FEMINIST CRITICISMS OF SOME SELECTED FEMINIST WORKS
There are view shared by all feminists is that women are discriminated against on account of their sex. Feminists stress the relevant of gender segregation in society and it present these segregation as working to the overall advantage of men. Although feminists are united with their shared desire for sexual justice and their concern for women’s welfare, there is a range spectrum of feminist views.
TWO OF THE MORE FAMOUS PROPONENTS OF FEMINISM ARE:
Ann Oakley, a British sociologist and writer, born 1944. Her works include ‘Women Confined: Towards sociology of childbirth.’(1980) and ‘Who’s afraid of Feminism?’ (1997). her father was a social policy theorist.
Claire Wallace, a British sociologist and writer. Wallace was a professor at Aberdeen University. Her most famous work is ‘An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives’ (1990). Wallace was president of the European Sociology Association 2007-09.
FEMINIST LITERARY CRITICISM
Feminist literary criticism is informed by feminist theory . It can be understood as using feminist principles and ideological discourses to critique the language of literature, its structure and being. This school of thought seeks to describe and analyze the ways in which literature portrays the narrative of male domination in regard to female bodies by exploring the economic, social, political, and psychological forces embedded within literature.
Feminist literary criticism is literary analysis that arises from the view point of feminism, feminist theory and/or feminist politics. Basic methods of feminist literary criticism include:
Ø Identifying with female characters: This is a way to challenge the male-centred outlook of authors. Feminist literary criticism suggests that women in literature were historically presented as objects seen from a male perspective.
Ø Re-evaluating literature and the world in which literature is read: This involves questioning whether society has predominantly valued male authors and their literary works because it has valued males more than females.
A feminist literary critic resists traditional assumptions while reading. In addition to challenging assumptions which were thought to be universal, feminist literary criticism actively supports including women’s knowledge in literature and valuing women’s experiences.
The notion is that men use the smoke screen of culture, politics, economic, tradition, and all other sectors of the society to adulate patriarchy at the expense of the female gender. Even in the dramatic concept we hardly see many of these female writers except for the likes of Osonye Tess Onwueme who is the god mother of feminism in Nigeria, Tracy ChimaUtoh, the late Zulu Sofola and few others. This impression is misleading, as some male writers like J.P Clark, Femi Osofisan, KoleOmotosho, NgugiWaThiongu, Ola Rotimi and others have all addressed feminism in their various works. However, we shall analyse Ola Rotimi’s our husband has gone mad again and J.P Clark’s “The wives Revolt” as the address the issue of feminism.
An intellectual x-ray of scholarly write-ups on the subject of feminism creates the notion that the subjugation of Africa women is a product of a society dominated by male. Women are exploited and oppressed in all sectors of the economy. Observably, his call for social change has been the subject of discourse by many contemporary dramatists.
However, one aspect of olarotimi’s feminist literary criticism has been glossed over by many, in his call for female empowerment in the political circle or scenario. Rotimi does not hide his disgust for political class who is bereft of creating ideas, yet continue to hold the nation captive. Toying with the idea of female empowerment in such a set up, therefore, amount to tacit call for revolt.Rotimi is however, not unaware of the fact that men dominate the political, economic, social, education and even in the traditional setting where women are reduced to house wives not allowing them to contribute important matters of the state. Therefore, his recipe for a new system that will empower female as collective actions by the women; casting away the garments of subservient, ignorance and passiveness.Salami(2001:158) is of the view that:
Destroying the myth of male political monopoly in Nigeria
is to get involved in politics and government, so as to influence
Legislation and policies to favor women
This can only happen when the women develop a new political consciousness and drive within themselves to fight for power transfer. The women can exploit the high handedness, political naivety and dictatorial tendencies characteristic of most men.
OUR HUSBAND HAS GONE MAD AGAIN
Emmanuel Gladstone olarotimi until his death was a recognized political analyst and strong advocate of social change. He has explored cultural, historical, religious and social means of effecting the type of change, which places emphasis on the welfare of the masses. Saint Gbilekaa (1997:151) says rotimi uses his plays to “avail his audience of the knowledge of the past, for the reconstruction or social engineering of the present and future”. In the process, he has frequently denounced the political elite as being corrupt, exploitative, oppressive, and self –centered.
