Friday, February 25, 2011

Liberation literature and women's writing

What is my daughter's future?
What do we admire in the literature of liberation and who are its loudest champions? I hear intellectuals elevating it again and for good reason - liberation from the state, class, economic repression, the individual at the heart of it, a hero.

And where does women's writing sit in the literature of liberation? It links democracies and oligarchies as well as distancing itself in the language it uses, the metaphorical landscape it paints. Liberation movements always create new aesthetics.

When I read poems of resistance, listen to the songs, I hear that the real struggles start in the home, classroom, workplace. They begin with how people treat one another, how they listen (or don't) to one another. They begin with how each of us feels taking the kids to school, growing vegetables, wandering into a cafe, cleaning the kitchen floor.

A woman, though, wherever she lives in the world is more likely to be paid less than a man, less likely to receive respect for her work. She is more likely to be beaten at home for just being a women. She is excluded from meetings, from stages, from newspapers and magazines by the very intellectuals who debate liberation theory because her language does not fit and her metaphors disgust or discomfort them.

Some of the so-called revolutionaries - in awe of revolutionaries of the past and worldwide - are actively resisting the most basic rules of freedom: equality at home, at school, at work...wherever people are because they do not want to hand over power to women. It is a theme some of the African continent's most impressive writers have focused on for years: Nawal El Saadawi, Buchi Emecheta, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo. Equality means the same numbers of women on those stages, in those pages....etc etc

"Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, because Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Men had nothing to do with Him," said Sojourner Truth in 1851.

A new anthology of liberation writing by women in African countries was published last month. Domestic violence is a dominant theme in many of the stories, poems and essays - a landbridge if ever there was one to the UK and the US.

Abena P. A. Busia writes the introductory poem, “If we don’t tell our stories who will speak out for us, when we claim our bodies for ourselves and weep no more... If we don’t tell our stories, hailstones will continue to fall on our heads.”

African Women Writing Resistance An Anthology of Contemporary Voices published by Fahamu Books and Pambazuka Press.