Abstract

Women have always been upholders of tradition. This is not because of any inherent difference in intellect or temperament from men, but because of their role in society. Change, whether it be technological or social, has always reached them last because they were less educated, less prominent, less important in male-dominated society. This is true of the Western world, and it is an even more clearly marked feature in modern African society made up as it is of a mixture of traditional African and Western values. Both societies were oppressive towards women, but in different culture-specific ways. Many African societies were polygamous and patriarchal, and women had no influence on decision-making and were subject to physical violence (beatings). The Victorian version of Western civilization which reached Africa in the form of the early missionaries objected to these forms of oppression, but in turn brought their own, namely in the concept of the virtuous woman, a concept which severly limited her possibilities for sexual, emotional and intellectual expression.

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