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Department of English, College of Humanities, & LAWANI ABISOLA OLUSOLA Department of Mathematics, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.

Abstract The present study negotiates gender politics in contemporary African literature, particularly the novel sub-genre. Gender, in this study, is seen as a social construct, which is ideological. Gender as a sociological construction is polarised and this has effectuated gender apartheid in Africa. This polarisation, therefore, engenders gender politics because the powerless do not accept the inevitability of their powerlessness. This results in gender strife and manipulations in order to scheme to advantage or gain control and power. In carrying out this study, Buchi Emechetas Second-Class Citizen is used in examining the multidimensional phenomenon, gender politics in African literature, paying a close attention to women and intergenpolitism. The study reveals that it is not only women that feel acute oppression in the hands of men, men also feel the burden of oppression and repression meted on them by women in the contemporary African cosmos.

*Amore, K.P., Bamgbose, G.S. and Lawani, A.O. (2011). Gender politics: Reflection of intergenpolitism in Buchi Emechetas second-class citizen, i-Hurage: International journal for human right and gender education, Vol. 2, No. 2, ISSN 1117-0824, pp 204-215. 1

Introduction Gender politics in Africa is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. It is the bedrock of every form of gender relations: male-female, female-female, male-male and female-male relations. In Africa, as in other parts of the world, gender relationship usually involves a form of power relationship. This suggests that every human being has the inherent will to dominate or be in possession of power in every relationship (s)he engages in. Oduyoye (2001) notes that hoarding power has often proved disastrous in human history. This innate tendency to dominate or to hoard power by one class or group usually results in the subjugation, oppression, and marginalisation of the other class or group. Literally, gender is usually used interchangeably with sex, but scholars have argued that the two concepts are apparently different. The USAID (2007) defines sex as the biological characteristics that define humans as female or male. Gender, on the other hand, is defined as the economic, political and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female. Macionis and Plummer (2005) refer to sex as the biological distinction between females and males. They further explain that sex is usually taken to have six major components: chromosome make-up, reproductive organs, external genitals, hormonal states, internal genitals, and secondary sex characteristics. Llewellyn Jones (1998) submits that a woman is obviously different from a man. The anatomical difference is clear. By contrast, the term gender refers to the social aspect of differences and hierarchies between male and female (Macionis and Plummer, loc. cit.). They further explain that gender is evident through the social world, shaping how we think about ourselves, guiding our interaction with others and influencing our work and family life. While sex may be male or female, gender refers to the social meaning of

masculinity and femininity (ibid.). This means that sex is the biological difference between men and women, while gender deals with the social roles assigned to men and women in the society; it is associated with the socialization process, which leads to gender identity, role and performance. Schaefer (2005) also opines that gender is a social construction. To him, gender refers to social distinctions between the sexes, which are established by the society. He further notes that we socially construct our behaviour so as to create or exaggerate male-female differences. Yet our society still focuses on masculine and feminine qualities, as if men and women must be evaluated in those terms. Clearly, we continue to do gender, and our construction of gender continues to define significantly different expectations for females and males. Gender politics is the relationship of power between both masculine and feminine gender, or within the masculine and the feminine gender. Gender politics involves a societal mechanism, which manipulates gender in order to demonstrate the superiority of one gender to the other. Gender is about politics of recognition. It is the maneouvring of gender for some gains or advantage without regard to what is just or right. It is an ideological construct to maneouvre gender by a class for the purpose of personal aggrandizement. Gender politics could be described as a kind or form of politics inherent in male-female, male-male, or female-female gender dichotomy. The fact that the term gender, which etymologically means kind, sort or class (Millennium, 2000) signifies that gender politics is a form of class struggle between or within both genders in the gendered African cosmos. Gender politics is a process in which a gender, male or female, actively engages in the manipulation of sociopolitical forces that shape the lives of both men and women (Kuria, 2002). According to Steady (2002), gender is analogous to difference but contains

