Original Research

A Stiwanist analysis of female figures of academia in Emecheta and Adichie’s selected novels

Lethabo Masha, Mphoto J. Mogoboya
Literator | Vol 45, No 1 | a2018 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v45i1.2018 | © 2024 Lethabo Masha, Mphoto J. Mogoboya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2023 | Published: 14 June 2024

About the author(s)

Lethabo Masha, Department of Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa
Mphoto J. Mogoboya, Department of Languages, Faculty of Humanities, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa


According to the Stiwanist theory, colonialism, oppressive traditional structures, and African men (sometimes women too) can all impede social reform and contribute to gender inequality in Africa. Various studies highlight the importance of formal education in contributing to the emancipation of women in contemporary societies, despite challenges brought by the aforementioned obstacles. The choice to discuss two highly esteemed African female novelists who are from different generations of writers is imperative in tracking the evolution of formal female education in lightening the patriarchal weight in black societies. Through a close reading and thematic analysis of Emecheta’s Double Yoke and Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, this study shows that despite being confronted with sexist resistance in Nigeria between the 1970s and 1980s, black female university lecturers such as Miss Bulewao and Ifeoma serve as agents of socio-economic transformation cultivated by egalitarianism. In addition, the discussion on Obinze’s mother in Adichie’s Americanah highlights that while there are systems which are counter women’s liberation stemming from society’s sexist ideologies, the 21st century is showing an adjustment to the implications of the newly-educated African woman, especially as a professional and mother.

Contribution: Through the adoption of Stiwanism as a theoretical lens, this study contributes to the existing literary scholarship of African feminisms that advocate for a collective activism to combat gender disparity, with women as active participants. This is with particular attention to how sexism, as underpinned by neocolonialism and traditional ideologies, continues to oppress girls and women despite the influence of formalised education, which can also be attributed to women’s economic dependence. Through the analysis of academic female characters in selected classical novels by Emecheta and Adichie as primary sources of data, the current article reveals the novelists’ prophetic fictional narratives regarding the challenges and successes faced by higher education in addressing female marginalisation. This study is important for the present milieu because it emphasises the challenge of the continued exponential increase in gender bias against black female lecturers and scholars in and outside the academy, highlighting that women’s access to and improved enrolment numbers in higher education institutions does not necessarily abolish gender inequality in education.


academia; feminism; gender; gender disparity; higher education; transformation; Stiwanism

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 5: Gender equality


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