Feminism: Buchi Emechta’s Bride Price.
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.