How Did Europeans feel about Dahomey Amazons?
Welcome back again to this blog post. Please, feel free to leave a comment down below about what you think of this blog post.
Well, If you had a chance to read my first blog post, probably you know by now who “Dahomey Amazons” are. If not, Dahomey Amazons were women warriors of the Kingdom of Dahomey; which is now known as the Republic of Benin. These women were very strong and powerful in the kingdom because they had to protect the king of Dahomey and to fight in times of war. However, it is was not and is not always common to see women as fighters especially being at the lead of fighting crimes and threats towards their kingdom.
One would begin to wonder or imagine how the Dahomey Amazons were. Well, I found this interesting paper written by Maeve E. Adams and it talks about different issues with Amazons. The title of his paper is “ The Amazon Warrior Woman and the De/construction of Gendered Imperial Authority in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Literature” . This paper talks about how generally Europeans viewed and interpreted the Amazons such as criticizing their strengths, gender and powers. This essay starts by telling us that a certain European named Richard F. Burton had a visit to the Kingdom of Dahomey and came back with reports that were talking about how the people of Dahomey were cruel, brutal and mean (Adams, 1). Barton’s reports are based on how he encountered the Dahomey women – Amazons. I believe that Burton was not used to seeing a kingdom being protected by women. He was a British man and I believe that in his country, he was not used to seeing women warriors and fighters. To recall on the roles of the Dahomey Amazons, as mentioned above, these were highly trained women who were very strong, powerful and warriors who had a responsibility of fighting threats, protecting the King of Dahomey, going on battles and making sure that there was peace and security in their kingdom. In fulfilling their roles, Burton probably considered that these women were very dangerous.
I would imagine what a European man would think of a place where female where dominant in power!!! Surprisingly, the paper keeps taking about how the term Amazons has different forms. It says” In these various contexts, the Amazon takes on many different forms. African and English women, including Queen Victoria, are both represented as “Amazons.” (Adams, 1). When you keep reading, you see that the amazon term is given to a person who over powers others especially women overpowering men. Well, should we generalize and say that all amazons are the same? Of course not!!! In my opinion, I would say that the Dahomey Amazons did not necessarily want to harm anyone unless there was a threat. I think that people shouldn’t see what they aren’t familiar with as something bad or questionable just because it doesn’t fall under their cultures. For example, the Dahomey Amazons were badly depicted as uncivilized and the term Amazons would symbolize that they needed to be freed from their own bubble of an uncivilized place. Don’t you think that this underestimates the effects of colonialism on African countries? What I mean is that seeing the women warriors as unimportant, makes Europeans believe that those Africans need to change their lifestyles and hence it diminishes their role in their kingdoms.
One of the sentences that really struck me was “The Amazon obviates the need for rescue and discredits the power of the white male savior, who, in the case of Burton at least, is for the most part too busy lusting after her to care if she needs saving” (Adams, 6). I would say that the Europeans would feel the same like Burton who realized that the Amazons did not need any help to take care of themselves or the kingdom itself. I think this helps us, especially students studying about African countries and colonialism, to see how much the outside world comes to Africa and automatically feel like they are problem solvers or saviors. I believe that the Dahomey Amazons are a good example to prove that Europeans did not need to do anything to improve the standards of living of Africans since they had wealth, power, and unity to sustain themselves.
I would keep talking but I hope this blog, along with the article discussed above, helps you to know more about the Dahomey Amazons and how they were viewed by the outside world such as Europeans. After learning more about Dahomey Amazons, I would say that their cultures and roles in their Kingdom was important and that Europeans shouldn’t compare them to other women in Europe. Dahomey, had its own warriors who played a crucial role to keep Dahomey Safe. This teaches us the importance of culture in an African country like Dahomey and it shows how a united place like Dahomey becomes a threat to Europeans who feel like they wouldn’t be able to carry out their civilizing missions.
- Maeve E. Adams, The Amazon Warrior Woman and the De/construction of Gendered Imperial Authority in
Nineteenth-Century Colonial Literature. New York University; Spring 2010. Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. Accessed March 2018.