Writers Do Laundry Too + call for submissions

Call for Papers: BUWA! A Journal on African Women's Experiences

Deadline: 31 March 2013

Imagine yourself entering into a room in which a small group of African women are engaged in conversation. While they are all African, these women are not the same. Their experiences, realities and perspectives are varied as are their identity locations – age, nationality, ethnicity, abilities, sexuality and the list goes on. Some of them are feminists, while some are trying to figure out what it means to be an African feminist or a feminist in Africa. In this space, each woman shares her thoughts, analysis, and perspectives on her experiences of being an African woman. BUWA: A Journal on African Women’s Experiences is such a space – a platform where African women (and occasionally men) share, analyze and reflect on their experiences. The aim of BUWA Journal is to facilitate dialogue and promote gender justice and equality and justice. BUWA is published by the Women’s Rights Programme in the Open Society Initiative for Southern African (OSISA) based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The intended audience for the journal includes scholars, practitioners and activists in the Southern African region.

We are pleased to invite you to join the conversation by submitting an article for the upcoming issue of BUWA. The central theme of the issue is Feminist Perspectives on Culture. Submissions for this issue will critically engage with positive and negative aspects of cultural dimensions that influence the lives of women in Africa, and use feminist lenses to analyse and reflect on women’s experiences and understanding of culture. By drawing upon feminist perspectives we hope to critique how power has served to create and cement notions of culture which may or may not benefit women’s lives. Unpacking the ways culture(s) are understood and practiced may shed light on specifically women’s living conditions. We felt it important to pause and reflect on variety of cultural processes to better understand how these processes shape women’s daily lives in southern Africa. This issue also serves to remember women as central to the production, dissemination and memorial of culture, keeping in mind that culture is never static.

You will find below specific topics for which we are seeking writers. Authors interested in submitting an article should send an email with “Buwa” in the subject heading to tsitsim@osisa.org to request for the terms of reference. In the body of the email, please indicate the topic(s) on which you are interested in writing. Please note that the due date for all articles is March 31, 2013.

FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES ON ISLAM AND CULTURE:

This piece will paint a full picture of how feminists locate and engage with religion, spirituality and culture. The piece will seek to highlight the key areas of convergence and divergence with feminist ideologies and practice. While there have been analyses and articles (even books) on feminist perspectives on Christianity and Islam, the idea is to dissect especially the cultural dimensions and interface of this; focusing especially on how culture is often regarded as a twinning evil with religion, to oppress especially women. The piece will therefore sit on the other side of the scale (with African traditional religion and spirituality), establish if there is a significant tipping of the scale either way!

IT IS MORE THAN JUST A NAME!: ZOOMING THE LENS ON NAMING PRACTICES:

This piece explore issues of naming – how names reflect the lived realities of a people, a community etc and can be a mirror of the attitudes and values that these people hold dear (or otherwise!). The naming process and practice is very much rooted in culture. A feminist analysis of naming patterns of all things female in a given cultural context can reveal the attitudes and value placed on women in these contexts. The article will focus on specific practices in specific cultural contexts in the region.

IS POP CULTURE UNFEMINIST (MUSIC LYRICS, MUSIC VIDEOS, BEAT AND SOUND)?: “WHO RUNS THE WORLD…GIRLS!” – BEYONCÉ. FEMINIST OR NOT?

This piece intends to provoke the audience by questioning certain assumptions. *Pop music has evolved into an industry that is often characterised by skimpily dressed women in music videos parading as objects for male consumption. The lyrics in pop music often perpetuate misogynist views of women that again firmly present women as objects to be consumed. Dance in pop music videos are often provocative and again show women as objects for display and consumption. Given this context, though debateable, the pieces seeks to ask if there are spaces within pop music that are in fact feminist and if so how do these spaces exist vis a vis the patriarchal and misogynist domination of pop music? Returning to the question, given the critique provided above, is pop music indeed unfeminist and how have feminists engaged with questions of misogyny and patriarchy within pop music? *The term pop music includes hip hop and R&B as well as contemporary pop music

EXAMINING CULTURAL CONSTRUCTIONS OF NUDITY- (HOW WE NAME OUR BODY PARTS):

People, particularly, young women and girls are socialised into believing and consuming particular ideas about nudity-their own nudity and that of other women and men. Young girls and women are often taught, in subliminal and overt ways about how to cover our bodies and about the ‘sanctity’ of our nudity. In highly sexualised societies as those we live in, where public displays of women’s semi-nude bodies are seen so often through mass media-what does this say to us as women about our own notions of nudity, vis a vis, ‘traditional’ notions of nudity and contemporary notions of nudity. This piece will explore these questions and tensions. How do women engage with their own nudity and exercise their own agency in constructions of nudity.

