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Forms of Femininity at the End of a Customary Marriage

Year: 2014
Working paper number: 348
Author: Moore, Elena
Unit: FaSRU
This paper explores women's daily practice of resistance built into the racialised and gendered social structure of customary marriages in South Africa. I argue that women resist, accommodate, adapt and contest power and authority in the decision to leave the marriage, in negotiating the exit from the marriage and in their approach to the financial consequences of the separation. By using the myriad of daily practices as evidence for resistance, the study identifies three forms of femininities which emerge from the data: emphasised femininity characterises women's compliance with women's subordination, ambivalent femininity describes a complex combination of compliance and resistant activities in women practices and alternative femininities typifies the rejection and resistance with women's subordination. The paper discusses how these different forms of femininity emerge in their specific cultural, class and temporal context. The findings reveal that the resistance practices are accompanied by more general ideological awareness of how gender and class shape the lives of these women at this time of transition.
Publication file: WP 348.pdf