Culture has a lot of definitions. Some of the definitions will be looked at. The term Culture has been defined by Damen as that erudite and mutual human patterns or models for a living; day-to-day living patterns. These patterns and models pervade all facet of human social interplay. Culture is mankind’s basic adaptive technique ( 367). Culture is the collective programming of the mind which differentiates the members of one class of people from another( Hofstede 51). According to Ledrach “Culture is the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them” ( 9)
Linton acknowledges that “culture is a configuration of learned behaviours and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society” ( 32). Culture is regarded as consisting of those patterns relative to behaviour and the products of human action which may be inherited, that is, passed on from generation to generation independently of the biological genes (Parson 8).
As outlined by Useem, he believes that Culture has been defined in a number of ways, but most simply, as the learned and common conduct of a community of interacting human beings” (169). Although culture is frequently seen as set in stone, it can, in fact, be very versatile, and while culture and tradition provide continuity with the past, they also change and adjust to meet and reflect changing social settings. Culture is or should be dynamic.
In most nations around the world, there is a long tradition of women resisting domination
and demanding their rights, a tradition which is still reflected in many myths and legends.
This is often done in a context where women believe in their culture but challenge inequalities that may arise due to the interpretation of certain cultural practices. It is therefore incorrect to assume that where women do challenge discriminatory practices within a culture, that they are rejecting it, or that gender equality and culture are mutually exclusive.
2.2 African Culture
Africa is known to be one of the continents with different cultures in the world. It made up of about sixty (60) countries, with thousands of languages and dialects. The diversity of the people on the soil of Africa comes with different skin colours; some white and others black. In the context of this work, Africa refers to the countries of the geographical continent.
As stated earlier, Africa is comprised of different cultures; this is one component of the discourse that cannot be taken out. The African culture cannot be described as the best because it may or may not favour everyone, either male or female. As culture is dynamic, it has its strengths and weaknesses. It may give one the upper hand and be suppressive to the other but in most cases, the latter applies to women. In many African societies, the woman is relegated to the background and considered as the second rate. ?Within African cultural traditions, beliefs and practices such as stereotypical sex roles, the ritual impurity of menstruating women, and the exclusion of females from certain rituals marginalized women and render them as second-class citizens (Pui-Ian, 2004). Culture can provide women with their shared identity and a sense of belonging; while at the same time it can be manipulated and used as a tool of domination? (Pui-Ian 7).
African women have always considered survival and economic justice to be primary issues. (Pui-Ian 11). There are considerable issues facing the African woman but her focus and target are issues of survival and economic justice. The issue of culture must not be undervalued but studied and delved into. On the international scene, the African culture is connected with backwardness, barbarity, and impotence, while Western culture is seen as freeing (Amadiume 57). These affirmations have had their effects in some ways but through education and information, most of these disenchants have been cleared.
Culturally or traditionally, women have demarcations that they must adhere to; demarcations such as caregivers and food providers. In decision making, there is a level of inequality between men and women as the man has the upper hand over the woman. Not only in decision making but also other cultural practices in Africa serves as a means of controlling women.
The ways women are objectified differ from one culture to the other, but there is one type which is widespread in Africa. In Africa, women have for a long time been used as a tool through which men formed and solidified their relations with other men. Families enhance their wealth and alliance by giving away their female children in marriage, often against the wish of the daughters. For instance, among the Somali, women served as a commodity to seal the peace between feuding groups in inter-tribal warfare (Lewis, 1985).
A definition introduced by Lerner states that ” patriarchy refers to the system historically derived from Greek and Roman law, in which the male head of the household has absolute legal and economic power over his dependent female and male family members” (217). Patriarchy is the relations of governance presided over by a father( Morrisson 24).
According to Steven Goldberg, patriarchy is any system of organization(political, economic, financial, religious or social) in which the overwhelming number of upper positions in hierarchies is occupied by males(Goldberg 1979). It has been observed that the people of the industrialized world are often males and men hold most of the senior positions of companies. The female politician is, at times, a lower proportion than male. Patriarchy as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women( Walby 24).
