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PATRIARCHY AND WIDOWHOOD- A STUDY OF   ZAYNAB ALKALI’S THE DESCENDANT AND BAYO ADEBOWALE’S LONELY DAYS 

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PATRIARCHY AND WIDOWHOOD- A STUDY OF   ZAYNAB ALKALI’S THE DESCENDANT AND BAYO ADEBOWALE’S LONELY DAYS 

 

 

ABSTRACT

Men are presented as the first in everything even when they are not, and the best also when they are not. They are the king and they are the head. They lead in every matter whether they can take decisions that would be of importance to the society or not. They are made more important than women (Uchendu .E, 2007:280).” Such a quotation gives us a hint at who are the true decision makers in a patriarchal society. As a result, the research looks at the position of women in a patriarchal society and de facto the roles played by both male and female characters responsible for the subordination of women. Also, the research investigates the reasons that have conditioned Zaynab Alkali and Bayo Adebowale and de facto her female characters to protest the place and the role given to them by the patriarchal society and bring out its aesthetics in contributing to the liberation of the female characters in the novel. While the textual analysis is limited to The Descendant and Lonely Days, the research helps to pay a critical attention not only to the marginalization of women especially widows, but also to the awareness of power of female gender as an equal force in the socio economic and political development of the continent. Finally, the researcher employs the theory of African feminism to enable the reader to uncover some measures of protest by women in their attempt to create a more suitable society. The findings showed that the writer has used the female-protagonist as a weapon for women liberation in male-dominated society. It also showed that women do not need male support for their empowerment and they can be ostracized, banished, ridiculed, before they gain their rights.

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

One of the challenges facing women in Africa society today is the revision of some African cultural practices that denigrate the image and status of women in the society. Male and female children right from their birth are assigned different roles, values, and status by the society where they are born. In many societies, preference for sons is a powerful tradition, which manifests itself in neglect, deprivation, and discriminatory treatment of daughters to the detriment of their physical and mental health. Male preference adversely affects females through inequitable allocation of food, education, and health care, a disparity frequently reinforced throughout life. This preference begins early in life and professional training is reserved exclusively for males while the females are given out in marriage at an early age. In many cultures, the tradition of marrying daughters at a young age is common; female children, already undervalued are often married to much older men. In such marriages, females have little power and sense of self-determination. Those who marry early cannot stay in school and often have little motivation or ability to plan their families. Mineke, Schipper (2008), asserts that: In the Igbo society, a woman is always owned by a man. First, she belongs to her father until she is of an age when she can be [married]. Pre-arranged marriages are normal. How the daughter feels toward her husband is of little importance. After acquiring her, she is only valuable in terms of producing offspring, preferably males (Mineke, Schipper, 2008). Aristotle declares that: Men are born to rule women just as the soul, which is superior rules the body, men are by nature superior, and the women inferior; and one rules while the other is ruled; this principle of necessity extends to all mankind (Quoted in Khan, 1976). Aristotle concludes that women represent a “defaced human nature”. The female, he argues, “is a mutilated male” (21). In the African literary genre, persons who have read novels, stories, poems, songs, proverbs, folktales, authored by Africans will be amazingly familiar with the negativism depicted on the portrayal of girls and women in traditional African cultural setting. A Kenyan feminist philosopher lists what she found to be the common characteristics of the majority of African women as rural, illiterate, poor, isolated, passive, submissive, parochial, afraid and lonely (Oduk, 2002.p.160). These and other uncritical and provoking African cultural worldviews and practices which arise from narrow-minded chauvinism, have grossly misrepresented the nature and the concept of women and womanhood in particular and of human nature as a whole. Some African female writers have through their works revealed women struggling against some of these oppressive forms (patriarchy, polygamy, class and religion) in African society. Among pioneer female writers who rose to salvage African women’s image are Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Nawal El Saadawi, Zaynab Alkali, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo and recently, Gracy Ukala. These women write fiction, poems and plays in an attempt to attack the stereotypes and misconceptions about women and in a way show their concern for the plight of women and their strong advocacy for social transformation where women will be given their due recognition. One method through which this is taken up and dealt with is through fiction. Modupe asserts Literature as a major avenue of self-expression for many African women in the on-going quest for new gender myths and collective self- retrieval (Modupe 42). D’almeida further addresses the political importance of women authorship when describing literature as “a venue through which women portray themselves as actorsinstead of spectators.

