Feminism in Africa
By Uche Nworah
You must have read or heard by now that
writers have peculiar styles and are also influenced by
political and philosophical thinking and ideologies, hence it is
easy to read Edwin Madunagu and identify that he is a
Marxist, also Ndaeyo Uko is easily exposed as a satirist
in his writings, Ama Ogan in her days at the Guardian
was an avowed and unmistakable feminist, and so was the late May
Ellen-Ezekiel (Richard Mofe-Damijo’s late wife), based on
their writings and views.
I have always struggled with my self in
trying to discover who or what influences my writing, I have
read some of the different philosophers and thinkers but do not
completely agree with all their principles and ideologies. I
have therefore chosen not to align myself to any political or
philosophical school of thought, at least for now.
But clarke (not his real name) has not.
clarke is a fellow doctoral student at the University of
Greenwich, ever since Dr. Hall in his Research Methods class
advised that as doctoral students, we should read extensively in
order to critically support and underpin our thesis in known
theories and paradigms, I have watched clarke brand and re-brand
himself week after week from being a Marxist, to being a
positivist and most recently a pseudo - positivist. Lately he
told me that he thinks that he has finally seen the light and
that feminist may well and best describe him.
Sometimes I wonder if clarke knows what he is
talking about, I doubt if he indeed understands what these
critical theories are all about, one thing though is that I have
come to like and admire him and his intellectual honesty. He is
not your typical know – it - all academic (he teaches nursing
and healthcare at the same university). Anytime he attempts to
speak in class especially during seminar presentations; his
reasoning and argument ensures that we all get a dose of the
clarke humour medicine. He is now officially the class clown.
What has clarke got to do with this article?
Well, everything. Firstly I have been struggling, just like him
to identify a theorist, philosopher or paradigm to underpin and
align my thesis with, however an accusatory email I received a
while ago after I wrote an article on the rising profile of Igbo
women as well as my tendency to play up women issues in some of
my writings have made me begin to wonder and aloud too if I am
not maybe, a feminist.
I took this issue up with Professor Ainley
recently; I wanted to find out from him if men could also be
feminists. Thankfully, despite his long academic rhetoric in
trying to provide a simple yes or no answer to a simple
question, I was able to come away from the discussion with the
impression that men could support feminist causes and issues
without necessarily being branded feminists. I have since found
out however, that men could also be feminists.
So once again, I wish to share with you a
thought that has been bothering me lately, this bothers on the
issue of sons and daughters. Hopefully, I will not be called
names again this time by the gentleman (you know who you are)
who felt that my article about Igbo women empowers Igbo women
and could therefore stir up trouble in Igbo families and homes.
As if the women are not empowered already, wait till you hear my
mother’s story. I don’t know if the gentleman in question is
afraid that my article will incite the womenfolk to another
round of riots, just like they did back in 1929.
Even as I write this article, President
Obasanjo has appointed another Igbo woman, Mrs.Irene Nkechi
Chigbue as the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).
She takes her place among the Igbo amazons.
Back to my mother’s story, my father is one
of those Igbo men, typical if you know what I mean. Growing up,
I remember how proud he was that he had four of us (all boys)
first before the two girls came. I can still recall how we had
to endure his antics of dressing us all up in the same set of
clothes and shoes (we used to call them papa’s uniforms) and
then ‘matching’ us all to his friends and associates,
proudly announcing his handwork (sons) at every house we
visited, I used to feel that we were some sort of museum pieces
on display during such round trips.
Trust my father and all the other Igbo men of
his generation, he really kept my mother busy on the home front
and ensured that she was a regular guest at the maternity ward
of the Aba General Hospital every other year. To compensate my
mum, the Lord of the Manor opened a restaurant for her in front
of our family house (where else?). A ploy still used today by
Igbo men to ‘tie’ their wives down.
What was funny about this was that, around
this time, although the girls (my sisters) had already been
born, but still my father went ahead to, wait for this. He
brazenly named the restaurant after himself and affixed the
phrase and sons after his name on the signboard.
I can still picture the big blue coloured
signboard, which for a long time was a regular feature of the
nworah residence, until fate and fortune dictated otherwise.
My mother is your typical ‘obey your
husband’ kind of housewife, as was obtainable back in the days
but when fortune smiled on her, and her business began to
blossom, things began to change. By some act of fate, probably
heaven’s way of teaching my father and the other Igbo men of
his time a lesson, he began to suffer dwindling fortunes in his
business to the extent that my mum took over the running of the
Instinctively, although we were still young,
but we knew where the money was now coming from (trust children
to wise up fast) and so we (the Nworah children) switched
alliances and allegiances.
I will never forget the look on my father’s
face, nor the smirk on my mother’s when my father came home
one day to find that his beloved signboard had been knocked
down, (picture the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statute in
Baghdad) and in its place was now a new shining board announcing
amaka restaurant to the world.
We had expected my father to swear thunder
and brimstone, or even to send my mum packing for daring to pull
down his ‘board’ and by implication for challenging his
manhood and authority, without proper and due consultation. But
he didn’t, he quietly went inside the house and sulked like
the wounded lion that he was. I thank God that my mother did not
abuse the power and paradigm shift.
She still managed to remain the devoted and
caring mother and wife (I didn’t say housewife), proving that
yes, women can do all that and still keep their homes, and
remain loyal and submissive.
This trend of male child preference over
female children is still largely obtainable in Igbo land and
also in some other parts of the world, hence most men still
affix and sons to their business names. I have never seen
any business with and daughters and I still wonder, why
I still don’t know if I am a feminist.
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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updated 3 November 2007