In his play our husband has gone mad again, he condemns via satire, the political system of the nation where the best candidates are not elected to political positions.
However, so many issues were raised on feminist literary criticism. He calls for female empowerment in the political circle. His call is prompted by the fact that pre- and post independence governance, characteristically dominated by male politicians, has plunged most African nations into the dark abyss. Thus their continued stay in the political scene will further destroy the surviving social structures which guarantee societal well being. If men have failed consistently to provide good leadership, then a credible alternative needs to be tried out, this time, the female politicians. Therefore, his recipe for new political arrangement that will empower female politicians is premised on a collective action by the woman after casting out the old order.
A case study of Lejoka Brown who is defeated by Sikira the emergency wife and the daughter of Madam Ajanaku and becomes the flag bearer of the party in the place of her erstwhile husband with the help of her mother and Lisa’s new female empowerment and consciousness.
Ola Rotimi chronicles some set of politicians who refuses to appreciate the fact the society is dynamic and would require dynamism to be able to cope with challenges of governance; rather than cling to archaic ideas. Thus:
“Are you there…..? Politics is the thing now in Nigeria,
Mate. You want to be famous? Politics. You want to
Chop life? No, no you want to chop a big slice of the
National cake? Na politics….. (p.4).
This creates the impression of a society dominated by male chauvinism. The notion derives from the presence of the loquacious Lejoka-Brown who pervades the political terrain like a mighty colossus. On the other hand, the woman is conceived as a Lilliputian who is completely domesticated. Lejoka brown is the boss, who must be obeyed and served. He rides on both the political and traditional performs to wield his power. While he discusses “important” matters of the state with Okonkwo, Sikira is made to run errands and provide comfort for her “Lord” (p.6). Sikira, who must kneel while greeting her ‘lord’, is regarded as a mere property, a thing recently acquired by Lejoka Brown as a for political convenience, while mama Rashida is being domicile by culture. Thus both women are subservient, enslaved by the duo of tradition and illiteracy
Again, Sikira also takes a critical look at her position in the house and returns a harsh verdict on herself- a slave. This verdict is an expression of the despair and frustration arising from patronizing attitude of Lejoka brown. She sees herself as mere ‘possession’, acquired by her husband for political expediency. Her frustration is reflective of the plight of women who are purchased, caged and inhibited from political aspiration by a male dominant society. Thus
…….in this house? A slave that is what I am.
Did he marry me because He loves me or
because of crazy politics?
Furthermore, Mustafa’s visit to Lejoka Brown’s house is used to accentuate the captive position of the women in the society. While Mustafa’s precautionary measures and entrance (p.16) are hypocritical and exaggerated, they help to highlight the degradation and subjugation of womanhood. This is because the Africa woman has never been given an equal status with her male counterpart, so she has had to play an unedifying subordinate role and to also accept that it was her place to do so. Thus Mama Rashida and Sikira must draw their veils and make their faces well shrouded (p.16) like masquerades before they can attend to their male visitors. They kneel and remain so, all through Mustafa’s discussion with them; indicative of a relio-cultural servitude status conferred on the women by the society. The subjugation remains in force, until Liza is introduced and the ‘man’s world begins to disintegrate.
Lisa is a beautiful young Kenyan lady, who got married to Lejoka Brown in the court registry, during the Belgian wars. She rendered a voluntary service with the Red Cross organization before proceeding to America to study medicine. These intimidating credentials portray Lisa as an educated and liberated young lady who would fight for her rights, much in the same way as her pedigree the Kenyan Mau Mau warriors. This might explain Rotimi’s choice of the Kenyan lady, in preference to her timid Nigeria counterpart, to instigate the revolt against female oppression. This Lisa’s credentials are enough to unnerve the undulation Ijebuijesha farmer, who collapses from his colossal status into a mere political minion. Her telegram to Lejoka Brown about her home coming is disconcerted to him. Two issues is crop up how to explain the presence of the other two women to Liza and possibility of security the market women’s votes with her intrusion becomes his main problems.
