Gender -Stereotyping In Literature: A Lacuna Between Male And FemaleNigeria's Writers

Muhammad Badamasi TSAURE
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto 

Being a paper presented at the 19th Annual National Conference of the School of education, Federal College of Education, Kano on the theme "Restructuring the Education sector for economic Recovery in Nigeria" held at Plough oft Auditorium, Federal College of education, Kano from 21st to 24th November, 2017


Much has been written on gender issues, ranging from gender inequality and equality, equal educational opportunity for both boys and girls. However, there have been least discussion about gender stereotyping especially in the Nigeria's literature. Its one of the beliefs of this research that Nigeria's literature is basically and basically stereotyped. Stereotyping exists in the content, body, illustration as well as the language of the literature in Nigeria. Male writers almost oftentimes write in favor of male characters likewise female writers immediately amidst their emerget penetration in the fold of writing. With this background, this write-up  explores the chronological chronicles of both early and contemporary Nigeria's writers' writings and showcase whether or not gender stereotyping exist. It however, closes with role of a teacher in addressing and redressing this polemical problem.


Generally, gender issues, women cum their plight has occupied the front burners of the academic discussion. Reason that many institutions have no choice than to academies gender study as autonomous department (as a field of study). Perhaps, this range from the importance both the creator and the created attached to it. For  God mentioned that he had created man and woman so as to know and be acquainted with each other (Qur'an, 49:13; Gen.1:27-28). But often times, the cardinal genesis which wrought about gender and its problem lies for the fact women have been being marginalised. This perpetrated that any moment the word gender is mentioned what comes to our minds is women and their problems (even though the concept encompasses more than that). Menakshi, (2012) in a research reveals that the rate at which women have been discriminated reach to the level that they are not welcomed at the time of birth in many society. Sometimes, mother and God are cursed, the child is fed only now and then, deliberately ignored.

In India alone, there is one rape of a woman every 45 minutes, one molestation every 20 minutes, one kidnapping every 43 minutes (Menakshi, 2012).  Women are times and again overshadowed by men. Very many times girls are not allowed to go school, receiving no importance at all,she has no right over her father's property... having no share of inheritance except if she lucky to be a Muslim (Kabir,2005). Women in the traditional African society has no of a husband, when married she is only expected  to be obedient and dutiful to her husband and kitchen is considered her rightful place (ibid). More so, in every 12 million born girl-child 1.5 million die (or killed) before first birthday, another 85,000 before their fifth year and only nine million survive at the age of 15 (fifteen) (Menakshi, 2012).

These have been the position of women worldover and Africa in particular. Perhaps, these discrimination bring about series of females' movements cum series of schools of thought such as "feminism", womanism" and post-colonial womanism". Also, the reason which forced many females craved indulgence to indulge into writing.the study.

Clarification of Terms

Gender:- is defined as the social constructed roles and responsibilities that societies, (nations, communities etc)consider appropriate for men and women (Nwuto & Mpamah, 2013) it’s the array of social constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis (UNIRTAW, 2013).

Gender equality :- Means men and women should have equal opportunities for financial independence, education and personal development (UN, 2015). It means expanding freedom and or improving overall quality of life so that equality is achieved without sacrificing gains for males and females (USAID, 2012)

Gender-Stereotyping: The Early Writers

Literature in Nigeria spanning from pre- independence, independence and post independence remains a literature of controversy, conflict and gender based strife. This gender based bias started from the production of the early Hausa based novels in the year 1934. The novel entitled "Ruwan Bagaja" (1934)by Abubakar Imam, "Shehu Umar" (1934) by Abubakar Tarawa Balewa and " Muhammad Bello's " Gand'oki" (1934) all  depicted males as major characters and or protagonists. Zulke and Dan Shehu in Imam's "Ruwan Bagaja" (1934)  were portrayed as the major heroes ..doing everything. Thus, discreetly showing that the world is meant and mean for men only while women are only dependents.

Looking it from the wider perspective, masculinity is event in Amos' "The Palm wine Drunkard (1952),Achebe's " Things fall apart" (1958). The greatness of these novels, as portrayed by many critics  lies on the physical prowess of their protagonists, a virtue attributed to the precolonial Nigerian society (Muhammed, 2007). Okonkwo who features as the major ocharacter in Achebe's 'Things fall apart' is snowballs as a fearless young  man of greater stamina and strength, whose fame and popularity become known all over the nine villages and even beyond, whose back never touched the ground, who at tender age threw Amalinze the cat. However, as a result of these qualities "though still young he was one if the greatest men of his time (Muhammed, 2007). Further up, when the white-men settled in Umuafia and introduced new form of culture, new religion, new way life; men such as Okonkwo and Obierika were able to fight back the white men. Women cease mentioned, showing that men are only the leaders, rulers and freedom fighters of the society; showing that women are mere meal providers, care givers and homemakers. Thus, creating a scenario that women are dependent to men.

In Amos' ' The palmwine Drunkard'  the Drunkard is said to have rescued one woman from the skull and later married her. Thus, following the law that a hero needs a " faithful  and helpful female companion'(ibid). In Okpewho's "The Last Duty" (1976) Aku (a female character) is portrayed as prostitute. After all the love that her husband had for her,she went ahead and cheat on him in his absence. However, she caused her husband Oshevire on his release from the prison to commit suicide. Thus, portraying that woman is  cause of man's destruction.

