Original Research

Double standards on dress code and lust in the guise of tradition in the novel Umshado [Marriage], 2006, by N. Zulu: A feminist approach

Henry Gumede, Nhlanhla Mathonsi
Literator | Vol 40, No 1 | a1593 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v40i1.1593 | © 2019 Henry Gumede, Nhlanhla Mathonsi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 February 2019 | Published: 06 December 2019

About the author(s)

Henry Gumede, Department of African Languages, School of Arts, College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nhlanhla Mathonsi, Department of African Languages, School of Arts, College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

This article critically reviews the differences in attitudes and in language used between men and women through dialogue, especially when it comes to dress code, and with specific reference to N. Zulu’s novel Umshado. The various dresses worn by the protagonist, Tholakele, during her encounters with Bhekani portray her as a loose woman who always wishes to seduce men, and as one who is sexually available to men. But all that Tholakele seems to demand is that she should be allowed to dress in any attire she feels comfortable in, and to behave freely, as men do. She represents women who wish to introduce change, and who aspire to be placed on the same pedestal as their male counterparts. The novel, however, shows that women are chastised and ostracised when they try to break free from the shackles of patriarchy. Hence, we argue in this article that the juxtaposition of Tholakele’s behaviour, so disapproved of by the society, and that of Bhekani’s behaviour, shows double standards in the treatment of men and women.

Keywords

widowhood; feminism; gender; subversion of identity; womanism; patriarchy; gender stereotype; dress code; subaltern; double standards

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