Lisa’s arrival changes the atmosphere of slavery in LejokaBrowns’s house. Although brown attempts to maintain the status quo, he is rebuffed and cut down by Lisa. She speaks above him, unintentionally widening the social gap, and reinforcing the inferiority complex that drove Lejoka Brown to his political pursuit.
Lisa turns out to the embodiment of feminism, which believes in equality of human beings, irrespective of gender. Her belief runs counter to the prevalent ideology within the political class, which eulogizes male superiority. This evidence in the unequal appointment of leadership positions due to gender factors. Thus one of the lessons Lisa that Sikira learns through Lisa’s indoctrination is the expression that men and women are born equal. This effects a new mental orientation and creates another visionary disposition in Sikira. Mama Rashida also rises to new level of awareness. The economic principles of demand and supply, which she learns about her egg business frees her from the chains of domestic chores. She is captivated by the thought of making enough which Lejoka Brown can borrow for his political campaign, on interest. Deductively, economic empowerment will enhance her social status. She further discovers that she can live independently, by going to the village to set up her business.
Lekoka Brown fails to notice the change in the women. He also fails to recognize the fact that the women have developed new personality profiles and a change in their attitude and disposition to life. Thus, he backs out an order to Sikira.
You are one of the crazy headaches I ve
been crazy enough to get into my crazy
head! Now get out of here
Sikira(to Liza). You heard that? (Lejoka
Brown, backing away) all right, i
Will! I will get out of here. (rushes towards
the rear door, Stops, pokes her head round,
and coos) men and women
Are created equal!(bolts out, slamming
door shut quickly behind her).
Men have dominated the political landscape within much visible development in the live of most Africa and nations. Most nations are wallowing in abject poverty because of corruption and fraudulent practices of male politicians, whose political drive is personal economic empowerment. The women have been discriminated against on the basis of sex, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to serve. A change from male dominated and sterile governance to one that will bring about a development through feminine input becomes desirable. It becomes sensible therefore to advocate for female empowerment; with the expectation that the society will change for the better.
THE WIVES REVOLT
One of the modern Nigeria’s foremost literary figure, J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, known for the first part of his career as John Pepper Clark, is also one of the country’s most versatile thinkers. His work has moved back and forth between Nigeria and the West, between traditional modes of expression and European-derived forms ranging from ancient Greek tragic drama to modern image centered poetry. Clark-Bekederemo caused controversy in both worlds; he felt distinctly out of place when he visited the United States dismaying his hosts, but his unsparing depictions of Nigerian civil war likewise unsettled his countrymen. J.P. Clark-Bekederemo was, in short, a modern writer who raised questions and crossed boundaries wherever he went and whatever he did.
The play, ‘The Wives Revolt’ begins with Okoro, Koko’s husband. Okoro, equipped with the gong, announces the enforcement of a new law banishing goats in the oil-rich Erhuwaren village that law sparks a feud in the community between the men and the women as the latter are the owners of these forbidden domestic animals. The law was considered as repressive by the women. Already, the sharing formula for the oil wealth has been in three parts namely the elders, men of particular age-group and women. The women reason that the elders are the men and the implication is that the men folk hold the two-thirds of the oil revenue.
Hence, the women plan to make men their “domestic animals”. In their bid to be heard, they deserted their homes and their children, leaving their husbands to do the domestic chores such as cooking, sweeping and other menial tasks that the men would otherwise treat as masculine abomination. The women travel through Otughieven, Eijophe, or Igherekan, Imode to Eyara while expecting to be quickly recalled by their lonely husbands. But their husbands are prepared for the worse. At Eyara, the women are accommodated and cared for by Ighodayen, a notorious prostitute. When the men receive the agonizing news of their wives’ sojourn, they plead for their return without any inkling that the worst is yet to come. The women returned with deadly diseases, having been infected by Ighodayen. They became the subjects of ridicule of their husbands who had been brought to their knees to revoke the obnoxious law.