within it notions of inequality and is often viewed as a metaphor representing relations of power. Gender politics, in this study, is technically referred to as genpolitism. The ideology of power forms the nucleus of genpolitism. Power, Tobrise (1998) asserts, connotes capacity, an ability to do and achieve what one wants; the means to cause another entity to behave in a manner in which it would not have behaved if the threat or actual application of action by the first entity were not possible. This power could be political, socio-economic, cultural, etc. The binary oppositions or what McDowell and Pringle (1992), cited in Tsaaior (2005), refer to as dichotomous categories that construct the gender as being powerful or powerless occasions genpolitism, which is often reflected in African Literature. Genpolitism in African societies and literature is usually manifested in two basic dimensions. The dimensions, however, are dynamic and multidimensional in nature; they are not static. These dimensions are termed inter-genpolitism and intragenpolitism. Inter-genpolitism shows the form of gender politics that exists between male and female gender in the society. On the other hand, intra-genpolitism exposes a form of gender order or relationship of power that exists within the same gender rather than between them. This shows that there is much difference within the same gender rather than between them (Ivy in Encarta Encyclopedia, 2009). In this present study, attention would be paid to the inter-genpolitistic dimension, especially the aspect of women and inter-genpolitism. Attempts would also be made to examine its relevance in Contemporary African Literature through Buchi Emechetas Second-Class Citizen. Women and Inter-genpolitism Women and inter-genpolitism captures a unique form of power relations between male and female in which female exerts power on male in the society. In this

form of genpolitism, there is a gender turn, in which women are actively involved in the manipulation of socio-political forces that shape the lives of men (Kuria, 2002). This form of genpolitism x-rays how women disrupt the patriarchal structures in the society. Mead (1963) discovers, after travelling west in New Guinea to survey the Tchambuli, a culture that defines females and males differently but reverses many of our notions about gender; females tend to be dominant and rational, while males are submissive, emotional and nurturing towards children. Hence, Mead makes strong case that gender is a variable creation of culture. This culture, however, could be societal culture or personal culture, which can be referred to as principle. This study confirms that gender in indeed fluid not fixed (Gray, 1994 cited in Tsaaior op. cit.). In this form of genpolitism, the women are, borrowing from the words of Mckie (2005), the perpetrators, while the men are the victims. Studies have shown that some women are more violent than men. (Wikipedia Encyclopedia, 2009). Such women could subordinate men they relate with. Goldberg (1993) also recognizes that some women are more dominant than some men. That is why Mckie (2005) states that violence can be committed by women against men. Kimmel (2002) argues that no one would deny that any human being has the potential to be violent too. No wonder Mckie concludes that gender is not a fixed assignment. African societies are beginning to experience gender turn, which is influenced by personal culture or principle. Because of the so-called patrilineal and patriarchal nature of most African societies, people are blinded to the plight of men. Women and inter-genpolitism, however, focuses on the domination of women over men and claims that men are oppressed by hierarchical structures and stereotypes at different levels of the society. Man is, borrowing from the words of Asa (2007), Mr Jailer who suppresses all womans strategies, oppresses every parts of her, but what he does not

know is that he is a victim too. Clearly patriarchy is now becoming mans burden, oppression and disillusionment. The fact that man is the head of the family (Omolade, 2006) has placed him in the position of a breadwinner who must cater for all the needs and aspirations of the wife(s) and children, no matter his socio-economic status. In fact, it is believed, in some parts of African, that even if the wife is working and earning, the man must ignore her purse and still fend for the family, which they call his responsibilities. Are these so-called responsibilities not becoming mans burden and oppression? However, in some families, women are the breadwinners. Because these empowered women are placed in a more advantaged position, the pride and ego in them develops, and by virtue of their advantaged position, they use the opportunity to emasculate, oppress, and subjugate men in their relationship. This is a clear indicator that some men have become emasculated; they are seen as lesser men particularly when they find it difficult to fulfill their masculine gender roles as the head of the family, the provider and the terrestrial protector (Moyana, 1994). Some women, especially the mesomorph (see Oluwatimilehin and others, 2006), are usually aggressive and agile; they share the aggressive trait with men. Perhaps, one could say that the aggressive trait, which is often associated with men, is a general trait inherent in human psyche. These women often physically violate their men. These forms of frustration meted on man by women might also result in mens psychological violence, which often reflects in their attitudes. Women often spit venom into their children, which makes them develop Oedipus complex. Again, men are also violated by women in the position of authority. This occurs when the woman is more socio-economically empowered than the man. Chinweizu (1990) challenges the premises of male dominance by trying to show how women really rule men who erroneously feel they rule the world. He

