Accepted paper:

Representation of Female Sexuality and the Small 'f' of Emecheta's Feminism in The Joys of Motherhood


Olusegun Adekoya (Obafemi Awolowo University)

Paper short abstract:

The essay examines Emecheta's brand of feminism in The Joys of Motherhood and the impact of urbanization on motherhood as experienced by Nnu Ego who is worn by work before her time in Lagos as she struggles to raise her seven children almost single-handed because her husband is irresponsible

Paper long abstract:

Accounting for the small 'f' that Buchi Emecheta claims for her brand of feminism, the essay discusses the impact that urbanization has on marriage and motherhood in The Joys of Motherhood, using the dolorous experience of Nnu Ego who migrates from Ibuza, a village where tradition is still strong and her marriage is considered tragic because it produces no children, to Lagos a modern city where life is difficult. It argues that the small 'f' connotes rejection of absolutism and extremism in gender discourse and acceptance of the truth of paradox that permeates all cultures and human relationships. It also implies a celebration of motherhood and other salutary indigenous African/Igbo values,in spite of numerous sins of patriarchy and polygyny that reify women and reduce them to slaves. Both the sins and the values are elucidated, while a comparison is drawn between Ibuza (tradition) and Lagos (modernity)that are interdependent for continued coexistence. The essay posits that Emecheta uses the novel to signify indispensability of women's reproductive role in propagation of culture and its impracticability without male contribution, demand freedom, honour and respect for mothers, and foreground the necessity of gender complementarities on which diverse forms of African feminism are founded. It concludes with a statement on the inevitability of change in African/Igbo cosmology, as all entreaties and prayers to Nnu Ego, after her lonely and miserable death caused by neglect by her husband and sons, are unanswered.

panel P109
Fashioning sexuality in popular culture