FEMINIST AESTHETIC IN ZAYNAB ALKALI’S THE STILLBORN AND THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN

CHAPTER  ONE

INTRODUCTION

A man never  begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex, but a woman has to define herself as a woman from start. The masculine is regarded as the very type of humanity and woman is seen as relative to man. This act is what gives birth to a term “Feminism”.

Feminism according to the Oxford Advanced Dictionary is “the movement for recognition of women’s rights (legal, political, social etc.) equal to possess by men”.  Although,  the term ‘Feminism’ has a history in English linked with womens activism form the late 19th century to the present, it is useful of distinguish feminist ideas or beliefs from feminist political movements for even in periods when they have been no significant in political activism around women’s subordination, individual has been concerned with and the theorized about justice for women.

Feminism is an ideology which is a direct reation to the social and psychological restraints place upon women. Femilism come as a result of an attempt by the women to liberate their feet from traditional claws in African patriarchal society that allow the male see to exercise authority and emphasis male supremacy over the female. This is basically to bring impediments on the path of the women in realization of their potentials.

Joseph (2001:163) also aserts that “in order to be almost inextricaly successful in that chauvinist patriarchal society and authoritarian set-up the society conditions and manipulates the economic and psychological being of a woman”. Through history, women has always struggled against male domination and suppression, be it political, religious, economical or social.

The major reason for the women’s strive and thirst for quality with men can be traced to the changing role for women in contemporary West Africa is not to say that the traditional role of women as keeper of home, mother obedient, mate participation in actions, economics are being eliminated rather, it is to state a fairly obvious sociological fact. Society is not stagnant technologies and science just as the general societal changes have occurred in different part of the countries, so also is the changes in the role of women. The changes in the educational set up include changes in the educational set up include changes attitudes economics, political and society environmental of women which necessarily alter their roles.

Most African female writers seek to address the plight of women in most of their works. The advent of women into an exclusively male world was possible with an increasing sensitivity to inequalities of sexism. This issue forms the base of the African women writers. The women came to awareness that there is the heed to change the image of women from the oppressed and the underdog.

As a result of this fact, gender scholars and feminist writers have continuously lamented the sad plight of women, especially women who are not adequately empowered, in their works. Feminist writers in Europe and America like Virginia Woolf and Elaine Showalter have dwelt almost on the same concerns that dominated the thematic pre-occupation of African Feminist writers like Buchi Emecheta , Flora Nwapa, Ifeoma Okoye, Mariam Ba, Zulu Sofola, Zaynab Alkali and others. The main concern of most of these female is the problem confronting women. The female writer gives manly qualities to their female characters and makes the men to play a secondary role. This trend in female writers makes them feminist.

It is important to say that female writers also gained approval in the society through the assistance of some male writers whose techniques of writing are different from the female form. Showalter (1988:209) posits that “there is any specifically male and female way of writing or approaching test because human imagination is essentially genderless” for examples is critical reading in Sembene Ousmane God’s Bits of Wood (1962) which portray female characters as revolutionary activists. They take up the leadership roles to fight oppression in the society. The women march from Thies to Dakar with no food and water, though many lose their lives in the struggle, those who are left to achieve success at the end of the railway strike. Ngugi Wa also shows the sterling quality of women in the African society. In a Grain of Wheat, women did not only stand by their men, they also participate in various active parts in the struggle for freedom and Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel (1964) would be shallow without paying attention to the influence of the women folk in the strike action in the novel and the roles play by Sadiku and Sidi in the play respectively.

Education therefore is believed by many writers to be the major agent of women’s liberation and emancipation with Western form of education, more women are now empowered to express themselves and assert their right to be heard. Women thereby write to create awareness in the societies. The awareness will lead women to speak out their minds in matters concerning them.

