BY IBANGA, GRACE ITORO DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, OLABISI ONBANJO UNIVERSITY AGO-IWOYE FEMINISM AND POLITICAL RECONSTRUCTION: THE GYNOCENTRIC AESTHETICS IN JOHN CLARK’S THE WIVES’ REVOLT** AND BESSIE HEAD’S A QUESTION OF POWER By Grace Itoro Ibanga 1. 0 Introduction: 1. 1 The Concept of Feminism In African societies men are placed at the centre and everything seems to revolve round them. The patriarchal society is a system where the culture is so slanted that the female folks live in the shadow of the male.
The men are always stationed at the forefront women constitute what Mary Daly (1978) describes as ‘a homogenous group of victims of male power. ’ Women are subservient to male control and they are largely sexually oppressed. Feminism seeks in an insatiable manner to give a voice to women in a patriarchal dominated society which they find themselves. It explores women as an already constituted and coherent group with identical interests, desires, problems and needs, regardless of class, ethnic or racial location.
The conceptualization of its construction by the larger part of feminists has always been the rejection of any form of social or personal or economic discrimination, which women suffer because of their sex. Thus feminism which is the dominant and most widely acceptable mode of female rejection of male- oppression and violence among the female folks, has always served as a major agency for women’s fair and decent welfare foundation, all over the world.
It is an accessory to social, psychological and physical structure for women because its superstructure indicates the need to pursue their vocations side by side with patriarchal counterpart without opposition. It is the domain to solicit for the myth of sisterhood as rightly observes by Grace Ibanga (2005) that women derive the pleasure of caring for their co-wives and step-children, most especially during sickness and child delivery (115). This symbolizes the cult of female strength, oneness and unity in the propagation of female continuous resistance against suppression and oppression in patriarchal dominated societies.
Feminism conceptualizes women both as a self “real historical being and subject, “a fictional construct” (see Miller, 1988, de Lauretics, 1986). It is the study of Literature that often broadens how the ‘self’ that women seek metamorphoses into the “subject”. It furthermore, addresses the subjugation of the female sexually as a core aspect of gender connected with a sex-life and the method(s) through which the person’s sexual desires are sources of female oppression.
However it is an established fact that the issue of man’s progeny and continuity as established in family institutions, occur through heterosexual unions within and outside marriage institutions. So feminists, most especially African feminists ( which practice and belief in heterosexual relationship) are advocating that since female sexuality are depicted as agency for men’s sexual pleasure and source of sexual violence or anger against their folks, that the newly evolved / emancipated woman can always do without it after all. Feminism and Political Reconstruction:
Women have been given minority status throughout history and even after the grudging extension of certain minimal rights of citizenship; it is an understatement to assume that women, whether black or white, have had any sizeable representations now in government than they ever did. The question one is likely to ask at this point is why is it never acknowledge or discussed that this arrangement of male dominance and control of the society is so obvious even in modern times where women scholarship and achievements have been widely acknowledge?
The reason is that such discussion is regarded as dangerous and in the extreme; and again, a culture does not discuss its most basic assumptions and most cherished bigotries. A closer look at the society portrays that every avenue of power in the society including the repressive forces of police, military, and governance is entirely in male hands. The control of money, guns, and authority itself is made a no go area for women.
Millet (1968) sums it all when she posits: Even God is male – and a white male at that (Encarta 2008) Achebe (1996) while portraying the archetypal-husband –hegemony as a figure of dread and authority assumes Okonkwo as a fictional hero who rules and controls his family – wives and children with ‘iron-hand’. It is today a belief that no matter how prosperous a man may be, if he is unable to rule his women and children, he is not regarded as a man. The issue of male oppression and supremacy over omen is as old as patriarchy itself, and certainly long pre-dates the various types of cultural politics. It is politically expedient myth, either invested or discussion initiated to serve the political end of a rationalization and partial denial of power. The patriarchal culture seeks at all level of discussion to defer or cancel logical charge of oppression which any objective view of the sex structure would bring up and this society has a fascinating way of appropriating all sympathy for itself.
The culture takes delight in the practices of psychological and metaphorical castration of female around them. Having in a confused way, associated his genitals with his power, patriarchy now bellows in physical pain and true hysteria every time his social and political prerogatives are threatened. If by construction it means a loss through being forced to share power with oppressed groups deprived of power and human status, then there are many men in the African culture who suffer this psychic operation to bring about feminist liberation in African societies.
