'There's no such thing as gay': Black lesbians and nationhood in post-apartheid South Africa

Westman, Claire Stephanie (2019)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Within post-apartheid South Africa, matters around lesbo-phobic rape, or what is more commonly referred to as corrective rape, have come into sharp focus. Lesbo-phobic rape may be understood as the rape of lesbian women with the intention of ‘curing’ them of their homosexuality or making them into ‘real’ women. The progressive, yet contentious, South African Constitution expressly protects the rights of everybody to freely express their sexual identity, when it forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation. The prevalence of lesbo-phobic rape appears to go against the developing nation’s values of inclusion and equality. However, when examining lesbo-phobic rape through a critical lens, as this study does, it becomes clear that lesbo-phobic rape is at once both an affront to the nation’s values, while also playing an integral role in shaping the nation’s identity. This study draws on and contributes to the rich body of literature around lesbo-phobic rape, by showing that within contemporary South Africa, lesbian women are construed as a symbolic threat to the national identity which is under construction. By incorporating visual activism and the narratives of the victims of lesbo-phobic rape, this study builds on the ideas of feminist standpoint theory in order to develop a Black lesbian standpoint framework. This framework allows for the social and historical conditions which lead to lesbo-phobic rape to be explored more thoroughly and meaningfully. Consequently, this study explores the ways in which liberal and traditional ideologies simultaneously clash and coincide, the latter often within the realm of female sexuality, with the resultant effect of entrenching women’s subordination. It is within this heteronormative patriarchal social order, that lesbian women are constituted as abject. This abjection leads to lesbian women’s lives being rendered unintelligible and unreal, while at the same time it works to reconstitute and reinforce the borders which uphold patriarchal domination. This abjection is further compounded for Black lesbian women due to the lingering effects of racist and sexist colonial ideologies. Within this socio-symbolic narrative, Black lesbian women are constituted as the ultimate threat to the nation’s patriarchal identity, thus rendering them more vulnerable to rape, even as they are portrayed as ‘unrapable’. Based on this reading of Black lesbian women, this study will develop the claim that lesbo-phobic rape can be understood as an attempt to subvert the supposed threat that Black lesbian women pose to national development. As such, it is a means through which hegemonic male control is reasserted on an individual and collective level. By drawing on the understanding of lesbo-phobic rape yielded by the critical analysis afforded by a Black lesbian standpoint, this study will finally assert that lesbo-phobic rape is a power-political strategy, similar to war rape. This analogous interpretation of war and lesbo-phobic rapes helps to highlight the strategic underpinnings of rape that arise as a result of the specific symbolic meanings attached to women within a patriarchal social order. Keywords Lesbo-phobic rape, Black lesbians, homophobia, sexual violence, abject, feminist standpoint, war rape

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In post-apartheid Suid-Afrika het die kwessie van lesbofobiese verkragting, meer algemeen bekend as ‘korrektiewe verkragting’, onlangs meer fokus begin ontvang. Lesbofobiese verkragting kan beskou word as die verkragting van lesbiese vroue met die doel om hulle te ‘genees’ van hulle homoseksualiteit, of om hulle in ‘regte’ vroue te omskep. Die progressiewe, alhoewel omstrede, Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet beskerm uitdruklik die regte van elkeen om vrylik hulle seksuele identiteit tot uitdrukking te bring deurdat dit diskriminasie verbied op grond van geslag, gender of seksuele oriëntasie. Die wye voorkoms van lesbofobiese verkragting skyn asof dit die ontluikende nasie se waardes van inklusiwiteit en gelykheid skend. Wanneer daar egter soos hier deur ‘n kritiese lens gekyk word na lesbofobiese verkragting, word dit duidelik dat dié vorm van verkragting gelyktydig die nasie se waardes in gedrang bring, en ook ‘n integrale rol speel in die vorming van die nasionale identiteit. Die onderhawige studie bespreek die bestaande ryk versameling van literatuur oor lesbofobiese verkragting, en dra ook daartoe by, deur aan te toon dat in teenswoordige Suid-Afrika, lesbiese vroue gekonstrueer word as ‘n simboliese bedreiging van die nasionale identiteit wat tans onder konstruksie verkeer. Deur gebruikmaking van visuele aktivisme en die narratiewe van slagoffers van lesbofobiese verkragting, bou hierdie studie die idees van feministiese standpunt-teorie uit tot ‘n Swart lesbiese standpunt-raamwerk. Met hierdie raamwerk kan op ‘n deegliker en meer sinvolle wyse omgegaan word met die sosiale en historiese toestande wat tot lesbofobiese verkragting aanleiding gee. Die studie ondersoek dus die maniere waarop liberale en tradisionele ideologieë gelyktydig met mekaar bots en mekaar wedersyds versterk, laasgenoemde dikwels op die terrein van vroulike seksualiteit, met die gevolg dat vroulike onderwerping altyd weer stewiger veranker word. Dit is binne hierdie heteronormatiewe patriargale sosiale orde dat lesbiese vroue gekonstrueer word as abjek. Hierdie abjeksie hou in dat lesbiese vroue se lewens as onverstaanbaar en onwerklik voorgestel word, terwyl dit terselfdertyd funksioneer om die grenslyne van patriargale dominasie te bevestig en te versterk. Hierdie abjeksie word in die geval van Swart lesbiese vroue verder vererger deur die voortslepende uitwerkinge van rassistiese en seksistiese koloniale ideologieë. Binne hierdie sosio-simboliese narratief word Swart lesbiese vroue geraam as die grootste bedreiging van die nasie se patriargale identiteit, met die gevolg dat hulle meer weerloos staan ten opsigte van verkragting, terwyl hulle in dieselfde asem as ‘onverkragbaar’ geteken word. Die studie gebruik hierdie interpretasie van die posisie van Swart lesbiese vroue om die aanspraak te ontwikkel dat lesbofobiese verkragting verstaan kan word as ‘n poging om die bedreiging te neutraliseer wat Swart lesbiese vroue inhou vir nasionale ontwikkeling. Dit is dus ‘n instrument waardeur hegemoniese manlike beheer herbevestig word op sowel ‘n individuele as ‘n kollektiewe vlak. Deur gebruikmaking van die verstaan van lesbofobiese verkragting wat voortspruit uit die kritiese ontleding moontlik gemaak deur ‘n Swart lesbiese standpunt, stel die studie uiteindelik dat lesbofobiese verkragting ‘n politieke magsmiddel is, soortgelyk aan oorlogsverkragting. Hierdie analogiese interpretasie van oorlogs- en lesbofobiese verkragtings dra by om die strategiese aard van verkragting te verhelder wat voortspruit uit die spesifieke simboliese betekenise wat aan vroue toegeken word binne ‘n patriargale sosiale orde. Sleutelwoorde Lesbofobiese verkragting, Swart lesbiërs, homofobia, seksuele geweld, abjek, feministiese standpunt, oorlogsverkragting

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107314
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