Original Research

Debunking patriarchal assumptions about motherhood as represented in selected Southern African literature

Clemence Rubaya
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1843 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1843 | © 2022 Clemence Rubaya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2021 | Published: 20 July 2022

About the author(s)

Clemence Rubaya, Department of Curriculum Studies, School of Education, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe


This article explores how literary representations of African motherhood demystify oppressive patriarchal assumptions that have marginalised women whilst promoting male privilege. This study’s objective is to challenge patriarchal values that continue to damage and undermine many African women’s position and status in society. This is critical in order to address gender injustice and make a claim for African women’s rights to respectful, dignified and fulfilling lives as full members of society. An interpretive content analysis of Lauretta Ngcobo’s And They Didn’t Die and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions has been adopted. African feminist theory provided the interpretive framework for analysing the selected texts. In sharp contrast to patriarchal assumptions of women as inferior to men, this research indicates many African women performing critical roles that ensure family survival with little to no help from men. Depictions of African mothers’ sacrifice and struggles to safeguard the interests of the families contrast the irresponsible behaviours and failures associated with fatherhood in the texts studied. Given the important contributions of women to improving quality of life, the study recommends the need for transformation of oppressive patriarchal values that undermine women to create a more equitable society.


patriarchal normativity; gender; motherhood; fatherhood; identities; male privilege; oppression; African feminism


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