Men have dominated the political landscape within much visible development in the live of most Africa and nations. Most nations are wallowing in abject poverty because of corruption and fraudulent practices of male politicians, whose political drive is personal economic empowerment. The women have been discriminated against on the basis of sex, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to serve. While urging custodians of the African culture to revisit some of our value system and come up with standards that give the male and female folks their real place. A change from male dominated and sterile governance to one that will bring about a development through feminine input becomes desirable. It becomes sensible therefore to advocate for female empowerment; with the expectation that the society will change for the better.
OUR HUSBAND HAS GONE MAD AGAIN OLA ROTIMI
WIVES REVOLT JOHN PEPPER CLARK
Gillis, Gillian Howie & Rebecca Munford
The basic assumption shared by all feminists is that women suffer certain injustices on account of their sex. Feminists stress the importance of gender divisions in society and it portrays these divisions as working to the overall advantage of men. Although feminists are united with their common desire for sexual justice and their concern for women’s welfare, there is a range spectrum of feminist views.
Feminism has five major concepts embedded into it:
Patriarchy – the dominance of men in society, and the oppression of women for men’s gain. Example: ‘The family is patriarchal because women must do housework without pay.’
Discrimination – unfair/unequal treatment of women i.e. by the law. Example: Women paid less than men until Equal Pay Act 1970.
Economic dependency – women giving up work to take care of childcare/housework responsibilities, thus becoming dependent on their husbands for money.
Emotional work – women are expected to do the majority of emotional care for their family, on top of their job and housework; the so-called ‘triple shift’.
Feminism and Education: feminists believe that education as it stands promotes male domination; that there is gendered language within education, education produces stereotypes, education misses women from the curriculum, ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ subjects have been allowed to develop eg: (girls do Food Tech while boys do Woodwork). Feminists believe that the education system is patriarchal; they believe that the ‘Hidden curriculum’ reinforces gender differences. Girls tend to do better now, although boys demand more attention from teachers. Men dominate top positions in school (head teachers ect.) Liberal feminists: want an equal access to education for boys and girls. Marxist feminists: want to consider gender inequalities combined with inequalities of class and ethnicity. Radical feminists: men are a bad influence and we should have female-centred education. Illich 1971: ‘get rid of school completely’. He wanted to de-school society as the functions it performs are not good enough to run schools and schools do not create equality or develop creativity.
Feminism and Family: Feminists believe that the family is patriarchal, dominated by men and it exploits and oppresses women. The family supports and reproduces inequalities between men and women. Women are oppressed because their socialised to be dependent on men and remain in second place. They reject the new rights view of the separate roles, and also reject the ‘march of progress ‘view in that society has not changed and it is still unequal. Feminists believe that marriage remains patriarchal and that men benefit from wives. Feminists reject the idea of ‘one best’ family type, they welcome freedom and diversity.
Feminism and the Media: Feminists believe that the media often presents women as cleaners, housewives, domestic servants providing comfort and support for men, a man’s sex object to service men’s sexual needs, ect. Feminists believe that this gender representation is an aspect of patriarchy. Feminists believe that the media suggests these roles are natural and normal. Feminists see this as an example of patriarchal ideology- a set of beliefs which distorts reality and supports male dominance.
Feminism and Crime: Feminists argue that the behaviour of women when criminality is involved can only be understood in the context of male dominance. Pat Carlen argues that women’s crimes are largely ‘crimes of the powerless’. She draws on control theory, arguing that working-class women turn to crime when the advantages appear to outweigh the disadvantages. Feminists believe that women have been socialised to conform; women’s socialisation and domestic responsibilities plus the controls imposed on them by men discourage deviance from social norms. Frances Heidensohn believes that the most striking thing about women’s behaviour is their conformity to social norms. She explains this in terms of their socialisation and control over their behaviour by men. As a result women have less inclination, time and opportunity for crime.
Feminism and Religion: Feminists believe that religion is a patriarchal institution. They criticise the sacred texts as in almost all the world’s religions, the gods are male. (Hindus come close to being an exception, with its female goddesses). Feminists have also been written and interpreted by males by incorporating many traditional male stereotypes and biases. Supernatural beings and religious professionals are overwhelmingly male, and in many religions, women play a secondary role in worship. In strongly religious societies, women tend to have fewer options and less favourable treatment.
