By Odile Ferly (auth.)
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J. Michael Dash notes how “[s]tereotypes of a helpless femininity have fixed the French Caribbean in a dependent relationship with the metropole. Martinique emerges as the kept woman of the French empire” (“Writing the Body” 78). In this paradigm, gender symbolism serves to justify imperialist claims: the metropole’s duty is to protect (or subject) the Caribbean colony, and the feminine is again object of desire. Yet by expressing their patriotism in terms of a love relationship, many Caribbean writers have unwittingly perpetuated this colonialist view.
The comparative perspective adopted in this study further shows that the cases imagined by millennial writers are not unique, nor are they only relevant to one Caribbean society. On the contrary, the strong patterns that emerge from this comparison challenge the premise that sexism is merely a product of a given society or cultural legacy, suggesting instead that it is at least partly rooted in the colonial experience itself. Wantons, Matriarchs, Nation: Early Portrayals of Gender Women of (partially) African ancestry generally emerge from early male literature from across the Caribbean, and above all poetry, as erotic figures.
From the 1970s, however, female narratives have thoroughly revised these stereotypes. They Relating the Female Experience O 23 counteract these evasive portrayals with a detailed picture of women’s realities, challenging in so doing the institutions that traditionally earned women respect in Caribbean societies, such as motherhood. More integrative of the experience of those hitherto relegated to the margins, their fiction also exposes social evils such as racism, violence, sexual abuse, and alienation.