Jayde Craig
Erin Shea
AP Literature, Period 2
7 December 2010
The Constitution says, “All men are created equal”, but evidently, not all women are. In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the oppression of women in the male oriented Ibo society is made clear by the main character Okonkwo, the stereotypical example of the male view towards women. He abuses, dislikes, and has a low tolerance for women, as well as womanly characteristics. Women are oppressed both in the Ibo society of Things Fall Apart as well as in past and present societies in the world through sexual discrimination, domestic violence, and societal lenses and archetypes.


Okonkwo views women as weak and shameful. With Okonkwo’s recollection of “Even as a little boy he had resented his father’s failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala. That was how Okonkwo first came to know that agbala was not only another name for a woman, it could also mean a man who had taken no title.” (2.12) This shows that being a woman, or similar to a woman, causes shame and dishonor. Okonwo’s views of other “womanly” characters such as Nwoye and Unoka, reveal how being similar to a woman is negative in Ibo society. “Okonkwo was popularly called the ‘Roaring Flame.’ As he looked into the log fire he recalled the name. He was a flaming fire. How then could he have begotten a son like Nwoye, degenerate and effeminate? Perhaps he was not his son. No! he could not be. His wife had played him false. He would teach her! But Nwoye resembled his grandfather, Unoka, who was Okonkwo’s father. He pushed the thought out of his mind. He, Okonkwo, was called a flaming fire. How could he have begotten a woman for a son?” (17.26) Okonkwo first blames his wife for having a ‘failure’ or ‘womanly’ son. This reveals how women are thought of as weak in this society and always at fault.

Okonkwo is also disgusted with the actions of the clan and of Nwoye after the colonists arrive. “Okonkwo made a sound full of disgust. This was a womanly clan, he thought. Such a thing could never happen in his fatherland, Umuofia.” (18.22) He views his motherland as shameful and cowardly compared to the strength and masculinity of his fatherland Umofia. “You have all seen the great abomination of your brother. Now he is no longer my son or your brother. I will only have a son who is a man, who will hold his head up among my people. If any one of you prefers to be a woman, let him follow Nwoye now while I am alive so that I can curse him.” (20.7) This shows that Okonkwo thinks that women are unable to hold their head up or resist the unwelcome influence of the missionary ‘outsiders’. This reveals that Okonkwo thinks women are unable to make good decisions and by comparing Nwoye to a woman, Nwoye should be ashamed. It is also acceptable to beat women in the Ibo society.
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Many women around the world suffer from domestic violence. Dictionary.com defines domestic violence as a “social and legal concept that, in the broadest sense, refers to any abuse that takes place among people living in the same household, although the term is often used specifically to refer to assaults upon women by their male partners. Estimated annual figures for the number of women in the United States who are subjected to psychological, verbal, emotional, or physical abuse by a male partner range from two to four million. Additional statistics indicate the domestic violence ranks as the leading cause of injury to women from age 15 to 44 and that one-third of the American women murdered in any given year are killed by current or former boyfriends or husbands.” Domestic violence is viewed as one of the leading issues around the world. Charges can be made against a man who assaults a woman in the household [in America], but women in most other countries are not so fortunate. Many women hide the signs of domestic abuse by making excuses for their injuries, but their male counterparts still oppress them. Causes of abuse include tension in the household, mistakes made by the woman or by the man, which is usually blamed upon the woman, or the need for power or control by the man. Threats are also often made to ensure sexual activity. Domestic abuse may not be physical violence at all. It may be mental or psychological abuse such as name-calling, repeated fights or other verbal threats. It is also important to address that although domestic abuse may refer to male or female oppression, it has generally come to mean that the women is the victim. Oppression of women is also found in places other than the home.

Many societies are largely male oriented but recently, women have been asserting more dominance in areas such as higher education and the workforce. “In the United States in 1995, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government-funded group, stated: "Over half of all Master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97% are white." This shows that although women’s status has increased in recent times, men are still much more influential. On average, women still earn no more than 85 percent of men's wages, which shows that although women’s position has greatly increased, men still dominate profit and position.


Although women’s position in society has greatly increased through time, women are still largely oppressed through sexual discrimination in the workforce as well as by domestic abuse. The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe illustrates the unfair treatment and status of women in Ibo society. This example only serves to emphasize the poor position of women in societies throughout the world. Although women have been fighting to have equal rights as men, they are making slow progress. In the past and the present women have been unfairly oppressed; but who knows about the future?