1887

n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - Re-framing the prostitute identity in Zimbabwe : an approach to Virginia Phiri's novel (2010) : original research

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Abstract

In Zimbabwe, as in most traditionally conservative, patriarchal and Christian dominated countries, female sex work is abhorred on moral grounds as an unbecoming means of livelihood which takes away the practising woman's social respectability. In such societies, then, the moral threat and stigma associated with female sex work affect women's decisions on whether or not to take up sex work as a permanent means of livelihood. One can, however, ask how sustainable and stable these patriarchally constructed notions of morality and female identity are, especially in the face of crises? This article uses Virginia Phiri's novel , which is set in one of Zimbabwe's economically tumultuous eras, to demonstrate how cultural texts grapple with the discourse of female sex work in contemporary Zimbabwe. The gist of my argument is that dominant prostitute identity constructs shaped by Zimbabwe's patriarchal social and economic system are unstable. I find that the novel Highway queen manipulates such instability not only to re-inscribe sex work as a product of patriarchal impairment of female agency but, perhaps more importantly, to reflect on how women who are forced by circumstances to become sex workers can rise above their passive victimhood to achieve personal goals despite the social odds charted by patriarchy. Zooming in on the representation of the daily experiences of the female sex worker and protagonist, Sophie, the article explores the various ways in which the novel deconstructs stereotypical perceptions of female sex work and sex workers. The analysis ends with the argument that, whilst Sophie's situation is fundamentally tragic, it affectively appeals to our sense of morality in a way which destabilises dominant (patriarchal) constructs of sex work.


Soos in die meeste tradisioneel konserwatiewe en patriargale lande waar die Christendom dominant is, word vroue se sekswerk in Zimbabwe op morele gronde verfoei as 'n onaanvaarbare manier om 'n inkomste te bekom. Dit word beskou as iets wat so 'n vrou se sosiale eerbaarheid tot niet maak. In sulke gemeenskappe beïnvloed die morele dreigement en stigma wat met vroue se sekswerk geassosieer word dus vroue se besluite rakende sekswerk as 'n permanente manier om 'n inkomste te verdien. Die vraag is hoe volhoubaar en stabiel sulke patriargaal-gekonstrueerde idees aangaande moraliteit en vroulike identiteit is, gegewe ekonomiese krisis-toestande? Hierdie artikel gebruik Virginia Phiri se roman , wat teen die agtergrond van een van Zimbabwe se ekonomiese krisistye afspeel, ten einde uit te wys hoedat kulturele tekste probeer om met die diskoers van vroulike sekswerk om te gaan. Die kern van my argument is dat dominante konstruksies van prostituut-identiteite soos gevorm deur Zimbabwe se huidige diep patriargale kultuur en sosio-politieke en ekonomiese sisteem onstabiel is en dat die roman hierdie onstabiliteit manipuleer ten einde sekswerk as 'n produk van die patriargale inkorting van die handelingsbevoegdheid van vroue te herdefinieer. Belangriker nog, die roman besin oor hoe vroue hulle persoonlike doelwitte kan bereik ten spyte van die ongelyke kanse wat die patriargie vir hulle skep. Deur middel van 'n fokus op die weergee van die alledaagse ervarings van die vroulike sekswerker en protagonis, Sophie, ontleed hierdie artikel die verskillende maniere waarop die roman stereotipiese persepsies van vroulike seks-werk dekonstrueer. Ten slotte betoog ek dat, hoewel Sophie se situasie diep tragies is, dit emosioneel inwerk op ons sin vir moraliteit op 'n wyse wat dominante (patriargale) konstruksies van sekswerk destabiliseer.

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/content/literat/36/1/EJC172969
2015-01-01
2016-12-05
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