death by paper cut

{August 26, 2007}   universal chauvinism

The arrival of her new twin daughters had a subduing effect on Nnu Ego. Men – all they were interested in were male babies to keep their names going. But did not a woman have to bear the woman-child who would later bear the sons? “God, when will you create a women who will be fulfilled in herself, a full human being, not anybody’s appendage?” she prayed desperately. 

“After all, I was born alone, and I shall die alone. What have I gained from all these? Yes, I have many children, but what do I have to feed them on? On my life. I have to work myself to the bone to look after them, I have to give them my all. And if I am lucky enough to die in peace, I even have to give them my soul. They will worship my dead spirit to provide for them: it will be hailed as a good spirit as long as there are plenty of yams and children in the family, but if anything should go wrong, if a young wife does not conceive or if there is a famine, my dead spirit will be blamed. When will I be free?”

But even in her confusion she knew the answer: “Never, not even in death. I am a prisoner of my own flesh and blood. Is it such an enviable position? The men make it look as if we must aspire for children or die. That’s why when I lost my first son I wanted to die, because I failed up to the standard expected of me by the males in my life, my father and my husband – and now I have to include my sons. But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man’s world, which women will always help to build.”


Emecheta, Buchi. The Joys of Motherhood. USA: George Braziller Inc, 1990, 186-7

at which point in time was it decreed that the family should the name of the father? it cannot be the christian ethic of wife-submit-to-your-husbands that set the precedence because this is perpetuated even in societies void of christian ethos.

i have to examine this key passage for an essay for a postcolonial studies subject. although the story is set in nigeria and written by buchi emecheta, a nigerian woman, reading the text was like reading a page of my grandmother’s plight who was herself subjected to patriarchal chauvinism but internalized and perpetuated it onto the own daughters. after all, she did grow up in the country that practiced infanticide of baby girls in the advent of the one-child policy. would my grandmother have the propensity to kill her daughter/grand daughter if she hadn’t left the mainland?

i am glad that at least for women in the more developed nations, this practice is losing credence. i don’t mean infanticide, but to the importance laid on male heirs in general.

what if all households took the mothers name instead of the father? would we still be as obsessed with carrying down the family name? even if we could start the practice of taking the mother’s name now, it would be defeating in a way because if you think about it, all our mother’s maiden names are in fact the name of another man.

Ngozi ILOH says:

That is a great thought. Taking one’s mother’s name is anwering her
own father’s name. But still a woman needs her freedom.

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