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MIGRATION AND SEXISM AS FRAMEWORK FOR THE OBJECTIFICATION OF THE FEMALE BODY IN AKACHI ADIMORA EZEIGBO’S TRAFFICKED AND NAWAL EL SAADAWI’S WOMAN AT POINT ZERO

MIGRATION AND SEXISM AS FRAMEWORK FOR THE OBJECTIFICATION OF THE FEMALE BODY IN AKACHI ADIMORA EZEIGBO’S TRAFFICKED AND NAWAL EL SAADAWI’S WOMAN AT POINT ZERO

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 CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Most African societies operate a patriarchal system of male headship and female submission in social relations and marriage. This means male headship and women submission are both cultural and religious values within African society.

Since these values define the position and role of sexes within African societies, they also present challenges to the gender equality championed by modernity. This paper attempts to show how some cultural and religious values in Africa contribute to the problem of gender inequality.

This paper maintains that these values should be critically assessed, and those found to be inimical to the well-being and holistic development of society, be discarded. In such a way, African culture and values can have their relevance established and sustained in order to give credence to authentic African identity. African women are acquainted with grief.

Like in the movie: Pride and Prejudice, African women depend largely on marriage to survive. Ours is a society that throbs with harassed-looking housewives, women who smile while they suffer; women who are treated with disdain and supercilious demeanor;

women who are socially relegated, politically ostracized and economically deprived; women who are no more than cooks in the kitchen, sex-machine and baby factories; women who are possessed by men like mundane and tangible properties that are transient and ephemeral. And to cap it all, women who are further restricted by tradition and religion. (Kosack, G)

According to Brown these writers use fiction to express African female oppression emanating from patriarchy and colonialism. The writers realized the need for an agency to speak out on behalf of other women to dissolve their subjugation so that both genders can contribute equally in the family and public spheres.

MIGRATION AND SEXISM AS FRAMEWORK FOR THE OBJECTIFICATION OF THE FEMALE BODY IN AKACHI ADIMORA EZEIGBO’S TRAFFICKED AND NAWAL EL SAADAWI’S WOMAN AT POINT ZERO

Their construction of literary voices is a way of discussing and sabotaging the patriarchal society of oppression. Kivai states that African female writers like Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ama Ata Aidoo, Akachi Adimora among others, have written stories seeking to eliminate women’s marginal positions, and that their texts give the courage to the readers to expose subjugation and inequality .

It is the aim of these writers to pronounce that there should be economic, social and political equality between men and women. (37)

However according to Cham, Sexism is linked to beliefs around the fundamental nature of women and men and the roles they should play in society. Sexist assumptions about women and men, which manifest themselves as gender stereotypes, can rank one gender as superior to another. Such hierarchical thinking can be conscious and hostile, or it can be unconscious, manifesting itself as unconscious bias.

Sexism can touch everyone, but women are particularly affected. Despite legal frameworks set up across the EU to prevent discrimination and promote equality, women are still under-represented in decision-making roles, left out of certain sectors of the economy, primarily responsible for unpaid care work, paid less than men and disproportionately subject to gender-based violence. Sexist attitudes, practices and behaviour contribute to these inequalities.

Morokvasic, opine that both online and offline, girls and women encounter objectifying and hyper-sexualised portrayals of themselves, which not only humiliate particular women, but undermine the activism,  articipation and political voice of young women in general. Activism requires freedom of speech and expression, and takes shape through cultural and political voice.

Australian girls aspiring to be activists in their society see how women politicians such as the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard become targets of misogynist, objectifying, and sexualised satire and jokes. Girls also see how young women working in the Australian Parliament and associated public spaces are addressed and treated, as in recent incidents concerning the sexual assault and harassment of young women in parliament and in the course of political employment.

(23) She also added that girls at increasingly younger ages are portrayed in a sexualised manner on social media, on the accounts of so-called influencers and by the digital advertising industry. Objectification and sexualization are linked to a broad array of mental health problems many of which lead to low self-esteem, and severe lack of confidence in young women and girls.

Sexualisation and objectification by others also induce self-objectification, a process whereby young women in particular learn to see themselves as objects for the use and pleasure of others.5 Because of social and cultural pressure on girls and women to appear sexually attractive, their right to express themselves in political forums and in non-sexual ways is impeded on intrapersonal as well as social levels.

Such forms of sexist objectification undercut the authority of female voices, so that what they say is not taken seriously or even as truthful6 – an important precondition of the effectiveness of activism.

Women who migrate to other country always faced with sexism and it also happened within some culture in a woman homeland. Sexual and sex-based forms of harassment against girls and young women are frequently (mis)understood as simply inappropriate behaviour rather than as systemic discrimination against women, thereby undermining its seriousness.

This misunderstanding also runs counter to the promise of substantive equality set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW], which aims to eliminate ‘any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field’.

Furthermore, migration is engendered by some factors which are not unconnected to poor governance, insecurity of lives and property, poor infrastructures, poor standard of education, abject poverty, inequality, injustice, among others. Nwanyanwu concludes that “Migration is the consequence of postcolonial malfunctions…” (387).

