- Series: African Culture Archive
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Zed Books (February 15, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1856494500
- ISBN-13: 978-1856494502
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,705,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Writing African Women: Gender, Popular Culture and Literature in West Africa (African Culture Archive)
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`Clear, informed thinking about the gendered nexus of culture and power is needed more than ever. The new publication of Newell's collection is an event to be applauded, and its contents to be pondered.' Wendy Griswold, from the Foreword
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Stephanie Newell. London: Zed Books, 1997. 224 pp.
University of Florida
In Writing African Women, Stephanie Newell offers insight from various African writers from the areas of Senegal and Nigeria in regards to the controversy over gender discrimination in West Africa. Each author goes into their take of portraying the life conditions of African women versus how society depicts women in Africa to be. Their in-depth reasoning and explanation for the ways things are in their culture helps deteriorate the ethnocentric view of others in the world. To other cultures, many African women are seen as being stuck in time and not evolving and speaking up for their rights.
In part one of the book Akosua Gyamfuaa-Fofie states, "Instead of following this precedent for West African women's organizations to stand up and fight for their rights, however, women in Ghana have continued to live shrouded in silence" (p. 41). Traditionally males have been known to dominate the world. Women have been generally known to be submissive to the authority of man, which in turn does not allow women to be a part of decision-making and to just accept the laws and rules that are set for them as is. Tradition is very important to many West Africans and is the reason why it is adhered to.
According to part two of the book Ibiyemi Mojola makes an astonishing statement, "The "burden" of African womanhood in these texts comes from within and without, for women have internalized a socially constructed sense of self that causes them to accept, consciously or unconsciously, the role of second fiddle; Montagu writes that, "women have been so long conditioned in the environment of masculine dominance that they have come to expect the male to be dominant and the female to be subservient (Montagu 1974: 26)" (p. 127). Being that their culture is deeply embedded in them, women find it very distraught to stray away and find their own voice. Women are seen as a commodity or possession that is utilized to benefit men. Some African women are grouped as a disadvantaged minority within their society. Gyamfuaa-Fofie states that according to the custom "Women bear the burden of being wives, mothers and house-keepers, most often working to earn a living at the same time. In short, she is the workhorse of the family" (p. 131). With a lack of questioning, women have historically followed their cultural ways and traditions. Many married women are illiterate because they society fears that if females gain a valuable foundation in education, then it will result in their economic independence and self-confidence. By any means necessary, this is avoided to maintain male dominance.
Newell explains in part three of the book that, "Repeatedly, authors emphasize that households have been destabilized and families broken up as a result of women's economic independence and insistence on choosing their own marriage partners (Fakunle 1992: 78-83)" (p. 170). "Urban women are presumed to have deviated from established and accepted domestic patterns" (p. 170-171). Because of this some West African societies view this as something that they consider to have worked for so long, so they do not see the reason to change it. The establishments of traditions are created as normal behavior that should take place within the society. These are the cultural values that are respected and anything else that differs is frowned upon and rejected. This explains why there are few female writers in Africa. Breaking the silence of African female writers is not progressing as much as other societies feel it should because of the strong ties to tradition that West African societies are accustomed to.