Igbo Tribe Gender Roles Essay

Gender Roles In Things Fall Apart, By Chinua Achebe

Upon an initial reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, it is easy to blame the demise of Okonkwo’s life and of the Umofia community on the imperialistic invasions of the white men. After all, Okonkwo seemed to be enjoying relative peace and happiness before then. He did have a few mishaps; one of them resulted in him being exiled for eight years. Nonetheless, he returned to his home town with high spirits and with prospects of increased success. However, everything has changed. The white men have brought with them a new religion and a new government. Okonkwo’s family falls apart. The men in his village lose their courage and valor; they do not offer any resistance to the white men. Consequently, Okonkwo kills himself in disgrace and Umofia succumbs to the white men. However, the white men are not the only people responsible for demise of Umofia. The Igbo culture, particularly their views on gender roles, sows the seed of their own destruction. By glorifying aggressive, manly traits and ignoring the gentle, womanly traits, Umofia brings about its own falling apart.

In Umofia, manliness is associated with strength and womanliness with weakness (Okhamafe 127). There is no such thing as a strong woman, and all men should disdain weakness. In Umofia, “all men are males, but not all males are men” (Okhamafe 126). Only the strong men who hold titles deserve to be called “men”. The Igbo word “agbala” is an alternate work for “woman” and for a man who had no title. Women in Igbo society are expected to act a certain way. Okonkwo scolds his daughter, Ezinma, when she does not “sit like a woman” (Achebe 44). He will not let Ezinma bring his chair to the wrestling match because it is a “boy’s job” (Achebe 44). Every aspect of Igbo culture is gender-coded. There are “masculine stories of violence and bloodshed” and there are “women’s stories” fit only for “foolish women and children” (Achebe 53 – 4). Even the crops were gendered (Okhamafe 127). Coco-yams, beans, and cassava were “women’s crops” (Achebe 23). Yam, the “king of crops”, was “a man’s crop” (Achebe 23). In Umofia, all that is desirable and admired is associated with manliness. Anything that is demeaning or scornful is considered to be womanly.

Okonkwo life is “dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness” (Achebe 13). When Okonkwo was a boy, his playmates teased him calling, saying that his father was agbala. Okonkwo’s father, Unoka, was lazy. He did not work on his farm; he died in great debt. He did not acquire a single title. He did not have a barn to pass down to his son. Unoka is a type of man who is scorned in Umofia. He is seen as weak and effeminate. As Okonkwo grows older, he is determined not become a failure like his father. His father was weak; he will be strong. His father was lazy; he will be hard-working. Okonkwo earned his fame by defeating the reigning wrestling champion. Okonkwo diligently plants yam, building a successful farm. He builds...

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520 Words3 Pages

The Role of Women in the Ibo Culture The culture in which 'Things Fall Apart' is centered around is one where patriarchal testosterone is supreme and oppresses all females into a nothingness. They are to be seen and not heard, farming, caring for animals, raising children, carrying foo-foo, pots of water, and kola. The role of women in the Ibo culture was mostly domestic. The men saw them as material possessions and thought of them as a source of children and as cooks. As a man made his way in life by farming yams, he needed a strong workforce. This workforce included his wives and children. A man would have many wives. The more wives and children a man had, the more honor and respect he received.
If a man…show more content…

When he saw the tree, he beat her for killing it, even though the tree was clearly quite alive (38). When Okonkwo was near his daughter Ezinma, he would think to himself, ''She should have been a boy.'' Apparently, a girl was not capable providing him with sense of pride. In the Ibo culture, when a woman was to be married, the family of her suitor would come and inspect her to be sure she was beautiful and ripe enough to be a part of their family. A woman did not have any value other than her beauty and her abilities to cook and bear children. In a conversation between Okonkwo and his friend
Obierika, they spoke of two other villages where their
''customs are all upside down'' and ''titled men climb trees and pound foo-foo for their wives'' (73). They spoke of other tribes where the children belong to the wives and their families. ''You might as well say that the woman lies on top of the man when they are making the children.''
This remark makes it seem that there is no 'love-making' in this culture, but only 'child-making,' in which the woman has no real role. In a description of a ceremony, ''It was clear from the way the crowd stood or sat that the ceremony was for men. There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders'' (87). The women were not included in discussions, councils, nor were they made part of the masquerades of the ancestral spirits. There is only one

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