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Feminism: Buchi Emechta’s Bride Price.

September 15, 2012

My statistic page tells me that my most visited blog has been Buchi Emecheta’s Bride Price, and that many of my visitors are interested in feminism in the novel.  I think that merits a response from me.

How much feminism is present in a novel depends on how you define feminism.  For me, the best definition is the one that has provided the foundation for the movement since the 1970s.  Feminism is a social movement, by and for women, directed at changing attitudes and social conditions.  Novels, like Bride Price, generally explore women’s individual problems and abuses and introduce female characters seeking expanded options, but they seldom address the larger issues of alternatives and structural changes for all women advocated by feminism.

In Bride Price, Emecheta clearly shows the ways in which traditional Ibo society was harmful and unfair to women.  Aku-nna bravely tries to stand up for herself by refusing to marry as she is expected.  But the novel does not offer a feminist alternative for her or for women more broadly.  She is able to marry the man she chooses only because an oil company offers him employment, hardly a feminist alternative.   The ending of the book has various interpretations, including punishment for the couple for moving beyond traditional restrictions.

The novels which I would call feminist are those which offer more than female oppression and strong women characters.  For me, feminist novels are those that explicitly make the claim to be, such as Finola Moorhead’s Remember the Tarantellla or fantasy/science fiction novels that restructure and critique gender roles such Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith, and The Women’s Gate and others by Sheri Tepper.

My original review.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2012 5:50 am

    I dare say, Mariane, that Emecheta was writing in the context of traditional Ibo society which then did not recognise issues of feminism. Even now, African countries are rooted in their culture and much lip serivce is given to feminine issues, despite the Beijing Conference. Emecheta may not give solutions because there may be none to give in terms of western concept of feminism. For Aku-nna to even marry the man she wanted was a statement in itself. I have not read the Bride Pirce yet so I am basing my arguement in your review. In Changes, by Ama Ata Aidoo (reviewed on my blog), we realise that Esi who divorces her husband because he does not give her space and crowds her with too many demands, is viewed with shock by her friend and family. Her stance on her husband ‘raping’ her is unheard of. Culturally is there anything so outlandish as a husband raping his wife? Her second marriage to Ali who already has a wife leaves her unhappy but accepting of her fate. Changing attitudes and social conditions inimical to women can be defeated by cultural and traditional norms and lore which are deeply rooted in the African society. ( I don’t know if I have made some sense here, at least I tried. 🙂

    • September 18, 2012 7:46 pm

      You make sense to me because I think we agree here. I like and respect Emecheta because she is true to her story and does not offer simplistic, feminist’s alternatives. I also see Changes as demonstrating that imported alternatives are problematic. Thanks for sending me to your review.

  2. ojukwu chika kate permalink
    March 26, 2013 9:10 pm

    I think novel is an explicate depiction of women’s condition in typical Nigerian culture


  1. The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta « Me, you, and books

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