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Gender, Class And Race Intersection In The Namibian Society

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Gender identity is known to originate from experiences that happened in our lives and these type of experiences do not only differ based on gender but also by race and class factors. Stereotypes are formed under narrow structures of these different identities which creates a system of social control. Gender, class and race mechanisms are intertwined in these societies. In the race and class system there is a superior group and the inferior group and in the gender system women are marginalized by men. Therefore, Namibian societies gender, class and race have acquired some detrimental effects that can be traced back to the colonial period. These factors are inseparable when discussing the Namibian societies today due to the fact that colonialism implemented these problems among the African societies long ago and are still fresh among the African nations. For instance, the issue of gender-based violence today in Namibia can be traced basing with class and race that was created by the colonialist among the African, especially during the Apartheid South Africa

Intersectionality can review the relationship between these three different aspects in any given situation. Intersectionality approach examines all of these three categories of class, race and gender together simultaneously to get some sense of the ways these spheres of inequality support each other to maintain the status quo (Zerai, 2000, p 185). Further argues that the approach considers race, class and gender as inseparable spheres in which domination occurs (Zerai, 2000). Though Cole is of the view that much of studies done by scholars in intersectionality has tended to focus on race and gender (Cole, 2009). The term intersectionality discourse was born out of feminist discourse during the second wave of feminism (Biklen, Marshal and Pollard, 2008). It has been predominantly the preserve of feminist scholars and critical race theorists (Ncube, 2018). Therefore, the term intersectionality generally targets the issues of class and race trying to link them with gender issues. In other words, it reviews the relationship between gender, class and race by studying how gender and race relate, gender and class or race and class.

There is no doubt that colonialism played a greater role in bringing and cementing gender, race and class in African continent. Though there are some scholars that argues that these concepts were already there in African societies prior colonialism, it was not visual like after colonialism. Quijano, (2000) argued that;

Colonialism brought with it dualistic constructions of humanness. Through the racist colonial social structure and epistemologies human was divided into hierarchies of superiority and inferiority based on the division of labour, property ownership patterns as well as biological, cultural, religious and linguistic markers.

Grossvogel, Oso and Christou (2014) also invoke Fanon’s concept of being to explain the dualism. The zone of being was constructed as superior and the zone of non-being as inferior. From their argument that is to say, that the zone of being was the comprise of the white people with all privileges and the zone of non-being with the black and all sorts of oppressions upon them. Namibia is still suffering to this structure created during the colonial era by the colonialist, but now the whites replaced by black elites who are now occupying the zone of being while the poor Africans occupied the zone of non-being. Therefore, it is safe to argue that colonialism in Africa brought class, gender and class system which are inseparable, as it is argued that in the colonial matrix of power, class and gender oppressions were always structured by racism (Mignolo, 2007).

The demands of this development in the Namibian societies has some negative effects to men as they are not able to meet them due class difference. This factor is developed out of racism whereby the white people are at the top of the ladder and in Africa it is now operating under class system whereby the black elites in the society are able to occupy the vacuum. Therefore, women in this structured society are on a disadvantage side as they are suffering segregation. Gender, race and class works hand in hand in the social stratification of Namibian societies today.

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In support of the above, men in Namibia are now facing the high rate of unemployment, discrimination and marginalization in their country due to this class system. Donald noted that in most of European, America as well as racist apartheid South Africa and Namibia, black men are inferiorised and their masculinity constantly denigrated (Donald, 1993). Further noted that black men often face higher levels of structural violence in the form of unemployment, discrimination, marginalization and direct violence in the form of shootings, assaults and incarceration (ibid.). For example, taking into consideration the works of Manyisa on Xenophobic violence in South Africa, it was grounded on the bases of racism which was grouped in the term of linguistic. Black men from other nations were blamed to take South African jobs, undercutting wages and exploiting them with high prices (Manyisa, 2015). Currently, men of the Namibian societies due to the high rate of unemployment and at the same time being the breadwinners of their families they are being forced to cross the boarders to look for greener pastures to support their families. To a greater extent gender, race and class moves together to the extent that it is not easy to separate.

To add on, the issue of gender- based violence in Namibia is under scrutiny among the scholars, as they are trying to study it with a class system perspective. Edwards-Jauch on the problem of the study points out that;

Common definitions of gender-based violence are limited to physical and psychological violence in the interpersonal sphere for example assault, rape, sexual harassment, abuse by authority figures, trafficking for prostitution, child marriages, dowry-related violence, honour killings and sexual assault. But this direct form of interpersonal violence takes place in a broader societal context of structural violence Edwards-Jauch, 2011).

