African Women: A Political Ecomony by Meredeth Turshen (eds.)

By Meredeth Turshen (eds.)

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Changing from “saucepan” by day to amalaita (teddy-boys, a criminal gang) by night, they would compensate for their loss of masculinity by suitably aggressive and independent behavior. In contrast, when African women perform domestic work, it resonates completely with the kind of work they ought to be doing as women, something reinforced by both mission and traditional African education of young girls. Supervision of domestic servants by white madams also fulfils the expectation that domestic work is essentially part of the woman’s sphere.

In the same way, we argue, the substance of gender subordination varies according to racial and class specifics. Once one begins to consider the dynamic relations between gender, race, and class, it is necessary to link these categories in a way that avoids static analysis of variables or the temptation to collapse them into each other. Our starting point of analysis of South African society is to pose questions about gender that make us think again about the dynamics of race and class. In turn we find that any serious analysis of class and race tends to dissolve the unity of gender.

Furthermore, it is clear that the actual tasks associated with domestic service are especially female when performed in the home. A male chef employed in a restaurant, or a male laundry worker, both working outside the home and for a wage, are not necessarily considered to be doing women’s work. Third, as has already become clear, domestic service, especially in colonial societies, has a racial character. Almost everywhere in the world it is performed by socially inferior groups: immigrants, blacks, and ethnic minorities.

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