Aesthetics on the other hand means the study of beauty of art. From the consideration of this project topic Feminist Aesthetic in Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman implies those elements and facts the novelist write to glorify womanhood in struggle for the attainment of self liberation and transformation for the beauty and betterment of the societal growth. Through feminism, she identifies the social qualities imposed on feminine roles which place excessive restraints upon women and conclude that neither a woman nor a man can be free unless each rejects fixed roles in all their forms. Her belief is that it is essential that women throughout Africa be allowed and encouraged to fulfil their potential for them to make an effective contribution to nation building.

 1.2     Purpose of the study

This project work is to examine and emphasized the ideological production of ‘Femininity’ as ‘other’ of patriarchy and the need therefore for women to become ‘real’ subjects and to discover their ‘true’ selves. It also examine the theme of female oppression by men as well as the struggle by women for emancipation in Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman where you will see how African women in projected. All her works hoped to promote an awareness of female educational development which would lead to the socio-economic and political empowerment of more African women.

This project work centred on how improvement can be brought women condition in Africa.  Zaynab Alkali writes to asses as one of the African writer on feminists and recipes for improving the women condition in Africa.

 1.3     Scope of THE study

The scope of this project work is focused on Feminist Aesthetic in African Literature with a close study of two novels written by one of the Nigerian leading female writer, Zaynab Alkali. The novels to be studied are The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman. Reference shall however be made to other relevant works which centre on feminism in the African sense of the word.

1.4     Justification of the study

In Africa culture, women have been subjected to oppression, depression, suppression, rejection, and segregation and unfair and undue victimizations. This is duely because of the insignificant view that the analysis of Zaynab Alkali’s novels The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman will be carried out to identify how she function in instructing the society thereby helping it to develop and also bring out the beauty of woman significance for the betterment of the society. In the process of data collected, the library would be consulted before embarking on this project. There is need to find out what has been written on the subject so as to guide the researcher on the general nature of the work and to add more view to improve or better the on-going project.

However, this study will attempt to pay a critical attention to the awareness created in the above books of Zaynab Alkali so as to bring out the aesthetics of feminism and their contributions to societal growth.

1.5     METHODOLOGY

There will be a general study of various texts with aim of finding two that relate to feminism. Having done this, a research will be carried out to pursue works connecting to the element and concept under study of feminism including works previously written on the concept. This will give root of background to the study. Any information gathered will be used to carry out proper work.

The analysis of Zaynab Alkali’s novels The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman will be carried out to identify how they function in instructing the society thereby helping it to develop and also bring out the beauty of woman significant and betterment of the society. In the process of data collection, the library would be consulted before embarking on this project, there is need to find out what has been written on the subject so as to guide the researcher on the general nature of the work and to add more view to improve or better the on-going project.

1.6     THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS

What are the tenets of gender aesthetics?

What are the primary concerns of these two novels of Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn and The Virtuous Woman to feminism issue?

What is the significance of women in the society?

1.7     Authorial background of zaynab alkali

Zaynab’s father is said to have come from Dam, a village in Borno State in the Northern part of Nigeria, but he moved to Gongola also in the northern region where Zaynab herself was born and brought up in the early 1960s. She attended Queen’s College and later went for further Degree in English before taking up the post of Principal of Shekaka Girl’s College, Kano in 1976, she was appointed as lecturer at Bayero University, Kano.

Zaynab Alkali’s belongs to the group of African Feminist writer that fervently decry the condition of women. Her published books are The Stillborn (1984), The Virtuous Woman (1986), The Descendent (2003) and other short stories collection Cowbells and other Stories (1997). Her pre-occupation is the plight of women in a society where the only means of survival, physical and emotional is to attain considerable level of education and economic independence.

As a feminist writer, Zaynab writes to deconstruct and at the same time to correct the evils of patriarchy in her society. In this society, women are regarded as mere subordinate to their men counterpart. They are subjugated and oppressed under the guise of male supremacy over female. The way out is what Zaynab Alkali’s trying to depict in her works

 

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