Nervous Conditions Gender Discrimination English Literature Essay

“You can be whatever you want to be as long as you are happy,” little girls hear this encouragement from their parents all the time (Mullins). They are of no different than boys. They are treated equally, as a human, by the adults. However, it is a totally different story in some other parts of the world. Young girls in developing countries, like India have been receiving constant reminders of who they are since the day they are born. They are told to behave, to understand their position in the society and to obey the instructions and rules given. By tracking back human’s history; it is not hard to find out that gender discrimination has been rooting in the society for ages. Although the situation has improved a lot with the enforcement of laws and with the help of education, there are still many girls out there who are still suffering silently, helplessly, in the dark. This is exactly what happened to the African women and girls in Nervous Conditions written by Tsi Tsi Dangarembga in 1988. Perhaps it is the culture or perhaps it is the routine but no matter they are adults like Mainimi, Maiguru and Lucia or girls like Nyasha and Tambuzai, they cannot avoid this disaster that befalls them, the evil voices that keep on repeating that they are not to have the same opportunity as men in education, they are to devote themselves for their family and finally they have a lower standard then men in society because it is what it is and it is correct.

Tambu has been told umpteenth time to stop her school in which she is reluctant to comply with and she is being told that she is to give up her study because she is a girl and her brother is a boy. In the society back then or even now, it is not advisable to send young girls to

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school because it will not bring any good to the family and also in order to protect their virginity. They believe that it is better to let girls stay at home to help doing works and to learn to be a good wife. When Tambu’s family is not able to pay the school fees, they tell Tambu to stop going to school in order to give that opportunity to her brother although it is obvious that she is doing better than her brother in studying. They tell her that it is useless for her to receive education because she is unlike her brother who will be able to bring fame and prosper to their family in the future. Her father even tells her that “‘it’s the same everywhere. Because [she is] a girl'” (Tsi 21). Just like what happen in the story, parents in developing country usually think that ” while educating a boy is generally seen as a sound investment, sending a girl to school is frequently seen either as bringing no gain at all, or, worse, as an actual waste of resources” (“Gender”). Also, the villagers do not like Mainimi and Nyasha because they are educated. “People [are] prejudiced against educated women” (Tsi 184) because they think that those women are trying to surpass men, which is a disrespectful and intolerable act. Nyasha’s parents are not happy when she appears to be too clever and educated because they are afraid that she will start questioning the system that discriminates women. In school, “peripheral adults like [Nyasha]’s teachers [think] she [is] a genius and encouraged this aspect of her. But her mother and father [are] worried about her development” (Tsi 98). In their opinion, it is better for her to remain illiterate because “without an education, she cannot even voice her opinion, stand up for herself monetarily as well as emotionally, or battle the discrimination from a social pulpit” (Borade).

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No matter it is the educated Maiguru or the illiterate Mainimi, all of them have to learn and be able to do household works and they should be willing to do everything to please their husband because their husbands are just like their masters. Women have been brainwashed

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since small that they are to devote themselves fully for the family. It seems that it is only natural that the wives have to do all kind of tasks from morning till night because this is their only contribution towards the family or else they will be totally useless. The situation in the novel in which “[Mainimi], lips [press] tight, would hitch little Rambanai more securely on her back and continue silently at her labours” (Tsi 7) in the farm while her husband is chatting with her brother in their house shows a deep contrast of the work load between husband and wife. When Mainimi realizes that they are too poor to send both of her children to school, “[she begins] to boil eggs, which she [carries] to the bus terminal to passengers passing through…extending her garden so that there [are] more to sell” (Tsi 15). Since a long time ago, people have fixed the stereotype for women where “… a woman’s place [is] in the home, raising children and tending to domestic affairs” (Gemac).

