This article examines women’s oppression and gender-based domestic violence against girls in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions (1988). The novel is set between two families in the Shona community of Zimbabwe. The focus is on women’s entrapment in the institution of marriage and gender-based violence inflicted on girls by male patriarchs to force them to bow down to patriarchal authority. Tambudzai, the main narrator and protagonist tells a story of how her mother, Ma’ Shingayi (a peasant housewife), and her uncle’s wife, Maiguru, (a teacher with a Master’s degree) get entrapped in the marriage institution where they have no voice, how she is discriminated against as a child and denied education by both her father, Mukoma, and her uncle Babamukuru until her only brother Nhamo dies and she gets the chance to go to school; and how she and her cousin Nyasha suffer gender-based violence in Babamukuru’s home. When Tambudzai and Nyasha choose the path of rebellion against the injustice and discrimination they are subjected to because of their gender, Babamukuru uses physical and psychological violence to establish and maintain his power over them. Consequently, Nyasha’s mental health breaks down. She suffers from schizophrenia and develops eating disorders. Her bulimia is symbolic of what awaits any woman who tries to liberate herself from male hegemony in a patriarchal home. Tambudzai is relieved of Babamukuru’s patriarchal control when she goes to the boarding school to further her education, which eventually enables her to establish her life as a single woman free from male control. Through her mouthpiece characters, Tambudzai, and Lucia (Ma’ Shingayi’s sister), Dangarembga underscores single womanhood as a form of women’s emancipation. In this article, I argue that Dangarembga’s notion of single womanhood aims at eliminating the concept of gender through isolation rather than the integration of women into the already male-dominated society.
"Depiction of Women’s Oppression and Gender-based Domestic Violence against Girls in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
4, Article 2.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss4/2