure of the future of feminism and of their rebellious female characters that they often destroy or make mad, one could predict a bleak future for the movement” (Nnolim, 19). Chukwuma in response to the above assertion by Nnolim affirms “Nnolim’s fear of equality between the sexes as a result of such female exposure and push is natural for one who all his life has been on the supremacy ladder, and is now in defense of his gender” (Chukwuma, 22).
She further states “the women turn out to be the foundation on which the house rests” (Chukwuma, 13). In the same vein, AkachiEzeigbo in response to Nnolim’s assertion posits: “the beauty of existence is seen in controversy, contention, even in discordant voices which would definitely end harmoniously, after everyone has probably had a say. If it does not, then people will have to ‘agree to disagree’” (Snail–Sense, 40, in Ezeigbo, 1991). An example of “a house divided” can be found in Onwueme’s “Tell It To Women” when Yemoja, a female character laments on how she is treated: “If I am not trapped in a husband’s chain or father’s chain, I’m trapped in another woman’s chain. Where is the way? Where is the free—free—freedom that these women talk about? (Onwueme,13).
Similarly, Adichie affirms an integrated house constructed on a foundation, consisting of a myriad of African feminist thoughts, is expected to weather the raging storms and robustly play out amidst panoply of concepts and dialectics. And the feminist current remains relevant in this female phase as the women struggles with the stress-related thing around their neck that nearly chokes her before she falls asleep. (Adichie,119, 125)
2.2 Feminist Criticism
Feminism criticism entails the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality through literary works. Feminist critics analysis literary works from the perspective of feminism, which shows that women are united with a common notion that male domination is oppressive and there is a need for liberation from all forms of women’s oppression. While feminism emphasizes the inequalities between men and women, black feminists emphasize the diversity within the concept of ‘woman’, which for much feminist analysis is construed as a unitary category. Black feminists claim that the interests of all women should be represented, pointing to profound class differences and antagonism among women. Grown, Cagatay, and Santiago argue:
Feminism constitutes the political expression of the concerns and interests of women from different regions, classes, nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. There is, and must be, a diversity of feminisms responsive to the different needs and concerns of different women, and defined by them for themselves. This diversity builds on a common opposition to gender oppression and hierarchy which, however, is the first step in articulating and acting upon a political agenda (1986: 41).
The point of departure of radical feminism has been captured in the slogan, ‘The personal is political’ (Hartmann 1997: 63).
Radical feminists see patriarchy as the political imperative for structural domination over women. The pervasiveness of male domination is reflected in the labour force and career market. Men maintain their control over women by excluding them from some labour and career markets. They do this by occupying positions of power in the labour force, which enable them to dominate in decision-making processes. Hence controlling the labour force gives them power over woman. Millet portrays this type of control:
Our society … is patriarchal. The fact is evident at once if one recalls that military, industry, technology, universities, science, political offices, finances -in short, every avenue of power within the society, including the coercive force of police, is entirely in male hands. (1970: 25)
Although men differ, especially along racial and class lines, the patriarchal system nonetheless unites them in their dominance over women, by reducing the latter to economic dependency. Hartmann corroborates this dependency by noting that the social relations amongst men have a social base, which promotes interdependence and solidarity amongst men and enables them to dominate over women (1997: 101).
Women’s biological (physical) ‘weakness’ is upheld by patriarchy. In comparison to men, women are seen as physically weak. The nature and social role of women is defined in relation to the norm: white heterosexual male. Women are accorded secondary status which is seen by Weedon thus:
Patriarchal power rests on the social meanings given to biological sexual difference. In patriarchal discourse, the nature and social role of women are defined in relation to a norm which is male. This finds its clearest expression in the genetic use of the terms ‘man’ and ‘he’ to encompass all of humankind(2).
Radical feminists argue that patriarchy creates the conditions for women to be systematically dominated, exploited and oppressed (Hartmann 1997). The verydifference between men and women which allow men to exploit the situation todominate women and rule the ‘world’ is the very difference that concerns radicalfeminists on a political level. Even though men and women may be viewed as ‘equal’, the differences between them accords a new meaning to the word ‘equal’.
Radical feminism promotes womanhood rather than aspiring to integrate and assimilate into the male-dominated social arena. It is focused upon sexual oppression as a manifestation of women’s oppression and social order. Radical feminism is premised on the solidarity of women that transcends class, race and ethnicity. This sisterhood of women is expected to enjoy bonds that are stronger than other existing bonds amongst men and women. Men who have empathetic overtures towards the plight of oppressed women are accommodated.
2.4 Review of Related Literature
Feminism and women liberation has generated a lot controversy globally due largely to revolutionary literary works of feminist writers in African and beyond. TsitsiDangeremba’sShe No Longer Weeps and Ezeajughi’sNneora: an African Doll’s House are among influential African plays that depict gender politics and patriarchal domination of women in Africa. TsitsiDangeramba hails from Zimbabwe, which happens to be the setting of the play. The play, written in 1987 during the post-colonial period of Zimbabwe, deals with the marginalization and subjugation of African women, which reign in most African. As portrayed in the play women oppression has deep roots in Zimbabwe. This becomes a great tool of Freddy, the antagonist in the play, as he exploits it to his advantage. However,
Women emancipation was promised by independent Zimbabwe, especially in the passage of the legal Age of Majority Act, giving women the right to contract their own marriage, represent themselves in court, and be guardians of their children. Despite such laws, many legal rights of women were not honoured (Shaw, 8)
The play, She No Longer Weeps, centres on a female character, Martha, a university graduate who gets pregnant. She is rejected by her parents and the man that is responsible for the pregnancy. She pleads with Freddy to accommodate her as very soon, they would both be earning money from which would enable them take care of their child: “You’ve got a good job and if things work out, I’ll have finished my degree by this time next year. Just think, we’ll be family already. Oh, Freddy, it’s not so bad. It’ll be alright, everything will be just fine”. (108)
In this dialogue, the playwright projects the view that women should be empowered through education so that they can be emancipated from male subjugation and fully utilize their potential. Martha makes effort to secure her future, that of he child and that of her potential family by ensuring that she finishes her education. Her pleato Freddy gives the picture of a woman taking responsibility and refusing to be relegated to the position of a second-class citizen. She seeks partnership considering the circumstances surrounding the unborn child, implications of dropping out of school and her rejection by her family. This is an example of Social Transformation and Partnership thatOgundipe-Leslie advocates for with her stiwanism theory.