strongly argues that men are victims of female power, which women wield behind the scenes through motherpower, bridepower, and wifepower. Each of these women is fighting to appropriate man or the content of his purse to her (Ojeyinka, 2006). Women as mothers are treated with respect and are appeased (Jegede, 2005). Hence, she exerts her motherpower to subjugate and appropriate man, no matter how high his status; it is the tradition that mother must be obeyed and reverend. Chinweizu (op. cit.) further explains that the closest of the trio to mans heart, which is the wife, will always get the upper hand and there is no limit to what calamities might erupt as a result of their rivalry. Women as wife or bride can also use an alternative and informal pattern of female power (Onayemi, 2002), which is referred to as eros sophia (sex wisdom) to appropriate or manipulate man. This means of influence on men by the women is termed bottom power. Onayemi (ibid.) further explains that this close relationship also suggests that there are cracks in the legal and normative framework from which the alternative and informal pattern of female power flows into the public arena as a result of wifely [or concubinely] influence over husbands in political and legal questions. And so, this relationship permits at least a hypothetical reversal of the flow of power. This implies that sex as power is an informal and invisible sphere of power, which sustains the formal and visible power. In most cases, mens decisions are controlled by womens eros sophia. According to Jegede (op. cit.), the power of woman is usually described in ambivalent terms. In the positive sense, women are seen as the life-giving, mother figure, indispensable part of creation. In the negative sense, they are seen as frightening and dangerous witches who possess supernatural powers that can destroy natural phenomena (Abiodun, 1989; Ibitokun 1985). This implies that the analysis of female power could be viewed from the physical perspective and the metaphysical

perspective. The bottom power, aggression, physical violence, etc. could be seen as the physical powers used to oppress man. However, beyond these are witchpower, jujupower, and other supernatural powers, which woman in some cases employ to dominate, repress and oppress men in African societies. These powers are referred to as metaphysical powers. This implicates that women are very powerful. That is why Chinweizu (op. cit.) argues that there is no such thing as male domination of women as claimed by feminists. In fact, it is women that oppress and manipulate men through arsenal of emotion. Chinweizu also comments that women, down the ages, have always got what they want from men, be it riches, crown or the head of a John the Baptist. In Africa literature, this form of oppression is often portrayed. Men have also massed under the encompassing theoretical orientation of masculinism to criticize this form of oppression. Women and Inter-genpolitism in Buchi Emechetas Second-Class Citizen (1974) Women, in the novel Second-class Citizen, are not without their own powers, which they wield in various ways to dominate men. Right from the outset, Adah has been the one manipulating the opposite genders, Francis and other males in her life in order to fulfill her dreams, her liberation. All that Francis and other males have is psuedo-domination. Adah has the real-domination; she shapes the turns of event to suit her purpose with her wiles. Adahs self-will (mind) and principle (personal culture) has been the source of her power through which she controls, though she has to endure some inadequacies to achieve her goals. Adah diverted the money used to send her on errand for her personal use, hence frustrating Cousin Vincent (see p.22). She also resorts to lying and disobeying and all sorts of bad habits just to find her way to school. This is how she bends her father to her wish (see p.9-13). Adah also frustrates her suitors, using various devices. Through

her tricks, she reduces the number of her suitors (see p.20). This means that Adah has always been in control of her circumstances; hence, she is in power. Adahs decision to marry Francis is a means to an end not an end in itself: Adah could not find a home like that in Lagos, at that time, teenagers were not allowed to live by themselves, and if the teenager happened to be a girl as well, living alone would be asking for trouble. In short, Adah had to marry (p.25). Adah manipulates Francis in different ways to scheme for advantage. First, she needs to study and she knows with Francis, she could. Second, she intends to disappoint her family; she simply does not want them to reap from where they do not sow, hence, Francis is the best man for the job: To Adah the greatest advantage was that she could go on studying at her own pace; she got great satisfaction, too, from the fact that Francis was too poor to pay five hundred pounds bride-priceher family were asking. She was such an expensive bride because she was college trained even `though none of them had contributed to her education (p.25). Perhaps, Adah thinks that Francis, because of his low socio-economic status, will have little or no control over her. But it turns out the other way round. However, Adah is not discouraged by this; she remains as cunning as a serpent and as harmless as a dove (p.37). She also applies the tool of false generosity to manipulate her husband and her in-law in order to fulfill her dreams. No wonder Freire (1972) claims that psychoanalysis of oppressive action might reveal the false generosity of the oppressor as a dimension of the latters sense of guilt. With this false generosity, [s]he attempts not only to preserve an unjust and necrophilic order, but to buy peace for him[her]self. In the text, false generosity is a basic tool in the hands of the dominant gender, which enhances their power on the dominated gender at all levels of cultural and socio-economic endeavours. This is a ploy to preserve the power of the dominants since it is essential for the oppressors to keep the oppressed from perceiving their strategy. Clearly, the greater the ignorance of these people (the dominated), the more

