Buchi’s Africana Womanism – Buchi Emecheta, who just passed on, notably defended the course of women in her literary works. However, she preferred to be called a “womanist” than a “feminist”.
Womanism is defined as a form of feminism that acknowledges women’s natural contribution to society. Coloured women find it more appropriate to describe themselves as womanists.
The concept of feminism first came up from the perspective of white women whose major struggle was on gender equality. Womanism, on the other hand, covers that and the discrimination of all women irrespective of colour.
Obviously, the struggles of a white woman and a black woman in a given society cannot be equated. Coloured women in the diaspora have to battle with racial validation amongst other gender struggles.
From another perspective, many critics and observers have found the Feminist concept biased and Womanism to be richer.
Womanism according to Alice Walker means matured, responsible, and courageous behaviour of girlish gender.
A womanist is not necessarily competing with the opposite sex but strives for fairness and respect.
As much as most African female writers such as Buchi Emecheta come off as apologetics of feminism, they would rather focus their concern on making the place of women better; for her good and the good of the society.
Evidently, her works are themed around, child marriage, life as a single mother, abuse of women and racism in the UK and elsewhere.
“Black women all over the world should re-unite and re-examine the way history has portrayed us,”
On an interview she also says this:
“Women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical.”
Her major characters are often women who take initiative and are determined. These resourceful characters recurrently challenge the stereotypes and social constructs that inhibit their productivity and essence.
Through her works, she showed that the woman was worth more than a domestic property purchased for pro-creation.
Buchi often projected the women as the centre of the human society. She makes them the first reapers of the dynamics of the socio-political environment.
However the nation goes, forward or backwards, the effect rubs off on the women.
As we find bits and pieces of her experiences at the different stages of her life in several of her works, it could be noticed that the renowned author has herself been at crossroads in defining herself as she compared her worth back home and in diaspora.
Buchi consistently attempts to strike a balance between the breed of woman that culture expects her to be and the exposed woman she had become after her contact with the western world.
“In Nigeria women are riddled with hypocrisy, you learn to say what you don’t feel. You learn to laugh or not to laugh too loudly”
An excerpt from Joys of Motherhood reads thus:
“Daughters are valuable only in terms of the bride price they may eventually command. Nue Ego sees that money earned from her daughters’ marriages can go toward paying for her sons’ education”.
As globalisation permeates deeper into the African system, the modern African woman still struggles to merge social constructs and the reality of the moment.
Buchi virtually did justice to issues of sexual politics/exploitation, racial prejudice, and revealed the challenges women experience in bringing up children in the face of changing values in the traditional Igbo society.
The modern African woman today still faces a whole lot of pressure trying to define herself in a culturally rooted and yet modernising African society.
Buchi could be said to be the advocate of the African woman who finds a sense of self-worth which earns her respect and not the woman who clamours for an automatic special recognition and entitlement because she is female.
While there may never be a conclusive definition of womanism, Wikipedia records this:
“The basic tenets of womanism includes a strong self-authored spirit of activism that is especially evident in literature…”
“A key component of a womanist discourse is the role that spirituality and ethics has on ending the interlocking oppression of race, gender, and class.”