The Role of Women in the Ibo Culture The culture in which ‘’Things Fall Apart’’ is centered around is one where patriarchal testosterone is supreme and oppresses all females into a nothingness. They are to be
seen and not heard, farming, caring for animals, raising
children, carrying foo-foo, pots of water, and kola.
The role of women in the Ibo culture was mostly
domestic. The men saw them as material possessions and
thought of them as a source of children and as cooks. As a
man made his way in life by farming yams, he needed a
strong workforce. This workforce included his wives and
children. A man would have many wives. The more wives and
children a man had, the more honor and respect he received.
If a man had dishonored himself in the eyes of the other
men belonging to the tribe by acting in a cowardly way or
by being lazy, they called him a woman for insult.
A man was to rule the household with a heavy hand.
Okonkwo’s wives and children lived in fear of his quick
temper (13). When his youngest wife was not home in time
to cook him lunch one day, he beat her severely when she
returned home (29). Another of his wives cut some leaves
off of a banana tree to wrap food. When he saw the tree,
he beat her for killing it, even though the tree was
clearly quite alive (38). When Okonkwo was near his
daughter Ezinma, he would think to himself, ‘’She should
have been a boy.’’ Apparently, a girl was not capable
providing him with sense of pride.
In the Ibo culture, when a woman was to be married,
the family of her suitor would come and inspect her to be
sure she was beautiful and ripe enough to be a part of
their family. A woman did not have any value other than
her beauty and her abilities to cook and bear children.
In a conversation between Okonkwo and his friend
Obierika, they spoke of two other villages where their
‘’customs are all upside down’’ and ‘’titled men climb
trees and pound foo-foo for their wives’’ (73). They spoke
of other tribes where the children belong to the wives and
their families. ‘’You might as well say that the woman
lies on top of the man when they are making the children.’’
This remark makes it seem that there is no ‘love-making’ in
this culture, but only ‘child-making,’ in which the woman
has no real role.
In a description of a ceremony, ‘’It was clear from
the way the crowd stood or sat that the ceremony was for
men. There were many women, but they looked on from the
fringe like outsiders’’ (87). The women were not included
in discussions, councils, nor were they made part of the
masquerades of the ancestral spirits.
There is only one woman who wields a commanding
force in the village. She is Chielo, the priestess of the
Oracle of the Hills and Caves. Only she can scold and
curse Okonkwo. Yet, while Okonkwo is powerless before
Chielo, he can still control his own women.
In present day, The Rock could be likened to Okonkwo.
He is most known for his motto, ‘’Know your role and shut
the hell up.’’ It is a terrible thing for women to still
be subjected to this kind of treatment in a society as far
advanced as our own. I’m glad that I have the opportunity
to say and do as I please. And I’m happy when I surpass
those who tried to stand in my way. The Rock and the rest
of the men who want to keep their women barefoot and
pregnant can know their role and shut the hell up. I don’t
have to get married and have children. I don’t have to be
inferior to anyone. I can live to my full potential and
vocation, unlike the women in the Ibo culture or the
submissive housewives of America fifty years ago.
I suppose I can never fully understand how the Ibo
culture works because I have never experienced anything
like it. If I had been born into it, I would probably
never question my role in society.