Essay Example on the Representation of Gender in the Postcolonial Era

Published: 2022-04-13
Essay Example on the Representation of Gender in the Postcolonial Era
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Gender
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1909 words
16 min read

An anonymous person once said that feminism is not about making things for women, but women making things for themselves. Long before the colonial period, male chauvinism has dominated most aspects of daily human lives. This statement implies that since time memorial, women have often been victims of gender discrimination. Even today, there still exists some elements of social and legal restrictions on women in particular societies. The postcolonial era was supposed to mark a new age of equality regarding all paradigms of public and private life. Still, these challenges facing women continue to prevail in most parts of the world today. That being said, the primary objective of this essay is to discuss how gender is represented in the postcolonial period.

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Impacts of Religion and Tradition on Gender in the Postcolonial Period

Latha (2004) asserts that it is essential that people are instructed, cultured and educated for the world to progress. Mariama Ba is a Senegalese writer whose works like the So Long a Letter, reflects on the significance of providing formal education to Muslim women. In the novel, the primary stylistic element employed by the author is the use of epistolary to convey the message. Ba uses a letter to reflect on the plight of females in postcolonial Senegal. The first person narrator in the text is known as Ramatoulaye, who has recently lost her husband. As a result of her husband's demise, Ramatoulaye is on a six months seclusion as mandated by the Islam tradition, for widows. She addresses the letter to her childhood friend Aissatou, narrating to her how she is coping with the situation. One theme that is dominant in the piece is that of polygamy (Cherekar 2014). In the letter, the narrator describes the effects of Islam and Senegalese culture on women. Ramatoulaye views polygamy as a tradition that is oppressive to women. However, it is not only Ramatoulaye who has had the experience of sharing her husband with another woman. Her friend Aissatou left her home after her husband married a second wife. She then decided to move to France pursue studies and now works at Senegalese embassy in the United States. On the contrary, before her husband's demise, Ramatoulaye was married to Modou for twenty-five years even though he had abandoned her for another woman. She chose to remain in the marriage for the sake of her twelve children.

That said, although the recipient of the letter is Aissatou, the writer primarily targets the western audience. Ba (2012) dedicates the epistle "To all women and men of good will." Thus, it is evident that the primary aim of Ramatoulaye's epistle is to pursue sympathy from the west. She seeks to free herself from her primitive culture and religious practices. From her narrations, it is apparent that Islam sexualizes women extremely. This stereotype is nowadays prevalent because of the negative portrayal of Islam in the media and other digital platforms. Moreover, Ramatoulaye's depiction of Islam in the letter affirms this stereotypic notion about the religion. She fails to mention that the practice is not common in all Islam nations but specific to some countries. Still, the reader cannot ignore her call to be free from the shackles of her religion and culture. It is hard to imagine the psychological trauma that Aissatou and Ramatoulaye underwent on realizing that their husbands have been unfaithful and no longer love or care for them.

Women Empowerment and Male Chauvinism in the Postcolonial Era

Conversely, Simone Schwarz-Bart's The Bridge of Beyond has a different representation of the place of the women in the postcolonial period. The novel adopts the style of a memoir. The book concerns with the various generations of women of the Lougandor family, on the Guadeloupe Island. The story is set in a male-controlled, postcolonial, racist society. However, whereas the women in Ba's novel have no option but to conform to their religion and tradition, those in Schwarz-Bart's book are in control of their day-to-day activities and livelihood. They live meaningful lives and make the best of every opportunity available to develop. In the novel, Schwarz-Bart writes about the Lougandor women, whom she portrays as resilient and courageous in the face of hardship. The book describes the family pedigree from grandmother to granddaughter, depicting that there are so much strength and resiliency in the depths of these women. In as much as the Lougandor women are aware of how to keep themselves morally inclined, they also know when to let themselves loose. Schwarz-Bart describes them as strong, resilient and flexible in their everyday endeavors (Schwarz-Bart 2013). Also, she adds that they have a deep love for life and prefer to enjoy it in quietness. Furthermore, the power of the female spirit lives within their hearts in the times of difficulty and during the uplifting moments. Through reading the text, the reader can feel this power and thus, develop the awareness to appreciate feminism. The Lougandor women are a motivation to other females across the world. They never give up in the face of adversity, and are talented at skimming life, allowing goodness to prevail over evil. These women uphold the belief in spiritual retribution even when threatened by vile forces. This feature inhibited by the Lougandor women is imminent in the part where the Queen without a Name talks to Talumee about her husband. She says "I do not need to curse him. He is taking care of himself" (Schwarz-Bart 2013). This phrase implies that the queen is waiting for the opportune time to strike. Apart from believing in the existence of spirituality, the Lougandor women also bear the gift of beauty. Their beauty is a wonder. For example, the smile of Talumee is legendary in the text. She also has a charming laugh, a gift referenced many times in the book. Talumee's smile and laugh symbolize mystery and dreams of brighter days. The element of luck is also prevalent in the Bridge of the Beyond. It is expressed by the steps made by the airy dancers, coco plums, and peas. The Lougandor women are a symbol of collective strength and resiliency in the face of hardship.