easily they can be manipulated by those who do not wish to lose their power (ibid.). Adah works very hard, takes up the responsibility of her in-laws, convinces Francis to see reason in her dream and sponsors his education abroad (see p.27-34). Through these nice gestures, she buys her husbands family over. She also softened Pa (p.36), Franciss father, to make her travel with her children to her dreamland, lying that We shall only stay a year and six months (p.37). Adah utilizes the property of language, which Yule (2007) refers to as prevarication (the property of human language that involves lying and deception) to manipulate her father-in-law and make him bend to her wish. Adah also uses her money power to suppress her landlord: Adah had told him that it was a case of childish infatuation. But she silenced him by paying him six weeks in advance and by cheque as well. This impressed the man, and bought Adah her freedom for a while (p.188). Here, again, Adah uses false generosity to buy her freedom and peace from man. Adah also applies her woman power of seduction to manipulate the old doctor who is to administer a medical check-up on her before she will be considered suitable for a job; this is an attempt to shield her pregnancy that could disqualify her: Adah ignored the latter and set to work on the old doctor. She beamed at him, charmed him and even wanted to flirt with him. In short, the doctor got carried away and forgot to look at Adahs belly-button, even though she was stripped to the waist (p.46). She does this at the detriment of the old doctors career just because she needs the job to maintain her own family. What a politics! Furthermore, Adah controls Francis with her wife power, specifically eros sophia (see p.6-7 supra.) in order to subject him to her wish: Three oclock in the morning was the only appropriate time. It was a time when it was too late for Francis to run to any of his girl-friends for help; it was the only time when she and she alone of all the women in the world,

could satisfy him. Adah knew how vulnerable Francis could be at that time, so she sat by the edge of the bed, sparsely dressed, covering her head with her hands and looking down at her bulging mindriff Then Francis went on, pleading like a fool, Oh, yes, well go tomorrow. Is that all you wanted? Have ever refused anything you said? Are you not like my mother to me in this country? Have I ever refused your command? (p. 94-95). Adah does not in any way love Francis: Had she loved Francis to start with? (p.137). Her hatred for Francis is also reflected in her description of him (see p.74). Her marriage to Francis only involves a benefic relationship: She smiled at Francis, thanking God for giving her him as a tool with which it was possible to have her children. She would not harm him, because he was the father of her babies (p.133-134). It gets to a point that Adah recognizes that: she was a thorn in his flesh. She understands what he was going through because he was suffering so. But although she was sorry for him, although she understood all that was happening to him, she was not going to be that kind of a wife (p.181). This implies that all she has shown to Francis is a false love and generosity. Franciss ignorance, no doubt increases her power. He, therefore, becomes emasculated under Adahs power (see p.180). In the novel, Adah really plays on the sensibilities of men in her life. She a woman who refuses to be compartmentalized into her chiselled up roles. She questions, struggles, and becomes liberated from the stifling patriarchal culture in her own way (Moyana, 1996). Conclusion It is crystal clear that it is only the hues and cries of women oppression by men in African societies that dominate the arrays of gender discourse in the past decades. This present study, however, establishes the unusually discussed but existing form of gender oppression, subjugation and marginalization. This study explores the sociocultural reality of gender relations through African literature. Buchi Emechetas


Second-Class Citizen (1974) reveals the gendered nature of African cosmos. It does not only reveal the domination of women by men, as it has been popularly examined by gender critics but also the domination of men by women. Thus, this establishes the fact that there are situations in which males are being oppressed and subordinated by females. Although, this is very rare in traditional African societies, it is now becoming a common phenomenon in contemporary African societies, which needs to be given due attention in contemporary gender discourse.


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