Piecing the puzzle : the development of feminist identity

Swart, Marthane (2005-12)

Thesis (MA (Political Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2005.


The question addressed in this thesis was how women developed a feminist identity around other markers of identity, such as race, gender, motherhood, etc. and in the face of the negative connotations of the feminist label and what implications this hold for feminist solidarity. This question arose out of a careful study of current literature, both on international and local levels, concerning perceived division and problems within the feminist movement. The research was conducted in a quantitative and qualitative manner administering questionnaires to women electronically via e-mail and doing interviews to explore certain more sensitive issues. The criteria for the drawing of the sample were that women must have some form of feminist consciousness or identity. To satisfy these criteria the sample was drawn form the Women’s Forum at the University of Stellenbosch, from the Gender Education and Training network (GETNET) and the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), both gender training organizations and from the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape where women have been through a gender training programme. The completed questionnaires were statistically analysed through using The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Three broad themes emerged as the main findings in this thesis. First it became clear that the uncritical application of foreign measuring instruments may lead to false representation in the South African context, underlining the importance of situational and contextual specifity in research. Second, the propagated divisive power of race within feminism was not supported by the findings in this thesis. On the contrary, the profile of the sample is one of women with well-integrated racial identities and very little racial antagonism. Third it became apparent that women do support the values of feminism, but are unwilling to take a feminist label, implying perceived structural and ideological problems within the feminist movement. The feminist movement needs to redefine their theoretical base, accessibility and their approach to outcomes-based action. If the movement fails to realize the above aims they run a serious risk of disintegration as a political interest group working for the improvement of the lives of women. In order to accomplish the challenges mentioned above the feminist movement must first start with the specific circumstances of the lives of women and use that as a base for theory, policy and strategy to change the lives of women and second align themselves with grassroots movements in order to establish ties to a constituency of women they have lost touch with.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2613
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