Intersectionality In African Culture

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With sexuality and gender discourse in modern African culture, continuous engagements in debates exist regarding the controversies surrounding these topics. Normative definitions and ideologies about the construction of gender was first challenged in the early 1960s by feminist groups who rejected the the idea of female subordination in a society based on patriarchal values. De Beauviour, rejecting the notion that gender was a state of nature and rather asserting that it is a social construction, said: “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman” (1952:249); thereby placing the concept of gender as a structuralised theory. This essay will look at three concepts in relation to an African context, especially regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic.…show more content…
The concept of intersectionality refers to the interdependence of multiple socially constructed categories and how they interact and shape different levels of social inequality, oppression or privilege. Through the analysis of multiple, and often complicated, intersections of race, gender, religion, this essay exposes the institutional and interactional dimensions of in the narratives of gender and sexuality, heteronormativity and homosexuality. Before we explore the intersection of social identities within our environments, it is important that the meaning and significance of the term ‘social identity’ is explored. ‘Social identity’ refers to the social category which on belongs to; for example, this may include elements such as your race, class, gender, age, education, sex and religion to name a few (Shields, 2008:300). Using this, examples of social identify could be ‘female’, ‘white’ or ‘Christian’. Intersectionality thus highlights the ways in which one’s social context is affected by one’s social identity- which this, your social identity has the ability to either privilege or oppress. For example, an English-speaking individual will experience privilege in an English dominated society, and a homosexual individual will most-likely experience oppression in a heteronormative society. Intersectionality is thus a concept which can be used to expose the ways in which privilege functions in a…show more content…
Intersectionality affirms that our social identities do not exist in isolation from our sexualities. In this way, our social categories are no seen as unrelated concepts but rather as an interconnected diagram where each element is related to our identity. Our experience, and where we are placed in society, are therefore a combination of various factors and hinges on the ‘meeting point’ –intersection- of our social identity. Simply put, each person’s individual experience as a member of a particular social category is ultimately informed by their other coinciding social identities (Shields, 2008:303). Using the example of a Xhosa man, one can assume his experience and identification as a man is mainly informed by his culture, as the Xhosa culture itself already constructs certain expectation and roles for what is considered a man and these are the roles he is expected to fulfil as a man. Following this understanding, we can see how the Xhosa man’s expectation as a man will differ from that of a white man- even though both men are privileged as they both exist in a patriarchal society, their expectations will differ because they have cultural differences. Furthermore, the Afrikaans man may be privileged by the patriarchal nature of society, but additionally, becoming more privileged in society because of his race and the supremacy attached
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