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Decoding Female Resistance In Buchi Emecheta’s Kehinde

2351 words - 10 pages

In order to understand and explore the subject of women’s subordination, it is pertinent that one look at the dynamics of power that govern the relationship between men and women. Kate Millet calls it “ sexual politics”, her definition of politics being that of a “power structured relationships, arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another”(2000:23). The female body becomes the site where sexual politics is played out because it is constantly under pressure to conform and submit to prescribed social and cultural norms. . The female body is considered as a procreating device and a source of sexual pleasure. Here it would be significant to mention ...view middle of the document...

Their dilemma is that of how to reconcile the modern self while trying to stay true to their traditional roots. Ato Quayson’s arguments reflects this conundrum. He writes, “women’s existence is strung between traditionalism and modernity in ways that make it extremely difficult for them to attain personal freedom without severe sacrifices or compromise”(2007:585) . Kehinde, finds herself caught in a delicate balancing act between showing respect for tradition while trying to forge an identity of her own. . As an African feminist writer, Emecheta portrays how the balance of power is tilted towards men and how this affects the life of women. A study of this novel by Buchi Emecheta reveals the subtle ways in which women undertake acts of subversion and resistance, discreetly disrupting the status quo and shifting the balance of power in their favour. In the struggle for power, women are not just “points of application” but “vehicles of power”(1980:98). To borrow from Foucault analysis, power here is not a negative or an oppressive force, but it is a positive force that give rise to forms of resistance.
Emecheta’s heroine in this novels navigate her life within the patriarchally sanctioned space while covertly resisting it. Kehinde, the protagonist of the novel with the same name is an educated Nigerian woman settled with her family in London. The London home represents a space where Kehinde could make her voice heard and her husband Albert treats her as a companion. But she was well aware that in doing this he was just being practical and diplomatic. The house was in her name and she earns more than Albert. Inspite of all this, thousand miles away from home, Kehinde could feel the traditional Patriarchal force looming over her life in the form of letters from Albert sisters urging him to come home. Infact, this is further substantiated by Albert’s desire to give up life in London and move back to Nigeria. The concept of home is very different for Kehinde and Albert. Kehinde dreams about home are confused , she says, “I haven’t a clear vision what I am suppose to be looking for there”(22) .Albert on the other hand longs for the Nigeria where he could assert his maleness and power as the man of the house. Albert conversation with his colleague Prabhu exposes his real reason for wanting to go home “But I want to go back to the way of life my father had ,a life of comparative ease for men,where men were men and women were women..”(.35). Kehinde on the other hand was aware that “behind the veneer of westernisation ,the traditional Igbo man was alive and strong ,awaiting an opportunity to reclaim his birthright”(35). Kehinde feels threatened by patriarchal discourses which continually disempowered her.
Albert’s reaction to Kehinde’s pregnancy serves as an example of male chauvinism. The body of the women becomes the sites where power politics is played out. “…convenient vehicles which,when they took on an inconvenient burden ,could...

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