GENDER ISSUES IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS AND NAWAL EL SAADAVIS WOMAN AT POINT ZERO
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1.1 Background of the study
Woman plays such a vital role of nurturing the future generations, but the irony is that woman is mostly degraded and dominated on the basis of gender. Feminism which is one of the most burning topics across the world is still not achieved yet. Feminism in a layman language is giving equal rights and status to the women. Unfortunately, women across the world are deprived of their basic rights. The woman is always considered as a “Secondary Sex”. The fight for women rights is not a new thing and women have been fighting for it from a very long time and it continues even today. The actual wave of feminism is considered to be started by two key philosopher viz. Mary Wollstone Craft and John Stuart Mill in the late 19th and the early 20th century. But the term feminism was used first by a socialist Charles Fourier in the 19th century. Mary Wollstone craft is often considered as the mother of feminism. She is in her book entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Women argues that women’s education is one of the fundamental requirements of the world. She insisted that women are not merely the wives but instead they help in the building of the nation as they are the companions to their husbands. According to Mary Wollstone Craft, women should be given equal rights and status as they are not only the ornaments or a commodity that is to be traded in the marriage but instead a very important part of the society. And her main focus was to aware women about the education so that they should be well aware of their rights.
Elaine Showalter, an American feminist traced the history of feminism and divided it into three phases. She called the first phase ‘the mute phase’ or the feminine phase (1840-1880) where the women were mute only and fight only for the basic rights. The second phase (1880-1920) is called ‘the protest phase’ of the feminist phase, which was more aggressive and the women in this phase fought for suffragettes. They demanded the right to vote so that their voices should also be heard. The last phase (1920-till now) is the phase of self-discovery. This phase demanded self-autonomy.
But whatever the feminism in the world was, it was all about the white ladies and the third world women were ignored. The Third world women realised that their part was missing in feminism and came forward to fight for their rights as well. Alice Walker, a well-known writer focused on the word ‘Womanism’ or ‘sisterhood’ instead of feminism. According to her, this word denotes the feminism of the world and believes that if we consider all the women of the world as sisters, only then feminism can be achieved. If we trace back the history of black feminism than Bell Hooks’ book entitled Ain’t I a Woman? : Black Women and Feminism is definitely a bench mark. In this book, Hook’s talks about black feminism and the struggle of black women. Hooks argues to end sexism and racism in respect to women. This book took her 7 years to complete it. She explains in the book that women during the slavery suffered most of the discrimination and sufferings. Not only black but women across the globe came forward to raise their voice for rights.
Now women across the world, no matter European or African or Asian, all are coming forward to fight for their rights and status under the umbrella term of feminism. Not only the philosophers or thinkers or writers are fighting for the women rights but today even celebrities have come forward to contribute their part in this wave of feminism. Emma Watson, a well-known Hollywood star has also come forward and she started a campaign #HeForShe campaign where she compels males to be on the side of women to fight for their rights. She is totally against the definition of feminism being anti-males. Instead she appeals to the males to come forward and help women to achieve equal rights and status. “This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN. We want to try to mobilise as many men and boys possible to be advocates for change.” Even Mitchell Obama is also a very strong figure contributing to this feminism. Her speeches are often very famous regarding women emancipation.
It is not surprising therefore, that African scholars have now begun to include the concepts of sex, gender and violence in gender studies in order to understand how they play out in gender relations (Lindsay & Miescher 2003:1-3). Consequently, in the analyses of women authored work, amongst other themes, there is the need to explore gender-based violence and its portraiture in these works. This is beacause gender -based violence is a serious problem in many societies today and and a new area of investigation in literary criticism.This study therefore interrogates the depiction of gender-based violence in the Nigerian novel with reference to fiction by women in general and to Adichie‘s novels in particular and the role of gender in the propagation of violence. The study explores how the gender of a person contributes to inter /intra-gender violence in the selected novels.
Gender issues in every discourse are often divisive because of its sensitive nature and because the term gender is often used interchangeably with sex. There is a clear dichotomy between both terms and scholars have since established the difference between them. While the term sex is the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male, gender is the economic, political and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female (USAID, 2007). Gender is therefore socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. While sex and its associated biological functions are programmed genetically, gender roles and the power relations they reflect are a social construct ,they vary across cultures and through time, and thus are open to to change. While sex refers to the anatomical difference between man and woman, in contrast, gender refers to the social aspect of differences and hierarchies between male and female‖ (John Macionis & Ken Plummer, 2005:309).
A report by the British council titled ‗Gender in Nigeria in 2012‘, concludes that violence against women is not a new problem in Nigeria. Rather, it is found to be deeply rooted in many cultural and traditional values which is regarded as normal behaviour or remains hidden or tacitly condoned (Nnadi, 2012; Zimmerman, 1997). Hence, violence against women is perceived as the most pervasive violation of human rights (United Nation Secretary General, 2009; Heise et al., 2002)). In 1998 The Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), raised concerns about the prevalence of violence against women and girls including domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace‖. It is also important to state that gender -based violence is practiced against everyone, but it affects mainly women and girls (Jekayinfa, 2011; USAID, 2008).
1.2 Statement of the problem
The most dangerous thing is the inability of many Africans to separate African culture from the systems that oppress the freedoms of African women. It is this inability to see a future where African culture is not tinged with patriarchal nuances which is the greatest threat to the Black Conscience Movement. Then Orabueze, (114) asserted that it is necessary that we disassemble what it means to be African and look more closely at what customs are just dishes and what defines our culture. My hope is to make understand patriarchy, African culture and the need to separate the two. However, patriarchy is a social formation according to Opara, Chioma, (2008) in which the male sex plays the dominant role in collective social existence.
Vasilyeva Ayala argues that “women as a group are supposed to share a characteristic trait, experience, condition or common criterion that defines their gender and the possession of certain persons as women (as opposed to men, for example)”. Ayala added that all women are considered different from all men in this regard (or respects). For example, MacKinnon thought that being treated in a sexually objectifying way is the common condition that defines the gender of women and what women and women share. All women differ from all men in this regard. In addition, highlighting females that are not sexually objectified does not provide a counterexample to the sight of MacKinnon. To be objectified sexually is constitutive of being a woman; a woman who escapes sexual objectification, then, would not count as a woman. (732).
1.3 Aim and objectives of study
The aim of this study is to describe the existence of gender issues in the Nigerian novel and its depiction in Nawal el Saadawi’s woman at point zero and Chimamanda Adichie‘s purple hibiscus. This research is premised on the fact that literature is a chronicler of society through which societal issues are analysed with a view to making the society better.