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Title:'Respectable women' versus 'small houses': feminist negotiations of sexual morality, marriage and the challenge of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
Author:Bull Christiansen, LeneISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
literary criticism
women writers
About persons:Grace MutandwaISNI
Valerie TagwiraISNI
Abstract:This article investigates the gendered cultural politics around HIV prevention in Zimbabwe through an analysis of feminist narratives of sexuality, marriage and HIV/AIDS. The analysis employs a cross-reading of three texts, including two novels: ' Whose Daughter, My Child?' by Grace Mutandwa (2006) and ' The Uncertainty of Hope' by Valerie Tagwira (2006), and a regular newspaper column 'Let's Talk About AIDS' by Beatrice Tonhodzai in the Herald. Written between 2005 and 2006, these texts reflect the social and cultural crisis of AIDS and the social and cultural politics of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) - ZANU(PF) - government in power at the time. Although all three texts challenge and renegotiate cultural norms of sexuality and marriage in response to the crisis of AIDS, they do so from within a position of 'married respectability'. This places their critiques in an ambivalent position regarding the institution of marriage and the cultural norms of respectability upholding this institution. The author concludes that 'respectably married women' can challenge the norms of marriage only by setting themselves apart from 'un-respectable, non-married women' - women who are referred to using the term 'small houses', compared to the 'main house' of the married woman. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]