EXPLORING CULTURAL CONSTRUCTIONS OF MENSTRUATION AND MASTURBATION: CONTROL OF WOMEN’S BODIES:

Though perhaps an unlikely match, menstruation and masturbation are processes and occurrences that are often stigmatised in our societies for similar and differing reasons, most of which return to notions of women’s sexuality as hidden, bad and dirty. This piece intends to deeply explore varying cultural constructions of menstruation and masturbation as they affect women’s lives. Menstruation is often shrouded with a sense of secrecy and shame. Women are taught to police their bodies strictly around menstruation and to be vigilant in keeping themselves ‘clean’. Masturbation is policed in other ways though similarly strict. Generally speaking, women’s masturbation is frowned upon and this is linked to women’s constructions and experience of sexuality more broadly. This pieces aims to understand these elements of bodily experience and how women negotiate their own agency through them.

FGM/FEMALE CIRCUMCISION/MODIFICATION:

Incidents of female circumcision have been recorded across the region. Feminists and women’s rights activists have taken on this issue, to varying degrees, though perhaps to a lesser degree in southern Africa as compared to sisters in East and West Africa. This being said, this piece seeks to explore, discuss and reflect on the experiences of female circumcision in southern Africa. It seeks to understand more fully the conditions and context of these practices in our region for the purposes of improved advocacy and mobilisation around this issue.

NOTIONS OF BEAUTY AND ATTRACTIVENESS-PERFORMING THE BODY:

Black women are confronted daily with issues of beauty as it is performed, understood and expected of women. This piece seeks to examine how young women are producing and consuming notions of beauty across the region? Are there spaces for women to engage honestly and openly about their concerns and desires? How have issues around skin colour, body weight, hair and clothing become embedded in our cultural understandings of beauty and attractiveness? This piece will address and explore these questions. Fashion and body adornment play a significant role in how women chose to identify themselves. Popular constructions of fashion, for example, ‘Afro-Centric’ looks depict particular intersections of culture, tradition, fashion and femininity. This piece seeks to understand how contributing elements such as race, class and gender intersect to create contemporary pillars/notions of femininity.

HOW HAVE FASHION AND DRESS SHAPED WOMEN’S IDENTITIES:

Fashion and body adornment play a significant role in how women chose to identify themselves. Popular constructions of fashion, for example, ‘Afro-Centric’ looks depict particular intersections of culture, tradition, fashion and femininity. This piece seeks to understand how contributing elements such as race, class and gender intersect in the realm of fashion and dress to create contemporary pillars/notions of femininity. This piece also seeks to look at how different sets of attire are considered more ‘appropriate’ depending on the context in which they are worn.

DISPLACED WOMEN RELATING TO NEW ENVIRONMENTS AND THE IMPACT OF CULTURE:

This piece aims to address questions and realities of women who have been displaced through cultural migration due to economic and political reasons. How are women preserving and re-creating their cultures of living in new environments? How has space shifted cultural norms and practices? As women have been custodians of tradition and culture, how has displaced realities affected the transmission of culture? This piece seeks to gather stories from women on the margin, living on the periphery of their societies and who are in constant negotiation with their space in asserting their lives and cultural practices.

NEW CULTURAL PRACTICES WITH ‘OLD’ MEANINGS:

They say, the more things change the more they stay the same. As cultures change and evolve, we see and experience cultural practices that change in form but not in essence. For example, there are communities where virginity testing of girls and women was traditionally done by elderly local women and is now done by medical doctors. Same practice - different form. These are cultural practices and traditions that may look like they are dying away but are actually being adapted to suit our contemporary world. This piece presents a feminist analysis of such practices as they are encountered in women's lives in specific contemporary settings.

TECHNOLOGIES AND POWER DYNAMICS IN TODAY’S WORLD:

Modern technologies have had a major influence in how we relate to ourselves, and to each other. Technological advancements, in communications and other areas, have made it possible for us to engage with our world in ways that at one time seemed impossible. Thanks to new technologies, new opportunities and options are now available to women. These technologies range from the world-wide web and mobile phones to microwaves and washing machines. It is imperative for feminists to interrogate if and how modern technologies have changed the status of women in society and its implications for equality between men and women, and between women of different classes and races? This article will unpack how modern technologies reinforce and/or challenge structures of inequality around gender, race and class in the private and public spheres.

CUSTOMARY MARRIAGE IN MATRILINEAL SOCIETIES:

Using examples from countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and the continent at large this piece will give anthropological accounts of customary marriages in matrilineal societies.

An analysis of marriage and how culture is used to perpetuate inequality or to restore equality:

The interpretation of marriage in most traditional African societies is based on or shaped by the culture of that society. The marriage rites are usually in line with customs and tradition of cultural group. On one hand some of these rites tend to perpetuate inequality between men and women. For example men might assume that now they are married they need not worry about household chores as these are wifely duties. On the other hand marriage can restore equality when husband and wives have an equal stake in their assets as well as decision making. This article will critique whether marriage increases the inequality gap between man and women or whether it promotes equality.

CAN FEMINISTS BE MARRIED?

Feminists are divided on whether ‘real’ feminists can get married or whether married feminists are betraying the struggle by ‘sleeping with the enemy’. This question is even more pertinent when young women who are still making major life choices on career and relationships join the movement and are confronted with this divide. There is a view that feminism is anti-marriage as there are cultural and religious expectations that women submit to their partners and therefore lose the independence and liberation they enjoy as single women. This piece will interrogate whether the principles of feminism can be upheld in a marriage or whether they are compromised. How can feminists attain equality in a marriage?