Feminism has been about challenging the representations of women and arguing for better conditions for them. Representation itself has at least two meanings, both of which are relevant to post colonialism and to feminism. The first and more political one has to do with the matter of political representation. For the extent and depth of the male’s hatred and hostility toward his subject colony of women is a source of continual astonishment. The history of women is full of colourful artifact. Millet (1968) painstakingly analyses. … he bound feet of all old china’s women deliberately deformed – that they might the better be the better controlled (you can work with those useless feet, but you cannot run away) – the veil of Islam (or an attenuated existence as a human soul condemned to wear a cloth sack over her head all the days of her half-life)- the lash, the rod, domestic imprisonment through most of the world’s history rape, concubiage, prostitution. Yes, we have our own impressive catalogues of open tyrannies. Women are still sold in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
And in nearly every rod of ground on this earth they live only via the barter system of sex in return for the food of the latter. Like every system of oppression male supremacy rests finally on force, physical power, rape, assault and the threat of assault (http//www. org/sexual politics men adopt bestial strategies to constantly lodge attack on women when they realize that everything else has failed. But the fear of force is always there before every woman as a deterrent – dismissal divorce, violence – personal sexual or economic.
In The Wives Revolt (2004) Erhuwaren, the descendants of Udumede and Meghuere exercise the politics and giving only one third women folks by sharing and giving only one third of the money sent by the oil company operating in their land to all the women, while the larger portion of the entire money go to the elders and the men. The reader is given foremost clues about the attitude of chauvinist domination and unfair treatment of women. A closer examination of the situation reveals that decided elders are equally the men who by choice to creel on the women.
By reason of equity and justice, the patriarchal culture is supposed to have considered the women and girls in their sharing of the national cake. By way of parenthesis, Clark, the feminist sympathizer is advocating that an ideal politics might simply be conceived of as the arrangement of human life on agreement and rational principles from whence the entire notion of power over others should be banished (Encarta 2008:6) is earlier stated. The extent and depth of the males’ hatred and hostility towards his subject colony of women is a major source of continual concern.
Clark (2004) explains this clearly by practically illustrating how the men of Erhuwaren community pass a bill into law banishing all the livestock – goats, sheep, hens and other domestic animals are littering the public places right to the market square. They further state that these women (who by right are their writes and mothers of their children) are the some people accused of harassing. That some even assume by power of witch craft, the insidious forms and shapes of goats to terrorize hornet clean – living citizens of their peace – loving town. (2) Okoro:…………. Kama sanu Ono changing into a goat.
That’s how he hit the floor grabbing at her, as she changed form before his very eyes (5) Koko, this wife who is also representing the women folk in the community, tries to argue with her husband that the man simply trips and falls in his drunkenness and then begins to spread those absurd accounts all about the place, accusing the innocent women of witchcraft, magic, juju and the goats as well by association: How stupid can you men get! (5-6) Furthermore, Okoro flares men venomous hatred on koko his wife because she is more or less speaking where the ‘real people’ are as Millet (1968) ascertain……. omen who might be anxious to carry on an adult dialogue are bullied back into their place (Encarta 2008:3) Okoro: Now you watch your mouth. You are maliciously turning to ridicule the truthful testimony of three respected members of the community by using their conduct on one or two unfortunate occasion to call their characters into questions (6) Clark brings in the idea that men use their position of influence to afflict pains – psychologically in the women. For instance on the issue of the sharing of the oil money, the male folk decides to cheat the women simply because they not equally occupying important past like the men.
He also states that men who occuping top position in their community beat up their wives. They turn their wives to punching bags. Again that the men abuse their power and wealth by drinking themselves to useless. Koko asserts Koko. You men spend all your money drinking together anyway, and come home to beat your wives or drive them out of bed with your stench and snoring. Admit it. You rigged the whole thing to do us out of our fair share of the money that the white men paid us. 5,7) Clark in The Wives Revolt (2004) portrays the theme of unity where by all the women assemble to revenge the men and the community for their injustices metted out to them. As soon as the womenfolk realize their plight that the men in the community have taken a decision to destroy all their goats, even after cheating them of their right of the money, that they pass through those animals to perpetrate evil against the entire community, they agree to pack out of the community to send themselves on compulsory exile to Otoktu in protest of their husband oppression on them. Idama: She is gone; gone with the others;
Yes, our wives have gone, they have walked out on us; they have emigrated in protest against our unjust law (20). The men folk posit clearly out of their bias mind that the women could go to hell all what they care are that; Okoro: Women have no rights – no special rights that I know of; they bestow their gifts on whom they like, run their house-holds as they please, bring up our children the way they deem fit, and to crown it all, they dispute rights with our mothers in their one ambition to change us. So what special rights do they want? (21) Of course the womenfolk do not need to be reminded that their common energy is patriarchy.