In Iyayi's "Violence" (1983) explores that Idemudia suffered untold hardship amidst poverty and hunger. Idemudia struggled to his school's fees paid but the efforts proves abortive, for his father is a very poor man even though produced all the wealth of the nation (Okunade, 2004). The portrayal of Idemudia as the central figure of this novel by Iyayi server as another element of portraying the valuer of man in male based writings; the reason perhaps, which compelled female joined in the writing.she

Emergence of Female Writers: Reason Behind

The cogent instrumental reason that led the emergence of feminism, hence women into literary scene is the poor representation of women by male in their works of arts(Okunade 2003 ;Okunade, 2004). Male dominated literary scene during the 20th century (ibid).This, however, brought forth the urge by women such as Flora Nwapa to address and redress the such ugly situation. Ogunyemi in Okunade (2004) is said to have the domination of male in literature when she opines that "Phallic dominated with male writers and critics dealing almost exclusively with male characters and concerns naturally aimed at a predominantly make audience". Women were exhibited in men's writing as weaker sex,mere prostitute and sometimes assistant to men. Owingyto that,perhaps, women engaged in writing thereby earning  the proper and exact representation. Ezegbo & Nwoye Aliu, 2003) observed that women have invaded the literary domains hitherto dominated by men, as writers they have brought new angles and insights into fiction, rejecting portrayals of women as self-effacing,docile and passive observers in the world of men.

In Nigeria, therefore, among the women that rose to occasion of salvaging women's image include Flora Nwapa;the first Nigeria's published female writer. She wrote the following:

  1. Efuru (1966)

  2. Idu (1970)

  3. Never Again 1975)

  4. One is enough (1981) (Tsaure, 2017).

Another literary icon is Buchi Emecheta, who wrote on gender issues. She wrote the following:

  1. In the Ditch (1972)

  2. Second Class Citizen (1978)

  3. The bride Price (1976)

  4. The Slave Girl (1977)

  5. Double Yoke (1982)

  6. Kehinde (1994) (Tsaure, 2017).

From Nwapa and Emecheta came numerous female writers such as Zainab Alkali, Leslie Ogundipe, Rosemary Nwemedimo,Mabel Segun, Asabe Kabir, Solo Sofola, Ifeoma Okoye, Rosina Umelo, Adora  Ulasi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and crop of others.

Gender-Stereotyping: The Females' Writings

Contrary to the depicture of women as naive , cowards, inactive, dependent, fragile and so on. The contemporary female Writers resort to depict women as very active,giants, hardworking and above all perform all sort of manly activities such as farming (Kabir,2005 ; Muhammed, 2007). In Alkali's "The Descendants" Seytu is portrayed as as humble girl, rising from humble background. However, due to her endurance and perseverance she rose to become medical doctor. Also, in Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun" (2005) we see that both men and women engaged the struggle for the realizations of the Republic of Biafra. Thus, women actively participated through the end of the civil war. In addition, the travails of Nwapa's "Efuru" (1966) and "Idu" (1970) and Emecheta's "Second Class Citizen" (1986) all the heroines of these novels represent women as more enduring, hardworking and persevering in the face of difficulties. They represent women also the manly manner.. showing examplary epitome for all and sundry to imitate. They represent women as more resourceful in the home and "finance management in distress and difficult situations (Kabir, 2005 ; Okunade, 2003 ; Muhammed, 2007 ; Udoette & Nwiyi, 2015).

Teacher And Gender Issues

Teacher should handle gender problems with care in classrooms. He\she teach the that gender differentiation is a natural phenomenon. All over the world, male and female are not equal. People are antithetical in nature. Moreover, male person is not better than female and vice vasa. The Almighty God said that man and woman are created so as to know  each other and the best among you is who escel in piety (Qur. 49:13). Notwithstanding, the teacher should consider the following in a classoom.:

  1. Teacher should look for story or play that do not portray either gender in an abusive manner.

  2. Recommend gender-neutral books were:

  3. Individuals are portrayed with distinctive personalities irrespective of their gender

  4. Achievements are not evaluated on the basis of gender.

iii. Occupations are represented as gender free.

  1. Clothing is described in functional rather than in gender based terms.

  2. Females are not always weaker and delicate than males.

  3. Individuals are logical and emotional depending opun the situation.

viii. The language used in the text should be gender-free.        (Rudman, 1995).


Literature from time immemorial serves as weapons, medium through which people express themselves. Every writer is at liberty to state his or her ideas and ideologies, the way he\she thinks an ideal society should look like or be. Thereupon, male and female writers, oftentimes, feel obliged to stereotype their gender. The result,  that marked Nigeria's literature as "Gender-based". The result, however, that compelled many to ask where is Nigeria's literature going? For through these writings, many young Nigeria's authors become gender sensitiveness. That many fail to view literature based on the contemporary situations.Based on the ills scorching the fabrics of Nigeria's geography. Heretofore, Literature helps tackle issues such as economy, education and above all leadership. Gender in literature helps to enlighten both male and female that all have major and imperative roles to play in curbing the problem of economy. Literature helps create job opportunities for our youths; it does this by providing enough subject matters story, play or poem to tell or write about.

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