Feminist methodology: There are a number of feminist methodologies. The ‘weak thesis’ states that overgeneralisation is found in all aspects of the research process. Research methods, in and of themselves, are not sexist. Once researchers learn to use them in a non-sexist way, the problem will be solved. Some feminists see women’s struggle and feminist methodology as inseparable. The feminist researcher should be consciously partial and actively participate in women’s liberation. Postmodern feminism rejects pre-set, pre-determined categories. It emphasises diversity and variation. It argues that there are multiple interpretations of any observation and that this should be reflected by multiple voices in research reports.
Critics of feminism:
Critics argue that there is too much focus on negative aspects, and that feminists sometime ignore recent social changes . Critics claim that feminists portray women as ‘passive’ victims, as if they are unable to act against discrimination. The same critics believe that feminists focus on one specific group, ignoring women from other cultures and ethnicities (black feminism).
Sociological stance on feminism:
Feminism is a structuralist (top-down) theory. Postmodernist sociologists argue that society has ‘fragmented’ since the ‘modern’ era and can no longer be explained with rigid rules and structures. Instead, postmodernists believe in social action (bottom-up) theory.
Marxism shares some similarities with feminism: it argues that society is unequal and that it is characterised by oppression. However, Marxists believe that the oppression is of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie.
Using the Dolls house as a case study
In the tradition of the time, well-made plays used the first act as an exposition, the second to treat an event, and the third to unravel the issue. Ibsen will diverge from the pattern in the third act, but here the beginning is traditional, establishing the tensions that will explode later in the play. Ibsen sets up the act by introducing the central topic, Nora’s character.
Specifically, the topic is Nora’s relation to the home or the world outside the home. Nora is a symbol of the women of her time, who were thought to be content with the luxuries of modern society without worrying about the men’s world outside the home. Many women were, but others were not, both as a matter of interest and as a matter of principle. Nora does delight in material wealth; Torvald is not entirely wrong in labeling her a spendthrift from an early age. She projects the attitude that money is the key to happiness. The issue is not quite so simple, though, for Nora’s one great expense was to serve her husband’s need to travel far from home for the sake of his health.
In this context, note that a doll’s house is a child’s toy that often allows children to play at being adults. The exterior world, moreover, never makes it onto the stage. Nora is the doll in the house, and the house is the only location we see. Torvald controls the stage on which Nora is an actor who generally believes that this pretend-world is the real one. Just as Nora relates to the exterior world primarily through material objects, Torvald relates to Nora as an object that is possessed, a doll to be controlled within a small sphere.
Torvald’s attitude pervades every word he speaks to Nora, and his objectification of her is most evident in his diminutive pet names for her. She is his little “lark” and “squirrel” and, later, his “songbird.” Similarly, Torvald repeatedly calls Nora his “little one” or “little girl,” maintaining the atmosphere of subordination more appropriate to a father than a husband. As for Nora, we see in this first conversation that she seems entirely dependent on Torvald for her money, her food, and her shelter, despite the fact that she is keeping a secret. This secret is the kernel of her individuality and her escape from the doll’s house.
Nora’s skewed vision of the world is most evident in her interactions with Mrs. Linde. Whereas her old school friend is wizened and somber, Nora is impetuous. Her choice to tell Mrs. Linde about her secret seems to be more the boast of a child than the actions of a thoughtful adult, and Mrs. Linde also refers to her as a child. Nora’s naïve view of the law—that the law would not prosecute a forgery carried out in the name of a good purpose like love—reinforces the idea that Nora is fundamentally unaware of the ways of the real world.