Female infanticide is one of the most brutal expressions of the low status of women in
patriarchal societies. Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls, due to a cultural preference for boys. The practice has existed in many societies since ancient times and is currently still a major issue in many nations, particularly in Asia.
In many societies, boys are seen as an asset to the family, whereas girls are seen as a liability. This is linked to the patriarchal family structure, and to the dowry system. Whereas boys are seen as continuing the family line, girls are viewed as .belonging. to another family after marriage, creating resentment of the costs spent on raising girl children. Where fathers are required to pay a dowry to the groom.s family, this creates an additional financial burden associated with daughters.
In the African context, males in the African society see their females as a form of resources. This would mean that women are placed among other resources that include tractors, land, a house, drought power, pots etc.
Certain cultural practices reinforce the perception of women as mere resources that can be utilized and then discarded. Included in this is the perception that women do not control their own bodies. Most of these abuses inflicted on women are due to the culture stipulation. The African culture in one way or the other gives men the backing to do as they wish because the culture allows it. The religions in African also help in the continuous growth of this cultural bias. They use for their defence, the Biblical texts alleging that God has created woman inferior to man and placed her beside him as a servant; that God has appointed as a man as the chief. This is seen as a form of cultural depression.
The bible says that “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church . . . therefore as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (New International Version Eph.5. 22 – 24).
The Holy Quran also makes it clear the role of women “Men have authority over women because Allah has made one superior to the other. Good women are obedient. They guard the unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those whom you fear disobedient, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them” (Quran 4.34).
The Collins Dictionary of Sociology provides a comprehensive understanding of feminism. According to it, feminism can be understood in a number of ways like: “1. a holistic theory concerned with the nature of women’s global oppression and subordination to men;2. a socio-political theory and practice which aims to free all women from male supremacy and exploitation; 3. a social movement encompassing strategic confrontations with the sex-class system; 4. an ideology which stands in dialectical opposition to all misogynous ideologies and practices” (214).
Regarding feminist writings, Susan James asserts at the outset that “Feminism is grounded in the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men, and that their oppression is in some way illegitimate or unjustified” (James 576). Jaggar affirms that feminism “helps women to achieve the fullest possible liberation.” it is further argued that there has been a shift from feminism to women’s liberation movement in the contemporary period as “Earlier feminists used the language of ‘rights and ‘equality’, but in the late 1960s oppression and liberation became the keywords for the political activists of the new left. The change in language reflects a significant development in the political perspective of contemporary feminism” (5). For Hooks, feminism is “the struggle to end sexist oppression” (28).
Thompson maintains that “Feminism aims to expose the reality of male domination while struggling for a world where women are recognized as human beings in their own right” (8).
2.5 Feminist theories or Perspectives
Menon notes that “A feminist perspective recognizes that the hierarchical organizing of the world around gender is key to maintaining social order; that to live lives marked ‘male’ and ‘female’ is to live different realities” (viii). Thus the feminist perspective brings out the complex nature of reality; it goes beyond the natural and attempts to debunk the reality from the vantage position of the oppressed and marginal, in this case, women.
Though in the recent past, there have emerged a variety of feminist perspectives like cultural feminism, Marxist & Socialist, Radical, eco-feminism among others, yet “what has united it since the beginning, across its disparate strands, is its focus on power, on the asymmetry of the gender dichotomy and of gendered relationships” (Dirks et. al. 32).
2.6 Liberal feminism
Liberal feminism originates from the liberal political theory and thus focuses on equality. It can be seen as the application of liberal principles & practices of individual freedom and rights into the lives of women. According to Schwartzman,”The ideas and concepts of liberalism have been used in feminist struggles for liberation throughout recent history (1). In a way, liberal feminists argued that women should have similar rights as men. They challenged their systematic and historical exclusion from the public space.
