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Abstract

Many theorists, feminist scholars, and critics have been divided on the question of if it is possible for both men and women to adequately write about women. This article examines how some contemporary men and women have redefined and represented African women in their fiction, discharging them of conventional roles in patriarchal settings. To prove this, we examine instances of reversal of women’s conventional roles through womanist and radical feminist trends in four selected contemporary African novels written by both men and women: Mema (2003), A Beautiful Daughter (2012), The Housemaid (1998), and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (2010). The first two novels are respectively written by men, Daniel Mengara and Asare Adei, whereas the last two were written by women, Amma Darko and Lola Shoneyin. There are similarities in the ways contemporary African authors write about women in their fictional texts. For instance, they sometimes switch from a patriarchal ideology to a matriarchal one. The authors have revealed these ideologies via the reversal of women’s roles, by empowering them through decision-making on matters concerning their children, their children’s rights, motherhood, giving the hand of their daughter in marriage, and arranging and financing wedding festivities of their children in their novels. But the writers each adopt different concepts when advocating or addressing problems facing women. Their use of womanist or radical feminist ideology varies from one another irrespective of their gender. By reversing women’s conventional roles, the authors seem to have confirmed that a society cannot, therefore, be either "strictly matriarchal" or "strictly patriarchal"; rather, a society can have matriarchal and patriarchal subsystems, and these usually complement each other (Chinweizu, 1990, p.112).

Note on the Author

Akinola Monday Allagbe, earned a Doctorate degree in Anglophone African Literature from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Republic of Benin. He is a part time lecturer at the English Department of the University. He teaches African literature, civilization, and economic history of Africa. He is an author and co-author of articles published locally and internationally. His research interest revolves around gender representation, women’s empowerment, feminisms, womanism, and contemporary issues as enacted by/in contemporary African novels.

Yacoubou Alou, earned his PhD in English Literature from Usmanu Danfodiyo, University of Sokoto, Republic of Nigeria. He currently teaches at Université de Zinder, Niger Republic and chairs the English Department. He is a Fulbright scholar. His research interest is postcolonial African literature.

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