Still, it is apparent that Nora is at least partly aware that her doll-like life is not the only choice. When pressed about whether she will ever tell Torvald about the loan, she replies that she will, in time. For now, she believes that telling him would upset the balance in her home. Torvald’s position as the manly provider and lawgiver is something that she is willing to manipulate, at least from within the home. She knows that other women, like Mrs. Linde, have different levels of freedom and autonomy. It is important to examine the language of the opening scene between Nora and Torvald in this context. Nora’s words could be partly sincere and partly insincere; the text suggests an ambiguity in Nora’s awareness of her situation. This ambiguity is perhaps why Nora’s character is so popular for actors to play; actors can use gesture and voice inflection to signal the true level of Nora’s satisfaction with her sheltered place in the home and in Torvald’s life.
Nevertheless, she does not seem want to face the implications of a choice to escape her confinement. She believes that material wealth will render her “free from care,” allowing her not just to repay the debt but also to play with her children, keep the house beautifully, and do everything the way that Torvald likes. The lie about the loan can be preserved. She seems content with her one great secret, her knowledge that she has done something for Torvald entirely without prompting from him.
Perhaps the coldness of the Norwegian winter in which the play is set represents the coolness, societal conformity, and comfortable routine of Nora’s world. In contrast is a kind of repressed Italy—referenced most obviously in Nora’s outfit and the tarantella—featuring heat, passion, truth, desire, and the flame of individuality. Nora’s secret is bound to come out. Ibsen has set up an ironic inevitability. All who know are waiting for the moment at which the lie falls apart.Torvald almost is cuckolded by the lie.
The doll’s house by herik Ibsen has portray inhumanity to women on how they are been restricted by their husband to be fully dependent like Nora who was not given the chance by her husband to exbits her skills in business instead she has to borrow money to fit the bills of the family without the consent of her husband. So these plays has described the reality in the feministic approach.
The theory and criticism looks at dramatic works on the basis of the literary genres in which they can be classified. The play is described based on the genre to which it belongs. The critic therefore looks at certain criteria that makes the play fall under the genre in question. The literary genres include: tragedy, comedy, satire, tragic-comedy, melodrama, farce e.t.c.
We shall be discussing tragedy, components of the descriptive approach to dramatic theory and criticism.
TRAGEDY: According to Aristotle in “the poetics”, tragedy came from the efforts of poets to present men as nobler or better than they are in real life. Aristotle points out the six elements of tragedy: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and song. Plot is the soul of tragedy, because action is paramount to the significance of a drama while all other elements are subsidiary. A plot must have a beginning, middle and end. It must also be universal in significance, have a determinate structure, and maintain a unity of theme and purpose. Plot must also contain elements of astonishment, reversal, recognition and suffering, which all coalesce to create “catharsis”, which is the engenderment of fear and pity in the audience: pity for the tragic hero’s plight and fear that his fate might befall us. When it comes to character, the hero must good, and thus manifests moral purpose in his speech. Second, the hero must have manly valor and possess extraordinary abilities. Thirdly, the hero must be true to life and finally, the hero must be consistent.
Critics who choose to describe literary works using a descriptive approach such as tragedy look out for the following criteria in the work which might as well be referred to as the characteristics of tragedy:
1. The tragic hero’s life is usually turned upside down and he suffers the deepest agony.
2. The tragic hero usually has a flaw or some weakness that is the reason for his downfall.
3. Tragedies usually have heart-breaking ending. It could end in death of the tragic hero, destruction and some chaos.
4. The tragic hero almost always accepts responsibility for his mistakes as well as fight for a larger cause.
5. Catharsis, which is the purging of emotions in the audience, specifically fear and pity must be evident.
6. The tragic hero usually exhibits extraordinary abilities.
7. The tragic hero is usually some one important in the society.
The above mentioned characteristics or criteria are part of those that describe literary works as tragic.
COMEDY: According to Aristotle, comedy shows a lower type of person and reveals humans to be worse than they are in average. Comedy means a representation of defect or ugliness in character. In comedy, we laugh at the hero’s flaw comforted by the fact that it is not ours, unlike in tragedy where we grieve over the fate of a man who must suffer for his flaws, perhaps touched by the possibility that we too might possess these flaws.
Critics who choose to describe literary works using a descriptive approach such as comedy look out for the following criteria which may also be regarded as the characteristics of comedy: