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“During decades, females have been victims of sexism. Although many reforms have been placed and many movements have been performed to help this situation, many countries still exercise indirect or direct sexism. Direct sexism, referred as “Sexism A” by Kate Smurthwaite in New Internationalist, is the most common type of female margination and is mostly exercised today in the countries of the Middle Eastern and African culture(2016). The ideals of this perception are based directly on demining a gender, in this case females, solely for being it. A textual example can be found in the novel Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, where a patriarchal society oppresses females, exposing them to prejudice and violence. By employing the male perspective of Okonkwo, Achebe captures the essence of the ideals of the time by creating a text that lacked female principle and diminished women’s role in society.
Most of the plot of Things Fall Apart is centered amongst the patriarchal mischiefs of Okonkwo, the tragic hero. When rising to power, this character shamed everything his father had done, describing it as weak, unhonorable and at some times “female”. Rising from poverty and family disgrace, Okonkwo was determined to rule his family with iron fist, completely devoting himself to depict an image of honor to contrast his father’s doings. To do this he assumed a superior stand towards every female figure, considered the weakest aspect in society, that he encounters along the text, allowing them to play limited and suppressed roles. Achebe’s female characters are “”voiceless [. . .] virtually inconsequential”” and diminished by a male point of view(Mezu 2). An example of this is portrayed in the novel when Okonkwo expresses: “”It was clear from the way that the crowd stood or sat that the ceremony was for men. There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders”” (Achebe 85). Other than being completely ignored, which is a type of psychological abuse that according to Karen Young in Hey Sigmund “activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain”, they were diminished physically. Okonkwo, blinded by greed, constantly exercises this ideal without remorse. Examples of such disrespected characters are all three of Okonkwo’s wives; whom are beaten for not fulfilling their household duties, even during the Week of Peace. To concrete that this text is written from a male point of view, the androcentric statement: “The greatness of a man in this society is measured in terms of his muscle power, wealth, titles and number of wives”, is presented (Reddy 30). This statement clearly stipulates a complete downgrade in the female gender, being used solely as a tool for obtaining a goal by the male gender.
How it works
The male perspective is also evident as the reader notices the absence of female principle. An example of the absence of female principle, that is reflected as sexist, include the themes of the folktales narrated by females and males. While mens’ were mostly filled with violence, disrespect and greed, womens’ were soft and gentle, manly considering nurturing. Sadly, this female perspective was often overviewed, causing a lack of nurturing ideals. Mens’ point of view dominated the area, inciting belligerent thoughts. An example of this is portrayed when Nwoye secretly prefers his mother’s folktales more than his dad’s. By inclining towards female principle, Nwoye good nature caused by just favoring female principles can be compared to others with male nature in the village. If discovered, Nwoye is to be considered weak, the worst offense in the society.
By assuming a male perspective, Achebe produces the effect of downgrading the female culture, thing that was predominant during the time. This perspective focuses only in the “fictitious” negative qualities that were given to females, and not in the benefactors.
Women are treated like slaves who care for children and pick the yams, which the text explains are a symbol for “”manliness”” (Achebe 34). In fact, the only good influence he recognizes that comes from a female perspective is that of the priestess Chielo, yet even she does not have enough power over him. Although she is a figure of respect, he ignores her advice involving the death of Ikemefuna. On the same line, regular women have no say in his behavior, and only those “”removed from the pale of normalcy, acting under the cover of magic or religion, receive any sort of respect.”
The male perspective is predominant in the novel Things Falling Apart. When diminishing the female role, by lacking its principles and only viewing it as a negative aspect, Achebe exposed the patriarchal and androcentric view of the time. Folktales told from a male perspective to children cause a more belligerent and violent society that lacks nurturing female principles. On the same line, males consider every female doing a wrongdoings. It is sad to think that, just like the times when the novel was written, nowadays this male perspective is reflected throughout the world. Woman have come a long way to eliminate this way of thinking, yet there is a longer way to go.”
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