n English in Africa - "Pain is beauty :" the politics of appearance in Kopano Matlwa's

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



This article explores the racial and gendered politics that shape contemporary understandings of beauty by considering how appearance features in the identity construction of Kopano Matlwa's characters in the novel . Feminist scholars have long argued that "physical appearance" carries more importance for women than for men (Hunter 188). This can be traced back to the familiar gendered dualism that associates women with their bodies and nature and men with the mind and culture. As in any binary opposition, one term is marginalized while the other is valorized. Women, with their bodies and assumed association with nature, are regarded with suspicion in a Western epistemological tradition that continues to assign disproportionate value to the mind, at the expense of the body. For a woman to be properly feminine, she must thus manipulate her appearance to conform to very specific ideals of beauty that flow from distrust of the female body in its natural state.

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