REGIONAL ANALYSIS OF CUSTOMARY AND CIVIL LAWS RELATING TO MARRIAGE TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPACT THESE LAWS HAVE ON THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN WITHIN THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE:

The advent of civil marriage laws seemed to promote equality between men and women as both parties are treated as equal before the law. If a couple is married in community of property and divorces the equal capacity regarding the joint property applies. However there are loop holes in these statues which are backlashing on women. For example if a man has more than one wife in customary marriages he can only have one civil marriage. This scenario disadvantages the women without a civil marriage as their claim in the event of the husband’s death or divorce is not guaranteed. If this happens women emerge as losers. This piece will analyse marriage laws in the region and how they protect or put women’s rights in jeopardy. As culture evolves do customary marriage laws evolve as well, as they evolve, do they afford more or less rights to women. It will also assess whether civil marriage laws and rights are easily accessible to women, the class dimension of customary civil marriages as well as the contradiction between these two models of marriage.

GENDERED DYNAMICS OF COURTSHIP/DATING ACROSS CULTURES:

The roles played by women and men during courtship and dating are to a large extent influenced by the culture or society one lives in. In most African societies young women are socialised to believe that attractive femininity waits and is reactive while young men on the other hand are socialised to be proactive, to go out and seek what they want. As a result the men ask women out on a date and they ask for a hand in marriage. How these feminine and masculine roles are played out differs from culture to culture. Some men go on their knee to ask for marriage, some open the door for their partners when going for a date, others seek middle men/ women to go between them and their partner and yet others send a delegation of friends and relatives to ask the parents of a girl for her hand in marriage. This article is a comparative analysis of the roles played by women and men in courtship and how these are influenced by culture. It will critique the power relations resulting in and influenced by how these roles are played out. How have technological advances in communication influenced the terrain of courtship and dating?

NOTIONS OF SEX, MASCULINITY AND MANHOOD IN AFRICAN CULTURES:

Traditionally African boys and men are socialised to believe that masculinity and manhood is shown through power over women primarily but also better manhood is power over other men. Manhood is linked to strength, agility, power, performance during sex and romance, potency and ‘real manhood ‘is often boxed into a certain appearance - tall, rich, muscular etc. This article will interrogate this construction of sex, masculinity and manhood in African cultures. It will also interrogate the impact of these constructions on relations between men and women and the impact of non-conformity or involuntary subversion out of this ‘box’ (impotent, short, slim, poor etc.) for both men and women.

CULTURE AND MEN’S (DIS) EMPOWERMENT:

The assumption that men should appear powerful, adequate and knowledgeable puts a lot of pressure on men. Living and meeting this standard proves a tall order for many men. The expectation that men should not show weakness disempowers them by preventing them to be themselves/ to be human. Some men who see nothing wrong in taking roles perceived to be female are not adequately equipped to do so mentally. The socialisation of most boys has a boomerang effect in that it does not give them the tools to deal with weakness, gentleness or lack. When confronted with such situations these men falter. This article will discuss the unintended effect of culture in disempowering men to be whole and content human beings

SUBVERSIVE NOTIONS OF CULTURAL CONSTRUCTIONS OF MASCULINITY:

It’s not all men who celebrate in the assumed glory of the superiority of masculinity over femininity. Some men are go against this social grain and challenge this norm and see women’s oppression as men’s oppression too. Others even join in the fight for equal rights for women as a way of redressing the injustice of women’s oppression by patriarchy. They view women as equal to men and should be afforded equal opportunities and rights. This article will interrogate male attempts to challenge or transform the established patriarchal social order and its structures of power, authority, and hierarchy.

THE CONCEPT OF THE FAMILY AS CULTURALLY DEFINED:

The construction and definition of family as a unit of production is a cultural artefact. Families take different forms depending on the culture and the environment. How have these constructions and definitions evolved over time. What are the factors that determine the characteristics of family and how this institution resists or is susceptible to change? How do matrilineal and patrilineal families compare in terms of production and reproduction

WOMEN’S NARRATIVES OF FAMILY AS DEPICTED THROUGH THE EYES OF ‘POWERFUL’ WOMEN AND HOW THEY EXERCISE THEIR POWER:

Generally in traditional African families men head the households and take major decisions. Though women give contributions and opinions the men in the family often have the last say on major decisions made. However several families have women who gain power as much as men and are given the right to make decisions. This power can be gained through better education, wealth, wisdom, age etc. These women are then consulted even by older men in the family for views, opinions and direction. This article will feature African women’s narratives of how they exercise power and authority and gain respect in their families. It will interrogate the source of such power and draw out lessons for achieving equality between men and women in a family structure

CONTACT INFORMATION:

For queries/ submissions: tsitsim@osisa.org

Website: http://www.osisa.org

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Call for Papers: BUWA! A Journal on African Women's Experiences + call for submissions