In support of this statement the Namibian Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 results show a relatively high level of social acceptance of violence against women, particularly among poor rural men with low levels of education and men who fall in the lowest wealth quintile (Republic of Namibia, 2014). To address this problem of class system as a nation by inclusion policy in every sector is an indirect way of addressing the issue of gender-based violence in Namibia. Therefore, from this viewpoint one can note that gender and class system intersect in the Namibian societies.

The colonial power was both racist and sexist. The conquered bodies were racialized and sexualized. Edwards- Jauch, (2011) is of the view that the racism in Namibia around black male sexuality still finds currency in the discourses and literature on gender-based violence. She argues that racism might raise the assumption that the perpetrators of the gender-based violence are primarily, if not exclusively, black. Basing on this argument one can note that racism was taking control among the white people who were dominant over the black people. At the same time class was also at the center of the arguments. That is the effect that if today people are about to talk about gender-based violence in Namibia they are putting the whole blame over the black men. The black men today are being perceived as the most violent, especially by the white communities. However, Andre Brink (2002) also draws attention to the violent experiences of white settler women. The violence over women among the white people was normalized due to the superiority which was vested among them. Arguably therefore, gender, race and class intersect in the Namibian societies.

In an environment where the issues of any inequalities in the African societies is under attack by the scholars and also the policy makers, the women are now involved in the working class. According to Amanda, (2006) the capitalist mode of production shapes class and gender relations that ultimately disadvantage women, because women occupy the working class instead of the ruling class. The Namibian women are still being marginalized on this fact to a greater extent, considering the ration of women in the ruling class. Men are always valued as the most dominant people over their female counterparts. Female are being perceived as the second class in this type of social stratification. Tracing it again one can note that it is a Western concept that is being spread in Africa by the way of capitalism. In the capitalism system men are always occupying the upper class. This class is being determined by people who have control over the wealthy sectors while women are just occupying the working class for the sake of supporting themselves economically. Therefore, gender inequality on this modern stage is being perpetrated by the factors of class and race systems.

In conclusively therefore, experiences of our lives has been the cause that gender identity originated and these experiences differ not only based on gender but also by other factors such as race and class. The intersectionality indicates that these factors works interchangeably in every social structured society. In other words, race and gender can work together whereby gender discrimination influenced by the racism factors and also race class can influence gender discrimination such like the apartheid in South Africa did during the colonial era. Therefore, these factors intersect in every situation they are applied.

Reference List

  1. Biklen, S. Marshall, C and Pollard, D. (2008). Experiencing second-wave feminism in the USA. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 29(4).
  2. Cole, E. R. (2009). Intersectionality and research in psychology. American Psychologist, 64(3).
  3. Donaldson, M. (1993). What is hegemonic masculinity? Theory and Society (Special Issue). Masculinities, 22(5).
  4. Edwards-Jauch, L. (2011). The effects of HIV/AIDS related mortality on family structures in Namibia: Selected case studies from Namibian AIDS service organisations. Windhoek: University of Namibia. Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Thesis.
  5. Grossvogel. R., Oso, L., & Christou, A. (2014). “Racism”. Intersectionality and migration studies: Framing some theoretical reflections. Identities: Global studies in culture and power. Retrieved on April 18, 2019 from http://dx.doi.org/10. 1080/1070289×2014.950974.
  6. Manyisa, A. (April 16, 2015). The real cause of xenophobia attacks. Retrieved on April 15, 2019 from http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/The-real-cause-of-Xenophobia-Attacks- 20150416.
  7. Mignolo, W. (2007). Coloniality and modernity/rationality. Cultural Studies, 21(2-3).
  8. Ncube, L. (2018). The Intersectionality of Gender, Race, and Class: Implications for the Career Progression of Women Leaders in South Africa, University of South Africa. Unpublished Doctor of Business Leadership Thesis.
  9. Republic of Namibia (2014). Namibia Demographic Health Survey 2013. Windhoek: Ministry of Health and Social Services & Namibia Statistics Agency.
  10. Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of power, Eurocentrism and Latin America. Nepantla: Views from the South, 1(3).
  11. Zerai, A. (2000). Agents of knowledge and action: Selected Africana scholars and their contribution to the understanding of race, class and gender intersectionality. Cultural Dynamics, 12(2).

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