WOMEN AND GENDER IN THE MODERN WORLD 1
Women and gender in the modern world
Across a number of cultural settings across the world, women holdcertain positions of power in the community. In the case of theYoruba community, there is a linkage between economic activity andpower, and it is closely related to the women population. Accordingto Cucullu (2014, p.26), such linkage is possible because it isfacilitated by both the structure and institutions of a givensociety. The case of women and trade in Yoruba takes into assumptionthe fact that wealth can translate into power (Falola,2013, p.148). Regardless, there are certain limitations whichhave to be kept in mind. For instance, wealth is only one criterionof power creation, and there are others such as gender and socialperception of the sexes. This applies to the American society, wherewealth and social status are related, and the women have taken onthis to their personal development. This paper looks at across-cultural perspective of the Yoruba community on how women holdpower, and compares this ethnographic example to the women and powerin the American society.
Women,trade and power in Yoruba
The Yoruba community, just as most of other communities, believe thateveryone must work (Ward & Edelstein, 2009, p.26). This isirrespective of their gender. Both the men and women are expected tolabor and toil as a mean of earning a living. The community believesthat working is the only way they can overcome things like starvationand poverty. Despite the fact that the Yoruba community, just like anumber of other African communities, believe that the woman is thereto help the man in duties, there is nothing wrong with the womenstepping up and creating opportunities for themselves(Brettelland Sargent, 208). Over time, in an effort to achieverecognition, the women have engaged in more activities than the men,ranging from domestic to high profile engagements such as publicadministration and such.
Fromthe precolonial ages, the role of women in trade has improvedsignificantly. Ward & Edelstein (2009, p.119) say that the mostimportant precolonial activity for women in the Yoruba society wastrading. The women would take to task taking what their husbandsproduced in their farms and sell it in the market (Abu-Lughod,2005). During the precolonial and the colonial eras, it wasnoted that the women took and increasingly growing role in the Yorubamarkets, and some of them even came to control large shares of themarket. This growing dominance over the men was facilitated bycertain factors such as better protection that was offered to them.Additionally, a study showed that there was a correlation between thegrowing role of the women and their roles as wives, mothers andtraders (Gergen & Davis, 2013, p.326).
The introduction of western education demonstrated the elements ofwomen, trade and power. Given that sponsoring education was ajustification for women’s participation in the trade activities,especially given the fact that the men refused to pay for theirfemale children’s education, the women’s position in the Yorubatrade was cemented (Ward & Edelstein, 2009, p.43). They grew astraders, making enough money to sponsor their children throughschool. When the women’s children came of age, they could have moretime for themselves, as their husband went looking for younger womento marry. This gave a sense of independence for the Yoruba women,which they much treasured (Falola,2013, p.148). Regardless, no matter how powerful the womencould get in trade, they never had an opportunity of holding somepolitical positions. However, the Yoruba political systems createspecific titles for the women, despite the fact that theopportunities are not as many as those for the men.
An example of a Yoruba woman who used her trade to have power isEfunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan. Through her trade and large scalefarming, she was able to rise through the ranks to the position ofiyalode. So as to increase her sense of security, she used herimmense wealth to create a private army to protect her family and herwealth (Ward & Edelstein, 2009, p.57). Additionally, she becameactive in local trade and went on to create a number of extensive andsuccessful regional trade networks. She traded in items such asgunpowder, salt and guns. As she grew increasingly wealthy, theformally dominant male chiefs were alarmed of their success. This ledto a plot against her life, which was finalized in the 1870s. Aniwurawas murdered by a political leader known as Are Latosa. Allthe facts from the investigations pointed to the fact that it wasbecause she was an influential political figure, who was alsowealthy, hence posing a threat.
Comparisonto American society
Women from the two societies take on the opportunity to becomewealthy and enjoy sociopolitical states which is associated with thewealthy people. Additionally, in the two societies, there is aconnection between economic power and political power. Both societiespresent a one-to-one relation of wealth and power. However, the levelof political power that the women can attain in both societies is notthe same. In America, Oprah Winfrey is comparable to EfunsetanAniwura in terms of economic empowerment and social statusdevelopment. Oprah struggled from a humble upbringing to being amedia star. She began her show when she was quite young. Shediversified her business, just as Aniwura did, and ended up becomingone of the wealthiest women of her time. At the same time, her socialstatus grew to a point that she had a lot of political influence. Shesuccessfully campaigned for and funded United States’ first BlackPresident. Her political opinion is equally significant, just as thatof Aniwura. Additionally, her show and book clubs are veryinfluential, and she is in the position of shaping the politicalopinion of the men and women who look up to her as their role model.
Women from the Yoruba community and the American community both haveplenty of scope and opportunity for economic empowerment. As such,these women have grown to dominate their respective market places.This paper has looked at the example of Efunsetan Aniwura and OprahWinfrey. Both women grew during times of complex social constructionsand times when women were not perceived to be as successful as theyeventually became. They also spent their wealth and behaved in asimilar manner that the dominant males would. Additionally, theyexhibit the same character of generosity and motherliness, as theyused their wealth to empower other women. Moreover, they used theiraccumulated wealth to gain political power in their respectivesocieties. Aniwura was considered too powerful that she was murderedby her adversaries, which however is not the case for Oprah Winfrey.Both women are celebrated in their respective societies, and theirimpact remains forever stamped in the history books.
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Abu-Lughod, L. (2005). Is there aMuslim sexuality? Changing constructions of sexuality in EgyptianBedouin weddings. Genderin cross-cultural perspective,247-256.