Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gender: Bride Price vs. Dowries

I find it interesting that the Igbo culture uses bride prices as opposed to the dowries that we are so used to in Western culture. A bride price is the price paid by the groom to the bride or her family to marry the bride. In contrast, a dowry shows a reversal of the "transaction". In this instance the bride brings her dowry, or inheritance of goods, money, land, possessions, etc. to the marriage. I believe the fact that in the Igbo culture with the bride price, this allows the woman to be revered more and respected more. In this sense, the groom must pay a high price for the woman he loves because of how valuable she is. I like that the Igbo culture puts more emphasis on the woman, instead of like other cultures where the woman is just put aside and used in the house for cleaning, taking care of children, etc. Achebe allows the reader to see the value of the woman in the Igbo culture.

7 comments:

Madeline Davis said...

I found this interesting as well and I really think it relates to the plurality of Igbo culture regarding masculinity and femininity. The men are in charge of the families and perform all the grand tasks of the society, but women are still revered and respected and considered to be worth a significant amount. Although you mentioned love, love doesn't seem to be the driving force in marriages. In Things Fall Apart, we only see real attraction between Okonkwo and Ekwefi, seeing as she ran away from her first husband to be with Okonkwo. For the most part, marriage seems to be about status and physical attraction and we see that when Okonkwo returns from exile and several men want to marry Ezinma right away because of her beauty.

Austin Falk said...

I also agree with this point. As Madeline said, Okonkwo did not pay Ekwefi's bride price. This is an exception. Okonkwo could not afford it so Ekwefi ran away to be with him. I feel like this kind of plays into Okonkwo's beliefs about how bad it is to display traits of femininity . Is it possible that Ekwefi's running away to be with Okonkwo gave him the feeling of superiority over others in the tribe? He may have felt like he was too manly to waste his time paying a bride price and worrying about feminine matters so Ekwefi came to be with him for free. I wonder how Okonkwo truly felt about having to pay a bride price for wives since he was so against feminine matters.

Madeline Davis said...

In response to Austin's comment, I would assume the Okonkwo would take pride in paying the bride price. Even though it portrays women as valuable, it reduces them to physical objects of sex and women's work that can be bought and sold. In paying the bride price for his other two wives, Okonkwo has literally bought them, "owns" them, and is able to control them. Maybe since Okonkwo didn't pay the bride price for Ekwefi, this explains their relationship in which she defies him and gets more than a little bit sassy (for example, Ekwefi's comment about Okonkwo's implied impotence with guns that don't shoot.)

Cassidy George said...

I see both sides of the equation. Both dowry and bride price are equally sexist depending on your point of view. In "Dowry Societies", the sum of money paid to the man and his family is a form of compensation in return for inherited status, estate and wealth. I see the dowry, although demeaning to both genders involved, as a relatively fair and sensible exchange. In the Ibo society, the bride price kind of reminds me of the slave exchange. Men barter and haggle over the women who in the future will work for them in more ways than one. It is their job to reproduce, raise children, cook, clean and even participate in agrarian matters. It is interesting that women are given a literal worth, although I have mixed feelings about the level of reverence it shows for women in society.

Tyler Dean said...

It definitely contrasts ti the practice of paying a dowry. Dowries demean the woman to a sort of burden, but bride-prices portray women as valuable. There is, however, still the conflict of putting a price on a woman. It is still demeaning, but much less so than a dowry. I agree with Madeline, because the bride-price gives the women material value, but it also diminishes them to a form of material goods themselves.

Michell D said...

To contrast the dowries and bride prices I would say that dowries are slightly more offensive to the females because it is a price to take the woman, not like the bride price that implies worth. I would personally rather people try to purchase me for my worth rather than sell me to a willing buyer. There is the obvious comparison that it in both cases it's an example of putting a value on someone, which I think is absolutely terrible. However, overall I think they are both examples of dehumanization and shouldn't happen. It makes me wonder what currently socially acceptable occurrences will seem unacceptable in the future.

Ben Bonner said...

I've always thought of dowries as being more offensive. Bride prices at least attribute some amount of value to women. Dowries on the other hand seam to imply that women are a burden. And while bride prices do have a more overt implication that women are to be viewed as chattle, women were almost completely subserviant to their husbands in both societies, those that practice dowries and those that practice bride prices.