 

In other hand, it is generally believed that one of the best ways to learn about a given culture, such as to examine the position of women in a patriarchal society, is to go and live with the people from that cultural background and spend a given period of time with them. But, this would seemingly result in an understanding at a sociological and, perhaps, anthropological level. However, a literary text can provide an excellent background for socio cultural studies. This is, not only, because a literary work is, almost, a reflection of the writer’s inherent society or culture but, also, because literature is “one of the channels through which negative attitudes and stereotypes of women are perpetuated or even created (Davies. B.C. , 1990:75).” Thus, the modern African literature, in general, and literature by women, in particular, convey so many patriarchal prejudices against women. That is the reading of Zaynab Alkali’s The Descendant, for instance, can reveal the social and cultural location of women in the patriarchal Hausa society of Nigeria. But, what is patriarchy to begin with? According to (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1989), patriarchy is a “social system in which the oldest man rues his family and passes power and possessions onto his sons.” Furthermore, the same dictionary states that it is a “system in which men have all the power.” For (Lerner. G., 1986; 216-17), patriarchy is the “manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance in society in general.” (Walby. S, 1990:20), on her side, sees patriarchy as a “system of social structures and practices, in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.”

Womanhood is symbolic of tenderness, love, kindness and compassion but, unfortunately, the men folk used to perceive these glorious qualities as weakness. The greater love that a woman showed to her fellow human beings, the weaker she is seen to be; the more compassionate that a woman bestowed on humanity, the more foolish she was thought to be. Thus, in spite of shared socio-cultural values, beliefs and practices with men, the woman used to be taken as only a shadow of the men folk (Simmonds 1992). The culture and traditions of some ethnic communities in Northern Nigeria have stringent restrictions where the women folk is concerned. In some communities, women are completely without individual identity. The woman is not allowed to inherit any item of her dead husband’s, she cannot go out to seek employment but has to rely on and manage whatever is given out to her by her husband and master (Tahzib, 1983). Generally, family life and organization used to revolve almost entirely around the man; even though the woman as wife bears the children and keep the home, she was of no significance; she could not think for herself nor for her children but if anything went wrong with the children or in the home the woman would be at the receiving end of the rebuke, admonishment and even the physical remonstration over the situation. As a matter of fact the status of women in Nigeria used to be an ignoble and harrowing one which gave rise to an image of them that was so indistinct as to be obscure.

What the above quotation implies is that both male and female strive to dominate each other in any society. The notion above corroborates Weber’s (1980, p. 28)  definition of power as the chance that an individual in a social relationship can achieve his/her own will even against the resistance of others. Women have been presented in negative ways in different written discourses– newspapers (Ogungbemi, O. D & Ofoegbu, D, 2016; Daniel, I. O, 2011; Marthinus, C, 2011), textbooks ( Ibrahim, M, 2015), literature- drama, prose and poetry (Gbaguidi, C, 2018; Ezebube, 2016; Patrice, C.A & Albert, O.K, 2015); Daniel Otero (2018), just to mention a few. The women folks have risen to their feet to challenge these abnormalities. A number of works have been carried out by female writers to redeem female identities and roles in Africa. Similarly, some male writers have decided to support the women in redeeming their image. For example, Bayo Adebowale’s Lonely Days challenges how African women are being marginalized, and he makes us to understand that women can gain their freedom from male dominance if they are ready to revolt. He does this through the female-protagonist, Yaremi to challenge the male dominance and unnecessary hardship placed on them in the guise of widow rites and widow dirges. The language of literature reflects ideology (kinds of beliefs) in society, and when ideology comes in, the people’s culture comes into being. Therefore, novel as a written discourse goes beyond the text, and we need to interpret and explain the hidden practices in it. The novel is written by Bayo Adebowale in 2006. It is about the plight of widows in Africa, most especially Adeyipo in Akinyele Local Government Area of Oyo State. The four widows (Dedewe, Radeke, Fayoyin and Yaremi) suffer maltreatment and deprivations, because they are widows. The widows are forced to sing dirges and confess sins they did not commit. The widows are also forced to pick ‘a new cap’ which means a new husband on Cap-Picking Day. Yaremi, the female-protagonist and latest widow, the wife of late Ajumobi, is a woman that knows her rights amidst other widows, and she is always ready to confront anyone who seeks to trample on her rights. Yaremi presents the needs for every woman to have a mind of her own and stands by her decisions. Yaremi rejects marginalisation, polygamy, horrible widow rites and asserts herself despite challenges; she finally liberated herself from male phallocentric society. Indeed, Yaremi is an epitome of women libration in Africa. This research work at examine the patriarchy and widowhood: a study of   Zaynab  Alkali’s the Descendant and Bayo Adebowale’s Lonely Days.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM 

