for women’ right began in the 18th century during the period of
intense intellectual activity known as the Age of Enlightenment.
In traditional Africa the woman is an
object of constant scorn, degradation and physical torture. In the past, women
did not exist as individuals with personalities to defend. They rather existed
as mere docile and exotic accompaniments to the males. Throughout that period,
women lacked a voice to articulate their dilemma and their points of view.
They, thus, accepted their fate without resistance. Such passive stance results
from societal conditioning through questionable cultural practices. From birth,
through childhood and adolescence, to adulthood, Africans receive from society
and others around the messages and feedbacks which launch them into roles and
behaviors considered appropriate for males and females respectively. Most
often, female are accorded inferior roles and such long years of cultural
suppression and intimidation, unfortunately, misled the women into an
underestimation of their capabilities and self worth. Encased in such a
cultural mystique, the African women were particularly driven by a community
sense since culture obviates individualism. In those days, these women, in
addition to experiencing the same oppressive social condition as their male
counterparts in a developing world, were subjected to extra repressive burdens
arising from the socio-cultural structures of patriarchy and gender hierarchy.
These years of subjugation have, however, produced in today’s women relentless
questioning of the status quo. They protest against dehumanization, political
enslavement and social oppression. They rationalize that the running of the
Africa world is not the preserve for males and thus there should be absolute
equality of both sexes in all spheres of life. Such a reaction is termed
feminism, which is an ideology that urges, in simple terms, recognition of the
claims of women for equal rights with men.
According to Cora Kaplan (162)
Literary text are constructed from within ideology, and the reality they
articulate is dependent on the historical culture which surrounds them; so too
are the literary critical claims about their truthfulness or authenticity
determined by the culture from which they arise. Helen Chukwuma (xiv)
specifically contends that African feminism is dedicated and informed from
within, from social realities that obtain. One of such realities is the
persistence of sexist socio-psychological paradigm despite the efforts to
overcome “the androcentricism which informs social life”. (Uko, 33)
The persistent sexism in Africa is,
however, matched with women’s continued aggressive demand for equal places in
men’s former citadel of power and privilege. The chorus African women say to
men “whatever the case maybe, you will never again hear us pronounce the words
of the Virgin Mary, ‘thy will be done’ while smiling at your despotic power”.
(Josephine Felicite in Moses, C.G. and Rabine, L. 308-309). They argue that it
is better for men to desire from them those noble and generous feelings which
must exist between equals than those mercenary feelings which a slave has for
his master. Consequent upon this quest and argument, there is a recent
definition of womanhood in the context of the African cosmic order: “A human
being endowed with all the capabilities and talents required to effectively
function and make impact on all levels of life within society” (Adeife
Notwithstanding the above stance,
there still abounds in Africa, evidence of gender stereotypes which simply
means a collection of commonly held beliefs or opinions about what are
“appropriate” behaviors and activities for males and those that are
“appropriate” for females. As a result of this, even though men support women’s
condemnation of their (women) societal deprivations, men’s language still
betrays subtle inclination to sexist socialization.
The New Lexicon Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, Sexism is exemplified firstly as
attitudes and institutions, often unconscious that judge human worth on the
grounds of gender or sex.
It is explained as prejudice or
discrimination usually against women, based on their gender. Sexist
socialization, therefore, refers to the process by which infants and children
are brought up to imbibe attitudes and practices that discriminate against
women on the grounds of their gender.
This work examines So Long a Letter with a view to highlight its characteristic
language usage and as well as the psychological disposition that informs such
use of language. Research findings by anthropologists, educationists and
sociolinguistics show that traditionally, males use non-standard language;
females use the language of rapport while males use the language of report;
discursive language style is meant for women while men are given to the language
of theories and abstractions; females use polite language meant to maintain
harmony and strong relationship as well as to keep conversations open whereas
males use the language of assertiveness and insistence. Women use the language
of solidarity but men use the language of the expert.
Statement of the Problem
Men in Africa make women understand
that they, the men, are the head of the
family that is, they are superior to women. They see women as being weak
and as a result, women have no say in the activities of the community. They
have no rights and are subjugated to do whatever he the men want them to do
especially in Africa. Women are made to feel inferior and this breeds some sort
of ill feelings in women.
Objective of the study
The aim of this is to identify how Mariama Ba uses language to portray
feminism - the reaction of females against the oppressive and discriminatory
culture experienced by them - in her novel So Long a Letter.
Significance of the Study
The topic Language in
Feminist Literature: a study of Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter, will serve as a good research material to
students and other researchers.
This work will throw more
light on the language of feminism and its impact to society.
Scope of the Study
project is restricted primarily to the study of the Language in Feminist
Literature in Mariama Ba’s So Long a
What is the impact of language of
feminism on the society?
What are the ways language of
feminism can be improved ?
primary material of this work is Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter while the secondary materials include the various
works from the library.
Limitation of the study
The major limitation of the
study is the time taken to study the novel.
Definition of terms
Feminism: the advocacy of women's rights on
the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Language: the method of human
communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a
structured and conventional way.
Society: the aggregate of people living
together in a more or less ordered community.