Ibadan Journal of the Social Sciences
Volume 9, No. 2, 2011
DOI: 10.36108/ijss/1102.90.0210

Western Gender Paradigm: Historicizing the Appropriation of African Women

Yohanna Kagoro Gandu

Sociology Department, Alunadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria



Scholarly documentation of the history of the emergence and shifts in the construction of gender categories in Europe presents a picture that presupposes the existence of women as a social category that has always been perceived and understood to be powerless, disadvantaged, controlled and defined by men. Western historical experience is rooted on the perception of the world as a man’s world. Under such a world, gender is treated as a biologically pre-determined divide and social categorisation of humans into ‘man’ or ‘woman ‘. Biological determinism have often been so compelling in Western gender discourse to an extent that social categories have over the years derive their legitimacy and power front biology. Biological determinism inherent in Western articulation of social difference cannot however be presented as a universally acceptable paradigm. This is because feminism debate all what roles and which identities are natural and what aspects are socially constructed, call only have meaning if! culture. It is through culture that social categories are conceived. It is within the foregoing context that African ‘protest scholarship’ (Adesina: 2010; Ainpofo: 2008; Zeleza: 2006; Mukonyora: 2006; Oyewumi: 2005 a&b, 1997; Nnaineka: 2005; Mire: 2001, Taiwo: 1999; Amadiume: 1997, 1987; Afonja: 2007 a&b; Anzfred: et al.: 2004; Menuni: 2003) submits that social categories do not have independent existence or logic of their own. The contestations over the concept ‘gender’ developed out of this challenge. This paper argues that Western gender constructions and concepts do automatically apply to non Western societies. Examples front Africa present what Oyewumi (2004: 8) describes as “several challenges to the unwarranted universalisms of feminist gender discourses” because African social categories are “fluid, highly situational and not determined by body type”. The paper concludes that such. constructs can only be use for comparative purposes. Given that this paper adopts a historical and theoretical review of the subject matter under investigation, the method of study used is content analysis.


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