There is no gain saying the fact that women have been degraded to the position of inferior creatures to men. A woman’s voice is not given as much consideration as it should be; the personality of a woman is almost always taken for granted. In most situations, a woman is evaluated by her child-bearing status and/or her skills; she is not considered by being worthy of being assigned any communal or national responsibilities. However, secularization trend and psychic mobility have promoted women (and even men) to redefine their image. Women have begun to adopt the attitudes that are changing their roles in their homes and the larger society. Communication technology has made it possible for women to imagine, see, hear or read about the activities of women in other nations. This has made women in Nigeria to sit up and re-awaken their sense of self-worth. Women in Nigeria have come to the realization that they are no longer subservient to the men folk; they are now aware that, as creations of Almighty Allah, they also hold a pride of place as an integrate part of society. In a general sense, women in Nigeria are now redefining their image in such a positive way that the men folk are taking notice.

1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

  1. To examine feminism practices in African.
  2. To evaluate Hausa society and the position of women.
  3. To examine Alkali’s view point on the heavy hands of patriarchy on women in the society.
  4. To determine the Alkali’s strategies to free women from the patriarchal yokes.
  5. To Bayo Adebowale’s lonely days and the issue of patriarchy and widowhood in Nigeria and Hausa society.

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY 

The significance of this investigation is to bring new view points on writing a book from a different perspective, and also to promote women’s liberty; encourage equality; since literature depicts social life, people should be able to treat others in a humane manner. To change the tradition of human inequality. To promote justice for all. New authors should avoid the stereotypes about women in society.

1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY 

Being an educational research, the scope of this study is confined to the project topic which is the patriarchy and widowhood: a study of   Zaynab  Alkali’s the Descendant and Bayo Adebowale’s Lonely Days. The study does not seek to delve into the general activities of women neither is it a documentary of feminine rights activism. It has the sole aim of studying how the image of women in Nigeria has been or is being redefined.

1.5 METHODOLOGY 

The research was conducted through the collection of data and documents from different sources which include text books, internet works, projects related to the topic and some conference papers.

1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS

The following definitions are provided to ensure the uniformity and understanding of these terms throughout the study.

  • Feminism: A struggle for recognition of women‟s cultural roles and achievements, and women‟s social and political rights (Abram, 1971:88).

According to Boyce-Davies‟s definition, feminism is a politics of possible transformation that resists the objectification of women (1994, 28).

  • Womanism: A social change perspective based upon the everyday problems and experiences of black woman and other women of color, but more broadly seeks to eradicate inequalities not just for black women, but for all people (WIKIPEDIA for Macmillan Dictionary, 2013).
  • Patriarchy: A rule of father or male-centred and controlled, and organized and conducted in a way as to subordinate women to men in all cultural domains, that is, familial, religious, political, economical, social, legal and artistic (Abrams, 1971:89).
  • Stereotypes: These are characteristics ascribed to groups of people involving gender, race, national origin and other factors. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved. For an example, someone who meets a few individuals from a particular country and finds them to be quiet and reserved may spread the word that all citizens from that country in question are quiet and reserved (WIKIPEDIA for Macmillan Dictionary, 2013).
  • Gender: One‟s sex as a man or woman as determined by anatomy of traits that are conceived to constitute what is masculine and what is feminine in temperament and behaviour (Abrams, 2009:149).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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