Home Institution

Columbia University

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


This independent study project analyzes the perceptions and practice of feminisms amongst female township residents through a small-scale research project that involved interviewing a group of five women living in Langa as well as research on the development of feminist thought on the African continent and in South Africa. Some might say that the South African constitution is decidedly feminist with Section 9 of its constitution guaranteeing equality for all, regardless of gender or sex. Despite the development of feminist thought in South Africa, especially in “the Academy”, articles often hint at the skepticism feminism receives in Black, female spaces and how the latter group often views feminism as a White, middle-class pursuit. Moreover, certain patriarchal practices in Xhosa communities are either deemed wholly sexist or protected under the guise of culture. However, few articles include in depth interviews of Black, Xhosa South African women who supposedly reject feminism and feminist thoughts so adamantly. Through my interviews, I examined my interviewees’ perceptions of feminisms through an, empirical, generational and linguistic lens. Although these interviews are hardly representative of the vastly different experiences of Black, Xhosa women living in Langa, let alone Black women living in other townships throughout South Africa, they do provide specific insight into how feminist thoughts and practices may or may not function in the domestic lives of five Xhosa women. In summation, the insights that can be taken away from this independent study project include, but are not limited to, the difficulties of using Western terminology to gauge equity in the interviewees’ domestic lives, the potential of a generational shift in attitudes about gender equity, and the real words and lived experiences of five Xhosa women living in Langa.


African Studies | Community-Based Research | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Women's Studies


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