The historicity of liberal feminism has been succinctly outlined by Jaggar where she states that “In the 18th century, they confirm that women, as well as men, had natural rights; in the 19th century, they employed utilitarian argues in favour of arguments in favour of equal rights for women under the law; and in the 20th century, with the development of the liberal theory of the welfare state, liberal feminists demand that the state should actively pursue a variety of social reforms in order to ensure equal opportunities for women (27-28). Women demanded equal rights to education and entering into occupational domains earlier considered as masculine or male-centric; equal political and civil rights manifested in citizenship which subsequently will lead to the right to vote.
Quite obviously, Marxist feminism is based on the tenets of Marxist literature. In this regard, Tong affirms that, Just as the liberal concept of human nature is present in liberal feminist thought, the Marxist concept of human disposition is found in Marxist feminist thought (39). Marx considered capitalism as the most exploitative system based on class affiliation. The formation of private property & extra value at the cost of workers’ rights is the main target of the capitalist industrialist. The distinguishing feature of the Marxist analysis is the causal connection that it seeks to establish between women’s domination and class society(Jagger 70).
The determining factor in this relationship between women and men are the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour is extracted from the direct producers” (Quick 42). In this way, the material basis of patriarchy can be placed in the division of labour thesis which is present in both capitalism and patriarchy.
2.8 Socialist Feminism
Socialist feminism highlights “contemporary male dominance as part of the economic foundation of the society, understanding ‘economic’ to include childbearing and sexual activity…… therefore, the abolition of male dominance requires a transformation of the economic foundation of society as a whole” (Jaggar 147). It has been pointed in the same line by Vogel that the actions of women in the family system comprise the material basis of female oppression (Vogel 43). Thus it sets an important inter-linkage between capitalism and patriarchy i.e. capitalist patriarchy in some sense where economic class aspects of women’s oppression are located.
As proposed by Rowbotham, “In order to act effectively we have to try to work out the precise relationship between the patriarchal supremacy of men over women, and the property connection which materializes from this, to class exploitation and racism(97).
2.9 Radical feminism
According to Buchanan, “The era of the radical feminist is generally identified as the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s” (xix). Outlining its primary forms; Echols acknowledges that “Radical feminism rejected both the politico position that a socialist revolution would bring about women’s liberation and the liberal feminist solution of integrating women into the public sphere”(3). As said by Jaggar, socialist feminism reveals how male dominance is exercised and supported through such individual institutions as childrearing, housework, love, marriage and all types of sexual practices” (101) and hence “bringing sexual, childbearing and childrearing practices into the domain of politics” (106).
Radical feminists argue that such patriarchal oppression is universal in its nature and extent i.e. it as a universal value system. Additionally, it took up the issues of control over one’s own body and the pursuit of equal opportunity.
Feminism as an ideology and practice addresses the issue of women’s domination and subjugation in its own specific manner and subsequently attempts to provide a possible solution of the same. In doing so, various feminists have outlined varying outlooks either locating patriarchy at the heart of the oppression or some have regarded the society as women’s main enemy and competitor.
Regina Ode espouses that feminism could be described as the organized movement in political, economic and social issues? (2001). Chukwuma adds that feminism means “…a rejection of inferiority and a striving for recognition. It seeks to give the women a sense of self as a worthy, effectual and contributing human being. Feminism is a reaction to such stereotypes of women which deny them a positive identity …”(ix).
Chukwuma argues that African feminism should be understood in the context of the family, where family transcends the nuclear family of husband, wife and biological children. The extended family is the main support base where a woman can always find acceptance and acclaim should her marriage fail. The centrality of the family informs the accommodationist stance of African feminism. Men have a place in it, so do the children (109).
On her part, Omolara Ogundipe-Leslie limns feminism in another context. This she tags stiwanism. “Stiwa” is her acronym for Social Transformation Including Women in Africa. Here feminism is not about warring or finding equality with men, it is trying to build a harmonious society. This is because Africans need social transformation and this transformation is the responsibility of both men and women.
Filomina Chioma Steady defines African feminism as ?emphasizing female autonomy and co-operation; nature over culture; the centrality of children, multiple mothering and kinship? (Steady, 1981). Steady’s understanding of African feminism, and to a large extent, the understanding of many other African (female) theorists, the idea of African feminism is an all-inclusive concept for men, women and children.
