Saturday, March 9, 2013

Women in Ibo Society

The topic of women's role in society is very pertinent to this week, as was International Women's Day was this week. Ibo women are portrayed as extremely hard working in Achebe's novel. They cook, clean, bring water to their Obis, farm, take care of children, and soothe Okonkwo's desires (not only sexual-for example his desire for food) all while tiptoeing around Okonkwo's wrath. While women do all of this work, they don't receive money, or titles. As a side note, a statistic was released by the UN on IW day-women provide roughly 2/3rds of the worlds labor in 2013, yet they claim only 10% of the world's income. Women's position in Ibo society seems to be beneath men on the surface, but it is much more complicated. The most influential person in Ibo society, in my eyes, is the oracle, who is a women. A women is the voice for gods. A women decides whether or not to go to war. A women is feared by men, and even the most aggressive man in Umoufia, Okonkwo, takes a machete with him when he follows Chielo.

4 comments:

Madeline Davis said...

It seems to me that women form the foundation of Ibo society. As you said, they cook daily, perform all of the daily duties at home, and keep the men stable so that they can fulfill the "important" aspects of society. The men get all of the glory while the women do the work that allows the men to get that glory. From a 21st century perspective, I find it a little strange that the women don't seem to mind that they don't get much credit for everything they do. But it truly seems like without the women, Ibo society would fall apart.

Laura N said...

As a part of Okonkwo's punishment for accidentally killing Ezeudu's youngest son, he and his family are banished to his mom's hometown of Mbanta. Since his crime was feminine (accidental) he was exiled to his mother's land which accepted him with open arms...If however Okonkwo had killed the boy on purpose (the masculine version of the crime) he probably would have gotten a MUCH worse consequence. His uncle Uchendu tells Okonkwo not to be depressed or reject the help of his mother's kinsmen. He explains to him that "Mother is Supreme." Mothers and women in general are nuturing and compassionate people whose love shelters anyone who is suffering. He tries to show how special womena and mothers are and wants him to appreciate what her kinsmen offer. Okonkwo silently ridicules the town for being too feminie since they are less warlike that his original town. Okonkwo is probably hesitant and uncomfortable with accepting help from his mothers kinsmen because it injures his ego by revealing his vulnerablitiy and making him feel weak.

Ben Bonner said...

With regards to what Madeline said about women not seeming to mind too much about not getting credit, I think this is just one of those cultural differences that we, as 21st century westerners can't understand. Not too long ago in religion class, we were discussing how women in Morocco had recently been equal divorce rights with men. Many of them responded by protesting their new liberties and demanding that they be repealed. It seems absurd to us that you would demand for fewer rights, but this just reveals our cultural differences. I think the reason they don't seem to mind is because they don't perceive themselves to be equal with men in all respects.

Grant Reggio said...

I agree with all of my fellow bloggers thus far. Women ultimately form a large part of Igbo society. To add to this, I believe their role to be more separate than devalued. This is most likely another source of conflict between Okonkwo and the village. He can't appreciate the role of women, not only because he does everything for himself, but also because he can't understand that distinction of separate but not devalued.