Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter Essay

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Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter

When a person hears words like feminist or feminism, notions of what it means to be feminine, or consequently unfeminine, begin to dimly form in our mind’s eye. Although we cannot definitively answer the question of what is feminine, we are able to recognize it when we see it or its absence. This conception, however, is arbitrary at best. What is it about an evening gown that seems to define and dress the feminine aura while a woman spitting would be denounced as inherently unfeminine? There is no question that Mariama Bâ’s novel, So Long a Letter, is undoubtedly a work of feminist literature. Although we are able to easily make this identification, it is much more difficult for us to define and
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(Grosz 3)

The social and not biological origin of these gender roles within a society imply that these rules can be changed, altered, or disregarded completely, allowing for social change and mobility. Ramatoulaye echoes Grosz’s message in her conversation with Daouda in which she seeks to de-objectify women, and stresses the importance of women within a society:

Women should no longer be decorative accessories, objects to be moved about, companions to be flattered or calmed with promises. Women are the nation’s primary, fundamental root, from which all else grows and blossoms. (Bâ 61-62)

Although Ramatoulaye identifies and celebrates the importance of women as their own separate group, it would that she does without having to subordinate women to men. Using the ability to create life, she acknowledges the inherent difference between men and women without creating a hierarchy between them. This deconstruction of the male-female hierarchy is crucial in moving away from the patriarch dominated world into one of equality:

For patriarchs, difference is understood in terms of inequality, distinction, or opposition, a sexual difference modeled on negative, binary, or oppositional structures within which only one of the two terms has any autonomy; the other is defined only
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