In recent time, Africa is seeking to change the stereotypical views of people concerning women as well as their marginalisation. There is the need to promote this course of women empowerment. Amadiume contends that the need to back the cause of feminism and social right in Africa has never been stronger than it is under the present status of lasting neo-colonialism. News about contemporary Africa now should stimulate rage and a desire for revolution, for the atrociousness of perceived disorder-wars, ethnic violence, starvation, poverty, desecration of women and girls, high infant deaths, widespread of HIV infection, AIDS, corruption of politicians and governments! (47)
African feminism seeks to involve men in its discourse since they are also essential to the transformation needed by the woman. The rationale is that, if African feminism is to succeed as a humane reformation project, it cannot accept separatism from the opposite sex. Eschewing male exclusion becomes one defining feature of African feminism that differentiates it from feminism as it is conceptualized in the west (Mekgwe 16).
In affirming this, Davies and Greaves recognize African feminism as a phenomenon that recognises a common struggle with African men for the removal of yokes of foreign domination and European/American exploitation (8). So, African feminism is not naive of the opposition towards and enslavement of women by men, but rather engage men to assist in the freedom of women from chauvinism and to empower women (Mekgwe 17).
Hudson-Weems, as quoted by Newton Johnson, defends the need for the African to name her own idea of women empowerment. In pursuance of the Black woman defining herself, she must have her own agenda, just as that of western feminism, which must be unique to the African woman and her status, in addition to the issues of race, gender, and class. The basis of this is for the empowerment of the African, both male and female, unlike western feminism, which is female-centred.
Womanism made its début in the feminist lexicon in the early 1980s marks a historic moment in feminist engagement in the United States. Excluded from and alienated by feminist theorizing and thinking, women of colour insisted that feminism must account for different subjectivities and locations in its analysis of women, hence bringing into focus the issue of difference, particularly with regard to race and class. Africana womanism boldly theorizes black women’s existence across nations and cultures (Johnson, 2008).
Feminism aims at constructing a female perspective for the expression of female experiences, it does not take into consideration the issues of black female and female of colour. It only concentrates on the needs of the middle-class white women. Blacks are excluded from participating in the feminist movement. Therefore they need another variant of feminism. Weems has proposed that “Women, who are calling themselves black feminists need another word to describe what their concerns are”(812).
Because of the deficiency of feminism of taking blacks into account, it was a need to evolve an ideology that would cater to the needs of black women. To fulfil this need another variant called womanism is developed. Africana womanism is found in the middle of Africa, blackness and feminism. It is of the view that feminism does not do justice to the plight of the African woman since it is western. It, therefore, conjures Africana and womanism to reproduce its theory. The black women or women of colour could not partake in the feminist movement. This evasion resulted in a need of some variant for feminism to satisfy the demands of black women or women of colour. There developed a need for a system of thoughts to build the subjects and world of black women.
The term womanism was coined by Alicia Walker an African–American writer, is the lived experience of women of colour and also based on the struggle of the African woman in 1983. In her collection of essays titled In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, published in 1983, Alice has given her definition of term ‘Womanist.’ While defining the term, Alice Walker has stated, ‘Womanist,’
From Womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious) A black feminist or feminist of colour. From the folk expression of mothers to female children, “You acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behaviour. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown-up doings.
Womanism is the principles of daring black daughters on the well-being of all African society, female, adults and children, soliciting support for the significance of the African woman’s direction by challenging the insanity of all unjust forces impeding Black woman’s strife for survival, which will include unacceptable poor of poor quality of life of the African woman and family freedom. Primarily, it is black feminism against racism, sexism, classicism, sexual preference, physical disability, and caste (Alkali, et al, 3).