Besides that, through her novel, Tsi Tsi Dangerembga has showed the readers a society in which women are not allowed to participate in the family discussion although they are part of the family because they are only in control of the kitchen and they don’t have the right to give their opinions in any issues. “Babamukuru [steps] inside, [follow] by a retinue of grandfathers, uncles and brothers…Behind them [dance] female relatives of the lower strata” (Tsi 37) because in this society of theirs, women are not of the same standard as men and thus they have to let men take control of everything. Even in this decade, gender discrimination is still happening as the recent research has shown that only about fifty per cent of women participate in household decisions in ten of the thirty countries surveyed (“Unicef”). Women in Rhodesia at that time have lost their freedom to men as they cannot even control what they want to do or say. They are bounded to their families, the rules. Even an educated women like Maiguru “[can] not use the money she [earns] for her own purposes and [has] been prevented by

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marriage from doing the things she [wants] to do” (Tsi 103) and that is why Tambuzai is being told by her mum that “being a woman [is] a burden because you [have] to bear children and look after them and the husband” (Tsi 16). When she tells her daughter this cruel fact of life, she has long given up on fighting for her own freedom because it seems impossible no matter how she looks at it.

As she grows and gains more knowledge, Tambu realizes that it is wrong for women to be treated as a property of men and that they have been brainwashed into believing that it is their responsibility to serve their husband alright. Women are told that they are property of men and that their existences in this world hold only one purpose which is to serve men and thus they should know their positions and do not complain. The worst part is that, the women themselves do not believe that they have been treated badly and they strongly believe that they are of a lower social standard as compared to men which is not true. Women at that time do not have say in their marriage. When the time comes, their fathers will choose a husband for them and they are not allowed to say “no”. They are not allowed to choose the guy they like and as a consequence of trying to pick her own guy, Nyasha is being condemned by her father to a whoredom, “… making her a victim of her femaleness…”(Tsi 118). Sometimes, the fathers will even sell their daughters in order to get some money from the marriage like what happen to Mainimi as”…[her father can] not claim a very high bride-price for [her]and so [her] marriage [does] not improve her family’s condition very much”(Tsi 128). In addition, a man is allowed to have more than one wife but women cannot. Although Jeremiah already has Mainimi as his wife, “[he is] quite taken with the idea of having Lucia as a second wife” (Tsi 129) and even worse, Lucia is Mainimi’s younger sister. It is the utmost important responsibility for a family to have more sons than daughters. As soon as Tmbuzai realizes how little she is compared to her brothers and as soon as “exclusion

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[whispers] that [her] existence [is] not necessary [and that should not produce her but] instead another Nyamo, another Chido, another Babamukuru-to-be.” (Tsi 40) With those thought in mind, the number of female infanticide is extremely high in counties like India and China “…due to preference for male babies and from the low value associated with the birth of females” (Porras).

No matter it is the inequality in education opportunity, the unfairness in workload and status in family or the difference of social standard in society, women have been treated unequally since a long time ago and although right now, through laws and regulations, their rights have been protected, there are some places which are still practicing it. In the play Macbeth written by Shakespeare about four hundred years ago, women are portrayed as something evil and they will lead men to their downfalls. Through the evil and contradictory witches and the ambitious and fake Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare tries to warn the society that women too can be dangerous and scary if they are too clever and do not be put under control. Shakespeare’s plays show that gender discrimination has been in the society as early as four hundred years ago In order for the society to change their impression and perspective towards women, education must come in but the most important thing is to let women realize these themselves and stand up bravely against the system.

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Work Cited

Borade, Gaynor. “Effects of Gender Discrimination in Education.” Gender Discrimination in Education. Pp: Pb, year. Web.

Gemac.”Gender Discrimination.” HYPERLINK “”Freedom of associationHYPERLINK “” to HYPERLINK “”Good Will. Pp: Pb, year. Web.

“Gender Discrimination and Funding” Why aren’t girls in schools? Pp: Right to Education project, 2008. Web.

Mullins, Julie. “Gender Discrimination.” Children in need Inc.Ed. Pp: Pb, 1998-2010.Web.

Porras, Marina. “Female Infanticide and FoeticideHYPERLINK “”.” Gendercide Watch: Female Infanticide. Pp: Gendercide Watch, 1999-2004. Web.

Tsi Tsi, Dangarembga. Nervous Conditions. United Kingdom: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Ltd, 2004.Print.

“Unicef”. ” Inequality in decision-making.” Inequality in Household. Pp: Unicef, 1946-2006. Web.

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