Female identity is not static

2015-08-26 06:00
BENEDICT LETEANE - Social Observer

BENEDICT LETEANE - Social Observer

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THE transition from apartheid to democracy brought a fracture in the representation of identities.

In this shifting cultural, social and political context, antediluvian ideologies of gender and race are being replaced by new ones X a replacement which exposes the instability and adaptability of race and gender. As new modalities of identity emerge, cultural and social identification also become remoulded and realigned.

Human beings use identification to connect to others. It is the same connectedness to others that humans use to make claims about their place in the past, as well as the future. Cultural and social values connect individuals to a community that shares ideas of a historically-embedded past.

It is problematic when the present identities in the communities do not reflect the authentic past. While the conversion embodied a historical rupture that enabled South African women to release themselves from the shackles of racial discrimination and gendered categorisations, it also intensified the dilemmas of identification of women. Society battles to understand womanhood in a new South Africa.

As the country commemorates or celebrates Women’s Month, issues such as abuse, empowerment and parity appear to be on the top of the agenda. As a social activist, I am against this campaign. It is totally wrong to be analysing and scrutini-sing issues of gender parity and domestic violence in one month. These campaigns should be promoted daily.

What we should be doing is to try and understand how, in a contemporary South Africa, intersects such as class, culture and generation locate and shape a woman’s identity. To what extent does patriarchy as a historical social institution shape contemporary femininity?

The globalisation of music, clothing, fashion and the availability of technology impacted cultural and societal norms and values. This emerging lifestyle forces society to see women in a new light. There might be a debate about the authenticity and perpetuaters of this behaviour, though. The reality is that it has influenced womanhood and subsequently challenged ideas of unchanging societal traditions.

Furthermore, feminists played a pivotal role in liberating women. These activists made it possible for women as human beings to have a voice in the community and to decide which categories of their identities should be acknowledged and which should be rejected. They challenged ideas of male domination and cultural, social and religious meanings which reinforces subordination of women.

The complexity of this transition is that it has problematised woman identity. In a sense that, while some women demand gender parity, others are precariously participating in sustaining elements of a patriarchal structure to ensure continuity of morality.

What I endeavoured to do, was to assert that female identity cannot be understood as a static, singular fixed social construct. There are numerous factors which contri-bute to shape womanhood. It is advisable for us as society to address this phenomenon which I believe will reduce elements of women oppression.

) To comment or express views about the issue highlighted in this column, go to www.express-news. Express Goldfields andamp; NFS welcomes anyone interested in contributing to the weekly column as public observers or citizen journalists. There is no payment for writers. Send your opinion piece (not exceeding 500 words, Sotho or English) to Teboho.setena@volksblad.com


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