Regina Ode indicates that ?womanism is the result of the black African-American women’s agitation to emancipate themselves from the double enslavement of both their white male owners and their black male spouses. The black African-American woman initiated this movement to address their peculiar state of subordination? (Ode, 2011). Ama Ata Aidoo is of the view that ?womanism adds the added understanding of our position in history to the discourse? (Aidoo, Facing the Millennium, 1996). Therefore she wishes African women activist would be womanist rather than feminist. Buchi Emecheta says ?I do believe in the African type of feminism. They call it womanism. Flora Nwapa cannot be excused from this crop as she is also an avid follower of this idea.
Africana womanism is a theory created and designed for all women of African lineage. It is based in African culture and, for that reason, it naturally focuses on the unique experiences, struggles, needs, and the conflict between the mainstream feminist, the black feminist, the African feminist, and the African womanist. The conclusion is that Africana womanism and its agenda are unique and separate from both white feminism and black feminism; more over to the extent of naming particular, Africana womanism differs from African feminism ( Hudson-Weems, 2007).
Hudson-Weems is of the view that, women are compelled to take up labels that do not agree with the African situation. Moreover, Weeen’s theory is found in African culture and it focuses on the experiences, struggles, needs, and the conflict of the African woman. hence a theory that better, if not best, define them, is African womanism.
Feminist discourse is a display of women’s experiences of different kinds of domination in a society. She claims that “Whether as a theory, a social movement or a political movement, feminism especially focuses on a woman’s experiences and highlights various forms of oppression which the female gender is subject to in the society”(Ebunoluwa 228).
The Black woman in the quest in defining herself, she must have her own agenda, just as that of western feminism, which must be unique to the African woman and her conditions, including the questions of race, gender, and class. The essence of this is for the empowerment of the African, both male and female, unlike western feminism, which is female-centred. For example, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter (1989) can be taken into account for the support of discussion. Ramatoulaye, the protagonist of the novel, is presented as a wife, mother, obedient daughter and politically conscious female. She expresses her dormant struggle caused by her husband’s second marriage. This leads to the abandonment of her and her ten children. Yet, she loves her husband and does not leave him. She is an educated woman, therefore, she fights her own battle and becomes financially strong to look after her children. She also receives a sisterly support from her friend Aissatou. After the death of her husband Ramatoulaye, her mother-in-law and her children become destitute. Yet, she tries to achieve a sense of inner well being and appreciate her culture. With this text, one can come across almost all the characteristics of Womanism.
To Okonjo “black womanism is a theory that praises black roots, the values of black life, while giving a fair presentation of black womanhood. It concerns itself as much with the black sexual power struggle as with the world power. Kolawole reasons that Hudson-Weems stresses the conviction that Africana womanism is not a man-hating ideology, as all Africans need a concerted effort against racism and all forms of oppression that undermine Black people. Hudson-Weems defines Africana feminism as “neither an outgrowth of nor an addendum to feminism, Africana womanism is not black feminism or Walker’s womanism that some Africana women have come to embrace. Africana womanism is an ideology created and designed for all women of African descent. It is grounded in African culture and therefore it necessarily focuses on the unique experiences, struggles, needs and desire of Africana women” (22). the structure that subjugates Blacks” (63).
Women from all over the world are standing up for their rights and there seem to be the empowerment of women. This is about women taking control of their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems, and developing self-reliance….
Tyson in her book Critical Theory Today explains the ways in which literature and other productions reinforce or weaken the economic, political, social and psychological domination of women (85). She contends that males are the source of authority in the traditional patriarchal society. They even pass that power to their male children. She adds that Feminism doesn’t belong to a certain nation since all women are subjected to some kind of patriarchal domination. Feminists want to encourage women to ?define themselves and assert their own voices in the arenas of politics, society, education, and the arts. By personally committing themselves to fostering such change, feminists hope to create a society in which the female voice is valued equally with the male (Bressler 103)?. In order to achieve this goal, many women have taken up positions in various sectors to drive home their empowerment and also to serve as a source of inspiration for the other women to imitate.
Outsiders cannot empower women: only women can empower themselves to make choices or speak out on their own behalf. However, institutions, including international cooperation agencies, can support processes that increase women self-confidence, develop their self-reliance, and help them set their own agendas.” This is about women