Rewriting the Women Enmity Lore: New Voices in Autobiographical Narratives

Anthonia Makwemoisa Yakubu


Many women were socially conditioned as children to believe that gender operates on a superiority/inferiority axis – the male has been naturally created to be in charge and to take dominion of all living and non-living things including plants, animals, fishes, birds, children, and women. For the women, they are to be submissive to the biological order of things which patriarchy has worked hard to institutionalise. One of the means patriarchy has adopted to sustain this belief is the divide and rule tactic, where women are taught to believe that they cannot work together, cannot love one another and cannot support one another because they do not like themselves. This belief is propagated through folklore, especially in co-wife rivalry tales. Another common instance is the raging ‘war’ between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. This paper will analyse the common myth that women are their own worst enemies through selected Nigerian folktales, and in the second part, will analyse contemporary Nigerian women’s autobiographies, with particular emphasis on the 3-volume biographical compendium, Women of Valour, and how these women negated this erroneous belief in their narratives. One of the findings of this paper is that women’s autobiographies have significantly disabuse many of these patriarchal myths about women, thereby rewriting and re-narrating women’s life histories. Another finding is that many of the women featured in the biography used the medium as a platform to voice themselves into being, thereby empowering themselves through the narration of their life stories.


Women, Patriarchy, Folktales, Nigeria, Gender, Autobiography

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