South African Feminist Theory


By Sibulele Nobhuzana

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 8 of VARSITY News.


Feminism has always had a place in South Africa. The only difference would be how women of different races identified with feminism. Feminism includes women of all races but since South Africa has always been a tale of two cities it would not be true to talk about feminism without setting context of how it is viewed differently by women of different races.


Personally, as a black woman it was harder for me to buy into feminism simply because of the already existing racial struggles that I have. Through research into the history of black feminism in South Africa I have seen that the unsettling feelings I had were not unique. Women in the African National Congress (ANC) for example also struggled with this because feminism was not accepted as a school of thought in the 1980’s. ANC women like Mavis Nhlapo thought of women’s rights as secondary to the liberation movement when she mentioned that, “It would be suicidal for us to adopt feminist ideas. Our enemy is the system and we cannot exhaust our energies on women’s issues.”


So, I often think is that one of the reasons why we are here today as a society, because we have always viewed women’s rights as “issues” that are secondary to other rights? Even today we still get people who believe that feminism is “un-African”. We can never deny that feminism has imperial roots however over the years it has been remodelled to fit the context of African women and to not be exclusionary.


* Cue intersectional feminism *


We look to the Women’s March to the Union buildings and women who were at the forefront of the liberation struggle such as Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and many more that were not featured in the archives. As we are fighting a different fight in 21st cenury, against gender-based violence, we draw strength from them and hope that change will come. This, I believe, will happen through distinct methods we employ in the gradual collapse of patriarchy in the South African society. As foregrounded by Megan thee Stallion and Cardi B, Women Against Patriarchy is the feminist agenda for the 21st century.



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