As a cultural system that still exists in three out of every four African communities, polygyny dehumanizes women in numerous ways. Polygyny, as represented in Chinua Achebe's historical novels and as it exists in the world, is, however, a multidimensional custom. How, then, can Western feminists respond to Achebe's portrayals of polygyny without projecting a "West is best" ideology onto our discourse and without further objectifying and silencing the real women involved in polygynous relationships? Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of bell hooks and others, I contend that Western feminists can, and should, think and speak about polygyny. The Western feminist agenda must recognize that despite its benefits, polygyny is intrinsically destructive to women's autonomy. One way that we can move toward this goal is by drawing attention to literary representations of polygyny, like Achebe's, that obscure the immediate problems and cultural legacies that result from this system of marriage.


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pp. 166-185
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