Friday, April 29, 2016

Yams: What Insight Can Yams Offer About the #WomanCard? #AtoZChallenge Letter Y

During April I'm participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.
Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a
letter of the alphabet with the goal of writing 26 posts.
April is also National Poetry Month.

Twitter blew up this week after Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of "playing the woman's card." Admittedly, I enjoyed reading the tweets under the #womancard hashtag. 

Sadly, this election cycle, this moment in history resonates as the most hateful toward women I can recall. I shared this sentiment with many students today as we worked in the computer lab choosing topics for our persuasive speeches and Poster Sessions. 

Discussing the #womancard tweets with some AP Lit and Comp students during lunch, I mentioned that I'm thinking about writing a spoken word poem based on the hashtag and adding a tone shift in which I rap about the ways Donald Trump plays the "woman card." 

This brings me to YAMS. Why yams? 

Students in AP Lit and Comp studied Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe this year, and one student chose the novel as the subject of his senior project. James's project focuses on two symbols of wealth Achebe explores in Ibo culture: yams and women. 

Toward the end of the paper, James describes the protagonist Okonkwo's difficulty in acquiring wealth as stemming from his treatment of women. 

While he struggled to keep afloat "his mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women's crops, like coco-yams, beans, and cassava" (Achebe 22-23). Perhaps if he had developed respect for the women in his life they could have helped him in more profitable yam farming, an idea that holds true for Okonkwo's culture. Women could have offered much but were held back by frequent beatings and societal expectations.

This early incident in Things Fall Apart foreshadows Okonkwo's difficulty later in the novel as he clings to a past that can no longer function amid increasing colonial influences. Ultimately, Okonkwo hangs himself in disgrace, and his body remains unburied until the colonial missionaries agree to bury him. 

For Donald Trump, a man fixated on wealth imagery, the corollary to yams and women is money and trophy wives. Trump objectifies women and refuses to see powerful women as capable and worthy of respect. Instead, he seeks a rationalization for H. Clinton's success since to his thinking it can't possibly be grounded in her ability to harvest "yams." 

The backlash on Twitter magnifies yet again the ways Trump objectifies and demeans women both as sentient beings and as valuable members of society. He's happy to reap the fruit of our toils and those of other marginalized and under-represented groups, to engage in a system of cultural sharecropping in which the wealthy grow "fat with excess," to borrow James's words. 

As Achebe writes about the colonizers of Ibo culture: 

The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.

This election cycle, we witness things falling apart. We witness Donald Trump play the "woman card." And the center cannot hold. 

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper. THE HOLLOW MEN by T.S. Eliot 

And Twitter explodes. #WomanCard

Cover of the edition of Things Fall Apart
my students use. Wiki image.

1 comment:

  1. Arggh, I had the hardest time getting back to you again! But at least I found you. I'm not sure how to follow from Blogger.

    This Woman Card business is really flooring, and it makes me wonder if it's helped people see the ridiculousness in the concept of a "race card."

    You are, of course, right. In Trump's view, women are status symbols, each with steep depreciation as time goes on. The way he dehumanizes and objectifies even his own daughter is stunningly revolting.

    Things fall apart, indeed.

    A Bit to Read