Gender in West Africa

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In the West African community, the concept of power among women lies within the vibrant differences between the roles of each gender. Women were and still are the foundation of the African community as they exercise the power to protect life and educate children. Despite this prominent position, they are not in any way seen as equal to men. This conventional perception changed temporarily, or perhaps was slightly regarded differently, when in 19th Century, Behanzin, one of the most renowned kings of Dahomey, a country now known as Benin, used his army of women to fight the French army because of the invasion of the French settlers in the Dahomey territory, which brought resistance. These women, called “Amazons,” fought with exceptional courage and were often considered invincible by their opponents. With the use of Amazons in the kingdom of Benin, a significant alteration in the gender roles occurred in the African community. This alteration, giving female soldier’s roles almost exclusively reserved for males, reflects what Butler and Kimmel discuss in their books—gender as social construct and performativity. It could be conceded that gender lines were crossed with this new position of women, but a closer look at the situation will prove the opposite to be. At first glance the physical and mental transformations of Amazons into men would make it seem that the women were able to achieve power that had been formerly reserved for men; however, on closer inspection, there is significant evidence that many features of the traditional gender norms were unchanged in the long-run, despite appearances to the contrary.
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