This assertion blames the mass migration of Africans to the Western hemisphere on the poor leadership accessioned by the ineptitude of the elites at governance. Lending his voice on this, Maxwell opines that humans have various reasons for migration. Some of such reasons are:

… prolonged droughts, floods, environmental degradation and natural disasters. In Nigeria for instance, social reasons have prompted many more migration than natural phenomena. Examples are unemployment, civil unrest, inadequate food supply caused by population increase, bad governance, defeat in war, the desire for material gains, search for religious or political autonomy, poverty, criminal consents, high population pressure and education. (251)

The above point of view, without doubt, clearly reveals to African states the root causes of migration in African society. Olaniyan summarises thus: “Migration in African studies is a manifestation of different challenges in the African continent”(5). A critical examination of the Nigerian situation affirms that factors responsible for large scale migration from Nigeria are not unconnected to corrupt leadership, and desire for material gains.

However, they are oblivious of the fact that the West is equally the centre of brutality and subjugation, disappointment and frustration. In Chimamanda Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck , Akunna expresses her fantasies of getting a better life as soon as she arrives at the United States.

But her hope is upset by diasporic conditions that dawn on her in the hostland. Like other African migrants, she regrets ever leaving home, gets disillusioned, and feels alienated from her root. Maxwell avers that “a valid and active sense of self may have been eroded by dislocation resulting from migration, the experience of enslavement, transportation or voluntary removal for indentured labour” (252).

It is this lack of original self-identity (which is caused by the voluntary and involuntary continuous movement) that actually brings a double identity or hybridity. The dynamics of defining ‘self’ and finding a space for ‘self’ by African migrants have open up chats on diasporic identity codes.

Lubkemann opines that “diaspericity” should be understood in terms of identity discourse in which the socially determined ‘self’ of the migrants lives within the periphery of imagination and “publicly presented through particular types of claim about group origins” (78).

Lubkemann seems to state that all diasporic identities are just ordinary claims for social reckoning. Invariably, hybrid identities are false identities, a cover-up of the extreme brutal experience of the African migrants. It is against the background of this modern nomadism and the unfortunate experiences that befall the African migrant in search of the proverbial greener pastures that this study is conducted.

It is however on this back drop that this work seeks to examine migration and sexism as framework for the objectification of the female body in Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Over the year, the number of migrant women is said to have doubled between 1960 and 2015. In 2017, women comprised slightly less than half, or 48 percent, of the international migrant population. Interestingly, they outnumbered men in all regions except Africa and Asia.

Data indicate that the rate of female migration is growing faster than male migration in many receiving countries.  While migration has moved up in the international policy agenda, its wide-ranging implications for children have received little attention. Children are affected by migration when they are left behind by one or both migrating parents, migrating with parents (or born abroad), or migrating alone.

The impact of migration on children and adolescents must be seen in the broader context of poverty and conflict, and within the perspectives of vulnerability and resilience, gender relations and children’s rights.

It has also been observed that the continues subordination, humiliation and oppression of women are further aggravated by traditions, cultural beliefs and religions of most societies which favour patriarchy is portrayed by Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero.

These novels also portray the cultural practices such as polygamy female genital mutiliation and sexual abuse in the life of the characters wider study.

1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The main objective of this study is to examine migration and sexism as framework for the objectification of the female body in Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero. However, the specific objectives of this work shall be;

  1. examine the various forms of oppression that women undergo in a male dominated society
  2. examine the identity of women as portray by men in a male ruling society
  3. also examine the trauma and abused faced by women outside her homeland as a result of search for greener pasture.

1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This research critically examines the ordeals of African migrants women in the West, their struggle for survival and the trumatic scars of such struggles on their psyche as found in the selected works of Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero.

The study will serve as reference material for future researchers on related subject. Above all, the study hopes to contribute to the existing body of knowledge and scholarship on migration.

1.5. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

This research is a qualitative research, and relies on textual analysis of the selected texts— of Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero, which serve as primary sources of data for the study while other relevant internet and library materials form the secondary sources of data. The texts are purposively selected based on their relevant contents

1.6 SCOPE/DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY

This study is being limited to migration and sexism as framework for the objectification of the female body in Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo’s Trafficked and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero. This is to enable the researcher to complete the work within the stipulated time. Therefore, all conclusions are based on textual analysis of the selected texts.

1.7 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The theoretical model adopted as theoretical frameworks for this study is the Sexual Objectification Theory of Fredrickson and Roberts. Objectification theory postulates that many women are sexually objectified and treated as an object to be valued for its use by others.

SO occurs when a woman’s body or body parts are singled out and separated from her as a person and she is viewed primarily as a physical object of male sexual desire (Bartky, 1990). Objectification theory posits that so of females is likely to contribute to mental health problems that disproportionately affect women (i.e., eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction) via two main paths.

The first path is direct and overt and involves SO experiences. The second path is indirect and subtle and involves women’s internalization of SO experiences or self-objectification (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997).

Fredrickson and Roberts asserted that women to varying degrees internalize this outsider view and begin to self-objectify by treating themselves as an object to be looked at and evaluated on the basis of appearance. Self-objectification manifests in a greater emphasis placed on one’s appearance attributes (rather than competence-based attributes) and in how frequently a woman watches her appearance and experiences her body according to how it looks (McKinley & Hyde, 1996; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998).

Objectification theory also posits a mediation model that may explain how self-objectification leads to women’s mental health risks via negative psychological outcomes. More specifically, Fredrickson and Roberts postulated that self objectification can increase women’s anxiety about physical appearance

(i.e., fear about when and how one’s body will be looked at and evaluated); reduce opportunities for peak motivational states or flow; diminish awareness of internal bodily sensations (e.g., hunger, sexual arousal, stomach contractions); increase women’s opportunities for body shame

(i.e., the emotion that results from measuring oneself against a cultural standard and coming up short); and increase women’s anxiety about their physical safety (e.g., fears about being raped), which in turn can lead to disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

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