Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Sexual Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary Zimbabwean Youth Sociolects in Interpersonal Communicative Contexts

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Sexual Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary Zimbabwean Youth Sociolects in Interpersonal Communicative Contexts

Article excerpt

Introduction

Language use is often a highly subjecting enterprise, a critical tool through for asserting power and perpetuating hegemonic power dynamics. Language is a powerful superstructural semiotic tool through which hegemonies, gendered or otherwise, are created and sustained. Gendered descriptions of sexual relations and the sexual act, especially through applied and causative verbal formatives, for example, evince ways in which socially constructed and culturally learnt gendered power dynamics are espoused. Our perspicacity of gender relations and gender identity have traditionally been dictated to us as a universal set of convictions and ways of behaviour, largely learnt through socialisation. Traditionally, society had prescriptive ways of ascribing behaviour patterns based on gender. This did not just include social roles but also behaviour and linguistic patterns. Society believed that there was ways in which males and females behaved, not just in roles but even in the manner in which they speak, what they speak about and how they speak about it. This eventually would lead to the creation of a basic classification of how generally women or men must speak and what they talk about.

By extension, how males and females speak about sex, sexual relations and/or the sexual script therefore, may also be influenced by these socially learnt and ingrained constructed behaviour and linguistic patterns. Perceiving 'gender' as socially constructed within a people's living experiences, embedded in the base of their philosophy and manifested at theoretical and pragmatic levels of their polity, the article seeks to argue that the descriptions of the sexual script within the sociolects are not always innocent and apolitical. Because 'gender' encapsulates socially perceived differences in behaviour and role differentiation between sexes, it is never independent of other social systems and cultural codes. Infact, it would be futile to consider 'gender' as a fixed and immutable construct. Rather, it must that be perceived as a process. Furthermore, gender classifications must be seen to permeate through a culture's cosmic perceptions and can be discernible in its language, language use in practical and concrete situations, storehouse of wisdom, rituals, and philosophy. These learnt and shared social systems and cultural codes condition the ways in which as individuals we self-reference especially so in relation to 'others'. It also conditions how we create and perpetuate meanings--individually and collectively.

In line with this, Hall (2003) points out that there are, broadly speaking, three approaches to explaining how individual or collective representation of meaning through language works which include the reflexive, the intentional and the constructionist approach to meaning-making or sense making. In the reflexive approach, meaning is thought to lie in the object, person, idea or event in the real world, and language functions like a mirror to reflect the true meaning, as it already exists in the world. The second approach argues for the opposite case. It holds that it is the speaker, the author, who imposes his or her unique meaning on the world through language. The third approach recognizes this public, social character of language. It acknowledges that neither things in themselves nor the individual users of language can fix meaning in language. According to this approach, we must not confuse the material world, where things and people exist, and the symbolic practices and processes through which representation, meaning and language operate.

The importance of the intentional and constructionist approaches in the current analysis is without question. Through the intentional approach we attempt at understanding how individual create and shape identities in relation to 'others', how they strive for difference. On the other hand, the constructionist approach offers us spectacles through which we can understand how socially constructed cultural practices, and by extension, linguistic practices inform ways in which as individuals we carve identities for ourselves--either individual or collective--in relation to 'others' within a similar social space. …

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