When, in 1935, the anthropologist, Margaret Mead observed that a woman who was seeking a career had two choices: either she proclaimed herself ‘a woman, and therefore less than an achieving individual, or an achieving individual, and therefore less than a woman’; she, perhaps, had meant that the rising feminist wave in the U.S—one which was to later extend itself beyond country borders of gender discrimination—no matter how brave it was—was still in search of something good. The resurgence of feminism in the 60’s and 70’s was a direct consequence of this search.
For Betty Friedan, one prominent figure who, in those times, influenced a whole generation of women with her book, ‘The Feminist Mystique’; this search most often perambulated the axis between relationships and identities; nerving the woman to seek redefinitions; to nurture ambition against a primal sort of unhappiness which stalked her, one which the author had considered ‘the female problem’ and, at that, ‘a problem without a name’.
Without a doubt, Friedan’s book struck a blow of consciousness for the American woman and her counterpart at large: it rebuked popular culture; it questioned common myth; it blamed the idealized image of femininity as inhibitor of the female journey to power and prestige. Still, beyond light years of the triumphant woman in higher education and in industry; beyond the grasp of something good; somewhere, behind a backcloth of convoluted social change, the search for something good persists; and it has, in several instances, become less centralised, less predictable and more individual, more particularised.
The notion of voice in contemporary life is, therefore, rendered sacrosanct; especially for the woman. In many fascinating ways, the notion of the good she seeks can now transcend a merely collective agenda for a job or a position of authority. Today, the woman, after she has attained prestige and power, can now seek more. And more is the thread of a million personal narratives lurking in corners of cumbered cravings and sentiments.
It is useful that Ucheoma Onwutuebe has demonstrated to us one of the many manifold stories of the contemporary woman in her search for something good; stories that are constantly evolving in the face of unique female attainments. It is also remarkable that she has done so in the stark candidness of voice.
The contemporary woman in Ucheoma’s audio short story, ‘Something Good’ is ‘not used to being served’, but this is not because she is powerless and without ambition. In fact, it is because the ‘harsh realities of life and the street wisdom that comes with it’ has made her ‘a quick hustler’.
But something good will happen to (her) today, something beyond the muse of independence: she will ‘meet someone who will teach (her) the luxury of being served’.
If Ucheoma’s story does not adequately present the dramatic evolution of the woman since Margaret Mead’s theory; her keen resonating voice accentuates it.