In as much as the Lougandor women represent the backbone of the society, they still suffer from racism and male chauvinism. They do not deserve the treatment they get from the community. From the text, it is the community that determines the patterns of allocating gender roles. Santi (2011) states that each society develops its activity, quality or distinguishing mark that dictates the various gender roles. This statement means that the identity of the female has been established by the society in which she resides. Santi (2011) adds that to avoid ostracism, a woman will gladly adhere to the set principles laid by the community. This challenge is further reinforced by the problems that the girl child must face to conform to the societal norms of her people. Another factor that contributes to this disparity is the aspect of detachment from the mother by the children. Research indicates that the process of separation from the female parent is slower in girls compared to boys.

Similarly, because of this separation, it occurs naturally that the individual tends to seek for a partner of the opposite sex for comfort. This integration of people of a different sex is known as heterosexuality. Many a time, it is always easier for males to adjust to this condition compared to the females. The females are often vulnerable to abuse such as gender violence and male chauvinism. Hence, they have a hard time to accept such realities. Besides, the girl must also disclaim her gender to meet the social anticipations of heterosexuality. She must take an additional step and seek attention from the opposite gender. Conversely, the male only needs to shift his attention from one female to another. The male does not have to overcome the challenge of transferring his tender care to the female partner.

Another positive representation of women in the postcolonial period manifests in Jessica Harris' My Soul Looks Back. The book is a memoir about how the author earned a place among New York City's black intelligentsia. Harris gets to meet influential personalities in the society such as Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Max Roach, and Toni Morrison among others (Harris, 2018). Her husband, Sam Floyd is also a writer and very supportive of her career. He is the one responsible for connecting Harris and other black intellectuals. Because of this support, she manages to excel in her career at a time when women were discriminated against regarding education. My Soul Looks Back also contains the author's recollection of recipes and meals. Her expertise in cooking is a representation of feminism at its best. Unlike the Bridge of Beyond, Harris' book depicts a society where both men and women are treated equally. Also, the relationship between males and females is a viable one that promotes development.

Representation of Gender in the Third-World Nations

That said, another factor that hinders the development of feminism in the post-colonial period is the stereotype belief that the women's intellectual capacity is lower than that of men. Collins (2013) admits having passed through this challenge at some point in her life. She reflects on the time when she was writing her book titled Black Feminist Thought: Consciousness and the Politics of language. Initially, she was in a dilemma whether to proceed with crafting the novel or not to continue. Collins was worried that the readership would not buy the truth in the text. She understood that many would consider the content as fabricated. She adds that it is essential to find plausible ways to share significant information with diverse groups of people (Collins 41). Being a black woman herself, Patricia Hill Collins uses her intellect to help spread the feminist thoughts. Still, the world needs educated women like Collins to help fight for gender equality.

In that line, Ogundipe-Leslie (1984) analyzes some of the challenges faced by women, especially in Africa. Among those shortcomings, she mentions the aspect of "educational attainment" as a challenge to most African women. The other factors include inequalities regarding participation rates, industrial structure, private and public rules, family planning systems, and technological advancement process. Apart from that, Ogundipe-Leslie mentions "six mountains on her back." These mountains represent the dynamics responsible for the plight of women in Africa. They include oppression from outside (foreign interference), primitive culture, ignorance, male chauvinism, and lastly herself (Cooper 2016). External intrusion encompasses both colonialism and neo-colonialism. The latter is a product of postcolonial activities, and it manifests through corruption and the use of multinational cooperation to exploit Africa's resources among others. Even so, the African woman originates from a continent that has faced decades of oppression and discrimination from the outside world. Africa is still recovering from the effects of colonialism. Thus, the sexist tendencies that existed during the colonial period still exist today.

One such tendency includes the male-dominated political structure set up by the colonialists that still exists to this day. Today, it is still the males who dominate the political platform of most sovereign states. This issue is still a problem even in Kenya where the two-thirds gender rule applies regarding representation of the citizens in the various public offices. The men still dominate the senior positions with women being given junior positions or few, or no position at all. Correspondingly, women in Africa also face economic discrimination. The social upheaval that followed the end of colonialism in the continent disrupted the...

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