And that since the culture and various institution are maned by man (patriarchy) it is possible that the women’s common interest may not be protected. So in order for them (women) to register their dissatisfaction over what has happened, they unanimous take a decision to walk our of their heartless marriages and community. Clark, a feminist sympathizer, is not just advocating that power be given to the women, since the latter know that ‘power corrupts’ and ‘absolute power corrupt absolutely’ but he is of the opinion that women should be given opportunity to live in the society where they are co-builders.
He also highlights the roles of women in his community / Nigerian society as comprising of child bearing / rearing home keeping domestic management husband nursing and a host of others. Besides, they are industrious very resourceful, good planners, and useful in the economic, social, and of course the political matters in contemporary society (23) A typical examples of this is seen where Okoro is trying to settle down to the domestic cores of cooking, caring for the children as well as attending to his own personal matters.
He finds it difficult to adjust after his wife koko has left her matrimonial home and the village with other women leaving her husband and children respectively (23-24) Idama represents the play rights views when he admits the importance/role the women play in the society-cook, wash clothes, bear children, nurse husbands etc), which they men themselves cannot do all those things (23-25). Inspite of the positive advocacy of women virtues and contributions, clark is faced with the indecision as regards whether he should completely succumb to the women’s liberation propaganda or not.
He is equally of the view that womenfolk constitute unnecessary evil in the society. By feminist political reconstruction Head questions the superstructure relationships patriarchal the as why the claimed authority (men) by equal right are created in the like manner by the super creator should decide to side line the other set money as being unimportant, irrelevant irresponsible and unproductive. And for that reason tries every available means to remove them physical from psychologically mental existence in the patriarchal disminated society.
The southern African government deliberately castrate Elizabeth the protagonist of A Question of power (1974) in order words Bessie Head with her mother Bessie Emery normal as intelligent woman; and instead tags her as an abnormal human, insune and totality removed from living with the normal is south African. The reason(s) behind all this kind of patriarchal politicking is not because she and her mother respectively had committed any rime but because the white setters regard it as in human for its race to mingle with the natives – above all to even get married to them or have a child by them because this is a clear picture of what happens to Bessie Emeng (the authors mother) and latter to Bessie Head herself. This kind of insincerity and unfairness separation subordinate (women) the stranger (white seller is what brings about series of neurotic problems Elizabeth (Bessie) suffers all through their existence.
She succinctly puts; I was born on the sixth of July, 1937, in the Peter maritz bury Mental Hospital, in South Africa. The reason for my peculiar birth place was that my mother was white, and she had acquired me for a Blackman. She was judged insame and committed to the mental hospital white pregnant (Head, 1975:7. 5) Bessie Head gets to know that the woman whom she is living with is since she was six years of age is not own biological mother. She is constantly reminded that since her mother was insane, that if she not too careful that she too might end up insane just like her mother.
The only sin the mother committed was that as a white woman, she allowed a black man, the native to have an affair with her which resulted into the unwelcome child-girl-Bessie. The argument one may put up at this stage is, if the case were a reversed that Bessie Emeny was a white man, who impregnated the black nigger girl, would the South African government thought it wise to lock him up in a mental hospital that something was wrong with him or so?
So in A Question of Power (1974) Bessie Head tries to solve the puzzle by herself raising up question regarding the level “factual truth in her account of Elizabeth’s origin when she probes “ Was the story of her mother sheer accident or design? (15) Head’s attempt to answer this question leads her to as Gardner (1989) summarizes “an attempt to create a viable identity” (228). The search for self definition or identity in secluded male society which the issue of politicizing is alarming commonly be realize in writing.
Bessac Head in Mackenzie (1990) explains; Writing is not a male/female occupation my femaleness was never a problem to me, not, note in our age. More than a century ago, a fell prisoner women writers, writing fearfully under male pseudonyms, established that women writers were brilliant thinkers too, on a par with men. I do not have to be a feminist. The world of the intellect is impersonal sexless (94) Head examine the theory of politics base on power relationships on grounds of personal contact and interaction between members f well-defined and coherent groups; races, casters, classes and sexes. She posits that it is precisely because certain groups have no representation in a recognized South African Structure that their position tends to be so stable, their oppression so continuous In A Question of Power (1974) Head shows particular connections between writing and suffering as a so called half caste woman under apartheid and insanity. She describes her perculiar condition of the nature of delineation that afflicts her when she speaks about her protagonist, Elizabeth.
For instance she states; I think of myself as a woman of southern African – not as a black woman but as an ordinary and ugly humble women…. I have solved nothing, I am like everyone else – perplexed (head 1965:230) Bessie Head depicts that the politics of keeping a love relation with a native Kafir which tantamount into being born a black woman in South Africa produce the sickly brutal and harsh mental traumatic condition in and her mother. She posits” I was born in South Africa and that is synonymous with saying that one is born into a very brutal world – if one is black.
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