Feminism: An Examination Of Zulu Sofola’s Sweet Trap And Ola Rotimi’s Our Has Gone Mad Again
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.
Molara Ogundipe-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’s Sweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’s Our Has Gone Mad Again are analysed from the feminist point of view as to critically investigate the oppressive experiences 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’s Sweet 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.
Summary of Work, Conclusion and Recommendation
The purpose of this research has been to examine the echoes of feminism in Zulu Sofola’sThe Sweet Trap and Ola Rotimi’sOur Husband Has Gone Mad Again. This chapter provides summary of entire work, conclusion and recommendation drawn from the analysis.
4.1 Summary of Work
The Sweet Trapdwells on the traditionally accepted supremacy of the male especially over his wife or wives. The male chauvinist authority was demonstrated in the play by Femi Sotubo who denies Clara, his wife permission to celebrate her birthday. In a manner typical of a submissive housewife, she initially agrees but later disregards her husband’s orders on the advice of a friend who is a victim of a failed marriage. The party goes on but is eventually disrupted. Clara later tenders an apology to her husband based on the advice of her uncle. The apology shows complete submission and regret as she does so with her knees firmly on the ground. Thus, the manner of wielding authority by the man in some societies suggests the idea that the man is always right and does not need to consult with his wife to take decisions that concern even her. The play dwells much on the wives’ rebellion that is seen as seeking for freedom to engage in pleasure activities. The play is adjudged as portraying the women’s action as one that is a failure and a strategy to dissuade such attempts.This is seen in the issue generated with so much strength but which later boomerangs, chastising rather than commending their actions. The effect this will have is a suppression of any further attempt at speaking up for the womenfolk in relation to their male counterparts.
Feminism is also pervasive in Ola Rotimi’sOur Husband Has Gone Mad Again.In Ola Rotimi’sOur Husband Has Gone Mad Again, Lejoka-Brown’s attitude is a good example of patriarchal attitude, that which makes men believe that they must be on top of women in all things, especially in their relationship with their wife. This is believed to be a sure way of retaining one’s supremacy and authority at home. Feminism is against patriarchal attitude because of the unnecessary tension and strains it puts on the family as is seen in Lejoka-Brown’s family. Liza’s presence in Lejoka-Brown’s house exposes the enslavement of the other women. She has refused to be subjugated to the inferior position of housewife only to be seen but not heard. As a Western woman who believes that women are not in any way subservient to men, Liza mobilizes her fellow wives to organize their own faction to stop the madness of their husband. What Ola Rotimi seems to be saying is that politics is not only the preserve of the men. Using the mouth of Sikira, he makes this point clear: “MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!” . As a medical doctor and an experienced educated lady, Liza can compete favourably with any man. Instead of keeping distance from the other wives as Lejoka-Brown has planned, Liza mingles with them and tries to empower them in the best ways she could in the spirit of sisterhood. For instance, she helps Sikira to develop poise and also shows Mama Rashida how to boost her petty trading to yield her higher profit. Liza can only but teaches the western women’s conception of emancipation which is ultimately the dissolution of the traditional family in other to establish a new one based on equality. For many African feminists, the traditional family is too central to our African communal way of life to be risked for anything. Rather it favours a reformation of the traditional family to accommodate the changes of the modern era in establishing a just society based on gender equity. The need for freedom for the women folks is reverberated throughout the play. In fact, freedom is the campaign slogan of the National Liberation Party. It is not an exaggeration or an indictment to say that Lejoka-Brown does not give his wives freedom to express themselves. As a typical African chauvinistic man, he believes that women are only to be seen but not heard. Lejoka-Brown censors not only what his wives say but also what they wear using religion as a cover-up. A typical example is when he holds the pressmen at gunpoint when Liza broaches into their midst scantily dressed. Ironically, Lejoka-Brown preaches freedom but he does not take corresponding steps to practice what he preaches. At home he does not give his wives freedom to express themselves and at the party meetings, he does not allow other party members to air their views.
The research notes that even though the fight for equality with men was being championed in the play by the likes of Mrs. Ajala and Clara, their consequent transition shows that what women need is empowerment. This view is more compatible with the African worldview as evident in Sofola’s play. Hence, the separatists, through their change of view become aware that what women need is empowerment based on proper education, exposure, good reasoning and thought; and not the craving for same sex status with men. The former will enable them to be heard, respected, appreciated and allowed to take important decisions on their own without necessarily relying and depending on their husbands or male counterparts.
Ola Rotimi’sOur Husband Has Gone Mad Again underscores the imbalance of power between women and men as Nigerian society attempts to transition from tradition to modernity. Having come in contact with ideas of Western feminism that challenge traditional ideas about women’s rights, Sofola creates women characters that seek to establish egalitarian relationships with their husbands. Rotimi’s character, Liza is highly educated. Her education and contributions to the households, shows the authors view for women emancipation. Rotimi’s critiques all ideologies and institutions that limit and impose hardships on women. She depicts traditional practices such as wives inheritance and polygamy to underscore how they can become perverted and be used to denigrate women. Ultimately, Rotimi demonstrates that Western feminism in its pure form creates havoc. However, a hybrid of Western feminism and African Womanism that supports egalitarian relationships simultaneously with support for positive relations with men fits more with African womanhood. The attitudes and tools that African women use to achieve these results as portrayed in the play is empowerment through education and skill acquisition.
The analysis of the plays shows that the playwright portrays women as subjugated and maltreated because of gender inequality. It thus suggests that in pursuit of equity and social justice, there should be a constructive change that will enable women to adopt pragmatic and diplomatic approaches especially in Africa, where equality of the sexes is contrary to the people’s culture. The research also recommends that maltreatment of women can only be stopped when the men are enlightened to put aside their superiority complex and learn to recognize the important role of women in the development of the nation as a whole. The research challenges government to and relevant agencies to formulate polices and legislations that fosters symbiotic relationship between the sexes in order to achieve peaceful co-existence.
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