Martha appreciates the sacrifices of her mother and women of her generation to keep the home intact, but she decides not to follow the same path, as she the years of servitude of women to men is long overdue:
To be a woman is no longer a crime punishable by a life-time of servitude to men. I know that in your day there were many pressure that prevented a woman who could be independent because they couldn’t work for a wage or salary, but people saw to it that women remain dependent because that was the only way of thing that people know then … I don’t have to be a tied by those beliefs because I can support myself and I will not sacrifice myself to a man’s eye just because society says I ought to. I’m as much as part of the society as anyone of you (123-124)
Martha draws attention to the changing phases associated with generation transitions of womanhood. She emphasizes that hers is the phase where it is not only men who are regarded as humans, and that women have dreams to pursue too, irrespective of whether they are single or married, mother or not. She says: “I don’t believe that just because I’m a woman I must sacrifice potential to looking after some idiotic man and his offspring”. (122)
Motherism, an African feminist theory, which centres on mother and child bond, also plays out in She No Longer Weeps. Martha pampers her daughter and gives her the best of care. She clearly exhibits the “motheistic” nature, as opposes to what her mother and other women of her generation showed her.Therefore, she sends the message that a mother’s true pride is her children: “Remember one thing, my love, my daughter is mine, mine. She’s all I have, the one thing I love”. (129)
After child birth, Martha takes her destiny into her own hands. She furthers her education, gets employment and moves to stay on her own. The general view and perception of feminist as women who are independent and assertive is evident at this stage in Martha’s life. She puts on a new assertive and defensive attitude and runs her own life irrespective of other people’s opinion of her: “I don’t want you thinking that just because I let you sleep in my bed you can come here and tell me how to live my life”. (129) She goes on to the extent of instilling similar value in her daughter to be strong no matter the circumstances.From the above analysis and Martha’s specific resolve not to be Freddy’s wife and to take care of her daughter single-handedly, it is true what Anku (15) says that African women can detach themselves from marriage but not from the aspect of motherhood. Motherhood and womanhood form integral part of a woman that even the African feminist cannot detach from.
Martha, during her encounter with MrMutsika and MrsChiwara, indulged Martha to take their girls, but she refused. The two characters are symbolic of western feminist believe and their expectations of the African women. The western feminist believe that as the African has embraced feminism, she is ready to let go of everything and follow their beliefs, but Martha proves otherwise. She would not be used as a tool in their hands to manipulate people in situation she once found herself.
In using Martha, who is a pivot character, the playwright effectively coordinates both sexes and two generations. “Martha strives effectively for equality between the sexes in relation to both her lover and her father”. (Shaw, 27)
She serves as a voice for African feminist who is striving for a place in all spheres of global development: economic, social and political. Fredd says: “You don’t know your place in this world, which is underneath. You thought you should be on top” Martha’s response to him is in line with feminist advocacy, because all they want is equality. Therefore, she says: “No, what I wanted was side by side”. (135)
In Nneora: an African Doll's House, UtoEzeajughi portrays the African men’s predilection to oppress and suppress the female gender. Nneora, a hardworking business woman gives up her all for the sake of marriage to be the wife that her husband wants her to be. Ikenna her husband does not want a working woman but rather a housewife so he can take care of the house: “And I love the way take care of the house. That is the difference between a working wife and a housewife. A housewife has an edge over the working wife”. (30) Ikenna does not miss out any opportunity in making Nneora know that she is solely his. This exemplifies male chauvinism and how women are marginalized by some men.
Nneora confirms the subservient nature of the woman to her husband in her conversation with Linda: “we are women and once we marry, we must stay under our men”. (70) Linda draws attention of Nneora to the fact that time have changed; gone are the days a man determines what women do and encourages Nneora to take charge of her life.
LINDA: Nneora wake up! We actually have right! It is just that we have been brought right up in a hypocritical society, where men gang up to steal everything that belongs to us, including our God-given rights of existence. And you know what bothers me most? For centuries, we women have silently endorsed this social gang-up (70-71)
She is instigating an uprising against female gender oppression and male chauvinism, thereby calling on women to demand their right from men. Such demand brought forth feminism; but Nneora, who represents the African woman analyses the situation from a different perspective. She tells Linda: “I don’t think so. Because if you have struggled and succeeded, I believe that there must be other women who have done the same”. (46)Nneora draws on the fact that feminism has not succeeded in Africa.
The two playwrights have adequately captured the travails of women in patriarchal African society. They have also advanced the struggle for women liberation by calling on women to repudiate the negative stereotypes of them and their inferior position as second-class citizen only live to fulfill the dreams of the husband. Through education and skill acquisition, the playwrights believe that women can be emancipated from the shackles of male chauvinism and domination.